NARHET, ALWAR: Thirty-year-old Kalli Devi finishes her household chores and joins her husband at the loom to weave a colourful carpet that may find a home in the US. It may be just a rug to the casual shopper, but for Devi it's the magic carpet that is helping her two sons study in a public school in Jaipur.
Devi, her husband and neighbours are employees of Jaipur Rugs Company that aims to weave ethics with capitalism. The company began 35 years ago with two looms in Rajasthan's Churu village. Five years ago, it took the spot of India's largest export-manufacturing unit.
Jaipur Rugs hires about 40,000 weavers on 7,000 looms in 3,150 villages in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. Barring Gujarat, all states have a high rate of rural poverty, making carpet manufacturing an attractive livelihood option.
Devi's Raigar community is marginalized and made its living as leather tanners. Today, many younger people have switched to weaving though the community elders still hand-stitch traditional leather mojris.
The company identifies BPL communities and aims to employ unskilled, unemployed, uneducated rural women from backward classes. The women now earn between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 a month working from home.
Founder Nand Kishore Chaudhary says this has been possible because of the focus on conscious capitalism with inclusive growth the mantra. Chaudhary formed the company in 1978 in the belief that development could come only through empowerment and employment. Chaudhary says he spent a large part of his youth in remote regions home to adivasis and wanted to do something to reduce the poverty.
In the first year, the company's expenditure on payment to weavers, yarn openers, wool sorters and production was Rs 300. "Expenditure in 2011-12 ran to Rs 30cr," he says, adding they train the villagers in weaving. The company exports 70% of its carpets to the US.
It is the 41st member of Business Call to Action and will train 10,000 people in north India in advanced carpet -weaving techniques and provide them access to global markets by 2015. Business Call to Action is an initiative that encourages companies to fight poverty while boosting business in developing countries.
The model can be replicated, says Chaudhary. It only requires a small place to install the loom in a weaver's house. The company delivers orders and raw material to the weaver. The villagers have artisan identity cards. Narhet has 175 weavers and 65 looms working for Jaipur Rugs. While some villagers have built pucca houses with their new income, others have televisions or proudly show off bikes.