New Delhi: American Express and Dastkar have supported the economic empowerment of craftswomen across nine States (Haryana, Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland, Delhi, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir, West Bengal) in India through market visibility, recognition and earnings. This initiative is part of American Express and Dastkar’s programme – ‘Backing Women Artisans’ aimed at building financial resilience among women-led small businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The programme has already made a positive impact on the lives of over 14,000 craftswomen.
Padmashri Laila Tyabji, Founder Member and Chairperson, Dastkar said, “At the end of phase one of our project, there was a clear need to address more than mere subsistence. For ultimate survival and sustainability, we needed to ensure that the hand skills of Indian craftswomen garner their rightful place in the Indian and international marketplace. For this, new product development and design were a primary necessity. We thank American Express for recognising this need and continuing with their support with an additional grant of approx. Rs One Crore.”
Vibha Bajaj, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Asia, American Express, added, “We are strongly committed to women empowerment and backing small businesses. Our association with Dastkar has been very fulfilling and inspiring, where craftswomen have gained a new lease on life with increased earnings and self-confidence. The programme sought to honour, enable, and empower these women artisans, giving them their own place in the economic mainstream – as earners and entrepreneurs, and we are proud to have been able to achieve this objective.”
The theme finalised for Phase Two of the project was ‘ATHOME’ and included household products like soft furnishings, home accessories, art and wall hangings, basketry, and floor coverings. Twelve women-based craft groups with unique identities and a strong will to bring change were selected from across India. Four designers (Harpreet Padam, Puneet Kaushik, Rema Kumar, Sangeeta Sen) with over 25 years of experience and expertise in working with various craft techniques mentored and worked with each group over a period of nine months to produce a range of 15 items each, including one showstopper piece in each range.
The craft groups were introduced to design techniques like design thinking and colour theory, as well as rigorous quality control. This enhanced their understanding of creating unique, contemporary, and market-ready designs. They also benefited from learnings in costing and pricing, sizing, finishing and timelines, direct interaction with design professionals and understanding consumer and market trends.
“The project support has been a creative one which helped us brainstorm on making new scalable products for the wider market,” said Nilanjana Das, Founder, Action Centre for Transformation (ACT), a crafts group based in Haryana.
The ATHOME project led to the development of over 600 new products in 19 different craft skills (newspaper crafting, blue pottery, block print, dhokra and tribal jewellery, moonj grass weaving, loin loom, kantha embroidery, etc.) that were designed and developed in the design development to the final production process. Out of these, 361 were selected by the evaluation committee comprising Ritu Kumar, premier textile and fashion designer, Anita Lal of the Good Earth chain of lifestyle stores, and Prof Jatin Bhatt, renowned accessories designer, former Head of Accessories Dept, NIFT and Vice-Chancellor, Ambedkar University, for production.
In 2021, as part of its commitment towards ‘Building Financial Confidence’, American Express provided a grant of approx. Rs One Crore to Dastkar’s Artisan Support Fund to support Indian craftswomen impacted severely due to the pandemic with wages and raw materials.