New Delhi (India), June 23: Villages in India have been the crucial buffers between cities where modern technology and facilities penetrate much later than in urban areas. The spending capacity comes from earnings which are by sale proceeds of agricultural crops and allied products in a local mandi with multiple mediators facilitating the male farmers. Uttar Pradesh ( UP ) which was once upon a time called a beemaru state, is developing like no other with bold interventions. The man who is seen transforming the creative grassroots with his young energy is worthwhile noting. Architect Rishabh Sachan, fondly called Mr.Rishu is working to make native villagers, specifically women, transform into master artists in their homes itself. Women artisans can only work before sunset as they don’t have access to electricity. The constraints are many. Rishabh Sachan led the slow transformation, which has already been executed in villages of Barouli, Aroul, Dharamshala, Saraiya, and Badhaiya Kheda in the state of Uttar Pradesh with management strategies in the most constructive manner.
Rishabh is commonly called Rishu Bhaiya by the teams in villages and cities. He is searched as soon as a colour check and coordination are required. He looks after the designs and artisans interest in making a particular product that engages the emotional retina of the women too. Co Founder Alka Katiyar is Referred to as Buaa Ji, which connects the women affectionately with love and empathy. Synergy in villages starts with trust building. In Hardoi, teams were created not on the basis of numbers or quantity but on quality and motivation to learn newer skills in embroidery. The team learnt from their struggles as well as the aspirations of motivated women to launch a new system of OVOT in action starting from Uttar Pradesh. OVOT is One Village One Team. Rishabh Sachan says it’s all about improving the craft at every end, making it connected to premium value chains. The women villagers could relate to the process shown by Alka to her rural stakeholders. Initially, they were hesitant to show excuses for not doing it, but later they did change their minds. The artisans could visualise their grow by seeing themselves credited. Phone calls keep coming wherever the founders are travelling or visiting, especially during the afternoons. Women gather in the village and ask their doubts on the phone by sending photographs through Whatsapp. The exceptional point in Rishu’s case of work is that his startup Vanvasi Project India is not following the standard operating top to down procedures commonly followed by large companies and organisations like that of the government and World Bank with lots of resources. With no money in his pocket to pay extra and burn to hire high-profile consultants, he makes his way through frugal innovation in mastering human resources in his small team. He had completed his management degree after pursuing architecture.
The village economy in India has always left a dent in the GDP of India. Dakshita Das helped with various suggestions to the founders when they were just starting with the village of Khurrampur. Dakshita Das referred to the idea of employing the urban poor in tailoring. She showed her tea cosies done by the same process. End-to-end recycling, and mentioned that mixing chikan embroideries with Zari work takes away the authenticity. Connecting the maker and the right consumer was even a difficult task for the government. Different policies at different time periods under different bureaucrats came with a top-to-the-down model of approach with the same fate of failing. Rishabh Sachan says the time we live in and spend our comforts is totally different – we are transforming ourselves physiologically and psychologically. The idea of working more and earning more is still the same, but people who are earning more are not sure “ if they are more happy too”. The lifestyles and inclinations in the concrete world have added layers of transparent stress in the lives of the urban class, says Rishabh.
Village folks, on the other hand, earn less but are more relaxed and content with their daily lifestyle. Rural marketing is touching new depths with different approaches of practical application through Rishabh’s practical expertise with Vanvasi Project India. On the other hand, Alka Katiyar, co-founder of Vanvasi Project India, mentions the struggles they faced in rural areas. These barriers and resistance made them realise the right ways to execute the everlasting ideas that can bring sustainable livelihood. Rishabh says dreams of village India will not fructify through enlightening webinars, debates and workshops. It’s much more hard efforts and spending time in the fields that will bring a sustaining change.
Rishabh Sachan says communication is very crucial when you work in rural villages. You cannot be fixed in your ideas while dealing with people over there. The source from which they get messages is an important element. The use of likeable source to communicate the message to come and learn new skills like that of embroidery increases its acceptance among the target audience. Trustworthy source begins their actions with word-of-mouth communication working to a large extent in rural environments.
Alka Katiyar shares that it was Dr. Navina Jafa, a Fulbright scholar of the Smithsonian with expertise in cultural management, who gave the idea to execute cultural skill mapping in the villages of Hardoi. Navina Jafa shared that the village represents the backbone repository of Indian Cultural skills. Yet, in the situation of skill deficit, empowering women with new skills, as Vanvasi Project India has done, illustrates the bottom-up approach to development.
Vanvasi’s activities are proof that villagers use a source that they can trust; these are generally friends, relatives, neighbours, etc. Expert sources are present in every village home; they influence decisions that happen in a joint rural family. Practical implications of strong opinions from them came up in village Barouli as a case study. An old man, father-in-law, who was the senior most in a joint rural family, himself came to the Vanvasi team leader and enquired about getting some embroidery work for his four daughters-in-law in the family. In villages, there is a strict limitation to behave in a certain manner. So, it is difficult for rural women to find their voices and project them. The case of village Barouli is a positive example of how things can change for good if any organisation is authentic in delivering the impact, like Vanvasi Project India in Uttar Pradesh.
It is important to understand the rural psyche and to speak by motivation without patronising rural people. With time there is learning about different communication forms. Efficient communication helps in tracking changes in the mindset and aspirations of rural people who can be producers as well as consumers for different business models at the grassroots.
Rishabh quotes his learnings from his course work from Harvard Business School taught by Prof. Rebecca Henderson, that – Purpose-driven firms have a huge advantage in pioneering fundamental innovation, like Vanvasi Project India. “Acting on the business case for sustainability often means walking out on thin ice—a large upfront investment for unsecured returns.” –Rebecca Henderson Turning rural talents into mainstream livelihoods is not an easy task. There are many disturbances and issues that were realised practically by Vanvasi Project India. Some of them are low literacy levels that make it difficult for village women to understand questions or respond to Western quality standards. Local language communication and style of reacting often turn off the facilitator from explaining more. Scattered and remote villages, inaccessible roads to tiny villages are a real problem for people penetrating and working in village India and many other issues.
The idea of India and Swadeshi is dated and periodic. To sustain strong business models, localisation is the key. Rishabh explains to his teams in villages who are embroidering on Khadi that there is a way in which they can earn the entire year. All they have to do is learn new skills and perform their skills bringing exceptional craft techniques to final products.
Rishabh says it’s a different behavioural pattern which needs to be created by motivating people on a time-to-time basis to bring an impact to develop businesses and their daily lives altogether.
The team tells, with their experiences on the field, that there is a strong need for a communication channel with villagers that could explain the difference in ideas on perceived versus reality. The point when rural women start utilising their own aptitude and design sensibility, creativity comes down on the fabric. It works extensively well. Sometimes confusion leads them to be more creative. Earlier, their mindset was driven by the requirements and orders of the trader and the mediator. Village artisans, who were mostly women, said, we thought the trader is the guy who knows everything about the market, so we should not use our brain. Embroidering dreams create a motivation that would lead to stopping migration, empower women inside their houses, generating trust, design a bottom-to-top approach, leading to ultimately adding value to the life of village women.
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