"Help is always given at Hogwarts to those who deserve it." -Albus Dumbledore, JK Rowling
When we first started out with Cotton Rack and entered the handicraft sector, we were joyfully surprised by the openness and affection that we received from the majority of our fellow craft-preneurs and artisans. In the cutthroat competition that is out there eating up people, it was rather unsettling (in a positive way) that almost everyone is willing to help you and welcomes you with open arms. What was initially misunderstood as naivety was later learned to be the backbone of this sector. Perhaps, our hardwork was rewarded in the form of beautiful people all around us.
We are still artless, more akin to a new stitch on the rich tapestry of Indian handicrafts. And to us this handicrafts community has been nothing short of Hogwarts. A place where the help is always given to those who deserve it!
What is the meaning of this post? Why is it here?
The answer is quite simple and straightforward. We wanted to thank each and everyone of our patrons, peers, artisans, family members for standing together with us in achieving an important milestone in the timeline of Cotton Rack.
Cotton Rack and the parent company Rayil Kul Associates Private Limited now has two investors on board- Mr. Sandeep Narang and CIIE Initiatives. Sandeep aka Sunny Narang is an handicraft enthusiast and a true magpie of our field. He has helped several talented people and startups shine with technical and financial push. He came on board an year and half back with the help our dear friend Antima Khanna and supported us in creating the very first batch of our hand-spun and hand-woven sarees. He recently became a full time investor and part Cotton Rack's ongoing journey. He is also co-founder/curator of Rasa Investments Group.
Our second and the latest Investor- Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) IIM- Ahmedabad, is one of the largest and most well-regarded educational institute business incubators in Asia. It was Rameshwari and her constant interactions and enthusiasm in reaching out to people that resulted in us being recognised by Startup Oasis, Jaipur. They not only facilitated our participation in a cohort of other social impact entrepreneurs but also helped in our understanding of the "startup" side of things like pitch presentations, business model formation etc through our participation and selection for SACCL (Social Accelerator for Crafts, Culinary and Livelihood), Jaipur.
This further helped us in being selected under the INVENT program- A social impact incubation programme made possible by the support from DFID (UK Government) in association with Technology Development Board (TDB, Government of India). INVENT program is spearheaded by Villgro Innovations Foundation as the lead Incubator and Startup Oasis being one of the 4 government affiliated incubators implementing INVENT program in the select eight low-income-states of the country. Startup Oasis is a Jaipur based incubation centre which is a joint initiative RIICO and CIIE. A special thanks to Mr. Chintan Bakshi, Ms. Pallavi Tak and their wonderful support team and the amazing pool of mentors at Startup Oasis who actually made this happen for us.
What does this mean for Cotton Rack?
Well one thing is for sure, from this point onwards, you will be hearing from us more often. This will also mean that we will be bringing you more offerings in ways we had originally envisioned Cotton Rack. Another beautiful outcome is that we will able to reach out to more craftsmen and artisans without failing on our commitment to promote ethical business practices and homespun clothing. What will definitely not happen is any kind of compromise on quality of products and services as well as level of transparency.
What's in it for you? How can you engage with us?
Our aim has always been to come up with a solution for three problems- Artisan's quality of life, environment & consumer's demand. For us homespun, handwoven clothing provides us with single point solution that addresses all three at once. Ours are premium handmade products that are environment friendly and can help us bring a positive change in the lives of our weavers, spinners, artisans, tailors and other stakeholders. You can help us reach out to more people by supporting our work, giving us constructive and honest feedback as well as sharing any possible leads whenever you feel like. Also, you can help us in educating and engaging more people about the merits of homespun fabrics and help us break the age old stereotypes attached to it and give it a deeper meaning than calling it just 'politician's fabric'. In past few years, we've seen a wave/trend of homespun fabrics coming in, let's make sure it's not a short lived fad this time and it is here to stay.
A new hope!
Lack of funding and investments in handicrafts sector often comes up in discussions with industry seniors. Recently, in a similar discussion, Ms. Sarika Narayan too pointed out that funding and investments are barely existent. She also pointed out that before 90s it was quite common for organisations like Ford Foundation, to invest in Indian handicraft sector. World Bank too was into it, but now it has become a rare sight. These days the only major support comes from GOI in form various startup related funding initiatives or through various schemes which either provide loans or provide subsidies. Private investors show a greater interest in IOT (Internet Of Things), AI and IT related startups as these are much promising fields with great future prospects and faster returns as well. But all this is taking toll on the historic and traditional crafts of not only our country but entire world. These crafts not only are worth preserving, they become main mode of income for the financially weak and socially backward. And while the handicrafts sector is still waiting for IT interventions and complains about the neglect from investors and government (in the form of 'mass production friendly GST taxation laws'), it was really heartening for us to be able to secure this fund. We certainly see it as a ray of hope for this sector and also embolden us to create a replicable and scalable business model for handicrafts industry. We've tried providing all the information about people who are currently supporting us in the form of links to them and hope this information benefits others in handicraft sector. Let's create a thriving community of handicraft startups and brands that can actually benefit the environment, artisans and crafts and at the same time capture the imagination of a global audience.