By Emily LaCroix
When I arrived in Bagru, India six and a half months ago, I came wanting to make a difference in the lives of the rural block-printing artisans.
What I have come to realize is that they are the ones making the difference; I am simply providing a few skills and resources they were lacking.
Last year, Jeremy Fritzhand (India Minerva Fellow 2010-2011) laid the groundwork for an ambitious and slightly daunting project. The idea was to build Bagru Textiles, a social business which helps the artisans of Bagru re-enter the global market place by connecting them directly to Western consumers.
Jeremy and I are currently working together to build Bagru Textiles into a profitable and sustainable business. We have registered it with the Indian government, opened a bank account, developed a business model and are about to launch the website (coming in late February). We had to figure out a way to keep the artisans interested and participating in the business, so one day they can and want to run it themselves.
The solution has been for our members to make a non-monetary investment (products or services) and in return receive an annual dividend that is a portion of the net profit. So far we have seven members who have invested already and more coming in the next few weeks.
We also have a young man who is interested in becoming our paid intern in hopes of becoming the business manager in a year or so. Jeremy will be returning to campus in two weeks, so keep an eye out for him and the sales in Reamer.