The year 2020 threw a lot of curveballs at us, some that kicked us down while some that we managed to dodge, though there were a couple that allowed us to score some wins. So, here we are today, fortunate to be brining this year to a close on a happy note, re-living our big wins and joys with you all.
While we faced a change in our plans of launching our business for the handloom weavers (TheWeaversCo) because of the pandemic, we got the time to nurture what we had started in the autumn of 2019, Vaarta. Vaarta, a group of handloom weavers and textile artisans, who network and share knowledge and stories with each other, as we work together to open new market opportunities for them all.
It all all started on the 31st of May, 2019 with a Vaarta, a conversation with Govind Chouhan, a weaver from Maheshwar, from a bench in Islington!
When we started our trek to London that morning, little did we know what was in store – Covent garden, Shoreditch and Islington – the store Aria, After Noah and even a visit to Ottelenghi’s (our first)! Nothing is ever complete without food and coffee, right?
Many conversations with many other weavers later, the Vaarta group was born in September 2019 and our first podcast of the Market Jaano series began for the weavers on 3rd October, 2019.
We had a simple aim and that was to ‘Put the invisible makers, the weavers on the Digital map‘, so that they could be discovered and we could then facilitate their access to new markets. After all, we are TheWeaversCo (the weavers’s community) and the reason for our existence is centred around them. We had often heard the lines ‘weavers don’t know how to take good pictures; weavers don’t know how to sell on instagram; so many don’t even know the ‘A’ of social media’. We knew this had to disrupt this belief, both for ourselves and for our weaver community.
Having worked on Change Management initiatives in our past corporate lives, we knew that change wouldn’t be easy, but simple, small steps would certainly make that happen and with this belief we began our journey!
After a few months, the weavers and textile artisans voiced their need to improve their photography skills, so that what they were weaving could look pretty and would appeal to their online followers, resulting in sales for them, especially as the offline selling at come to a stop. We didn’t quite know any photographers, so we reached out to a dear friend Nidhi who in turn reached out to her friends on social media and luckily for us, Rama (a friend of Nidhi’s) connected us to Akila, an ace photographer. Not just that a photographer but Akila is also an architect by training and an Odissi dancer as well as being a social media expert. She very kindly volunteered her time to run a series of online workshops for the weavers to improve their photography skills.
For a year, we have been running our podcasts for the Vaarta group on topics such as inventory management, costing, use of colours and online selling and have in parallel been e-meeting the group over Friday Chaiday sessions with specialists in certain areas.
Looking back, we realised our work did have some significant impact and yes, we are pre-incubated at IIM-B NSRCEL too!
We stayed in touch with Akila and she helped us immensely, and one fine day while we were talking about the community she too had been a huge part of, we all came up with the idea of showcasing the work of the weavers through Conversations – a showcase of the Vaarta group!
This was our first (of many) and we’re sure to make mistakes…we are learning. Thank you for your company this year and we hope you will stay with us as we navigate through 2021.
Much love from us
Nupur & Shilpa