The idea of RangSutra came to me, in the year 2002, while I was on a sabbatical, studying for a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution at the Eastern Mennonite University, writing a paper on Organizations needed for Conflict Resolution in the 21st Century.
It was 10 years since India had opened up her economy to the world, and the impact of that was beginning to show. There were several benefits – especially for middle and upper class educated Indians, who got access to more and newer job opportunities, as well as to training institutions both within India and internationally. The not so good part was that rural Indian, especially those with little access to higher/ job worthy education were not faring as well. They were not skilled for the higher paying jobs, and at best they were benefitting by getting manual jobs in the construction industry in towns and cities of India, thus having to migrate from their village and having to live in slums and temporary settlements on the outskirts of cities.
Herein was a conflict: Unless India’s growth story was inclusive there was bound to be conflict due to unequal growth and large numbers of people being left behind.
The good thing was there was also an opportunity: Middle class incomes were rising, with people having more purchasing power. There was a growing demand for hand crafted contemporary clothing and home decor items. And India had millions of craftspeople who still retained their craft skills, as well as young ones who were keen to learn.
Upon returning home I met with craftspeople from the URMUL network of organizations I had worked with earlier, as well as other artisan groups and craft lovers. We decided to set up an organization that would be market oriented, but would ensure that hand crafts and rural livelihoods remained at the centre.
And so Rangsutra was created: first in 2004 as a Producer Company and then again in 2006 as Private Company which later grew into a Public Limited company as the number of artisan shareholders grew.
Envisaged as a bridge between rural producers and urban customers, between traditional crafts skills and contemporary needs, between change needed in the 21st century while keeping in mind continuing our craft and cultural traditions, we embarked on a journey, encompassing both social and economic goals.
By Sumita Ghose