Handicrafts from India-global acclaim for the small operations


While it is the large Indian corporate houses that hog the headlines for their cross–border deals what often goes unnoticed is how everyday Indians are making their entrepreneurial presence felt across the world.

Shrujan, a Kutch (Gujarat, India) based women’s organization is one such success story and fast becoming a case study for Indian handicraft makers trying to make their mark in the global marketplace.

Its bespectacled, 73-year old founder, Chanda Shroff, recently overcame thousands of contestants from 117 countries to become the first Indian to win the Rolex Award for Enterprise. A distinction that along with a $100,000 cash prize and personally inscribed gold Rolex chronometer, comes with its share of international attention.

After her outstanding performance many people of other countries wanted to know more about Kutch and its people. Many international buyers and retailers have been very impressed by the quality and vibrancy of embroidery and were interested in placing export orders.

It was a completely different story when Shroff first started Shrujan close to 38 years back in the famine-ravaged village of Kutch. A group of 30 women got together, inspired and driven to earn a living from the only skill they knew; hand embroidery.

Today over 3,000 women spread over 114 villages are part of the Shrujan family and another 22,000 have been benefited and self-help groups are being organized to train local craftswomen to assume the roles of designers, saleswomen, entrepreneurs and teachers.

To inspire younger craftswomen to recognize the richness of their craft, Shroff began the “Pride and Enterprise� initiative and created 1,200 hand embroidered display panels representing the work of 600 rural craftswomen.

Now flush with funds from the Rolex award Shroff plans to set up mobile resource centers that will take the panels to craftswomen in far-flung villages. The idea is to both inspire as well as empower them financially to ensure a better standard of living.

Instituted by Swiss luxury watchmaker, Rolex, 30 years ago the Rolex Award for Enterprise rewards are given in the categories of science, technology, the environment, exploration and cultural heritage.

Along with being an innovative project that changes the world and makes it a better place to live in, there also has to be a certain amount of financial need attached. Many of these projects are projects who have no access to traditional sources of funding.

Shroff joins a long list of 55 Laureates including this year’s other winners; Alexandra Lavrillier of France, Brad Norman of Australia , Pilai Poonswad of Thailand and Rory Wilson of UK.