To help chikan and zardozi artisans, three foreign students ---Maria Tikhomirova, Bijin Zhao and Danting Huang ----are promoting the concept of Handicraft Artisans Tarry (HAT) in Lucknow.
The trio was in the state capital for their internship in AIESEC’s ‘Vikas’ project, in association with Karam Foundation and Sarvajanik Shikshonnayan Sansthan. Maria is from Russia, and Bijin and Danting hail from China.“To save Lucknow’s world-renowned craft and to keep the artisans motivated, we need to bring them to the forefront and HAT is the answer. It will give the craftsmen a platform to come face-to-face with the buyers and earn more. Plus, it will increase customer satisfaction,” says Maria who is studying economics and law."
The HAT they are conceptualising is based on the pattern of Delhi Haat and ex-PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s baby ‘Lucknow Haat’. Marketing student Bijin Zhao says, “here customers can directly come, interact with artisans, choose their cloth material, design and order. A person from HAT can coordinate and the profit goes to straight to the artisans. So this way, we will cut margins that go to middlemen at various levels. Both the customers and the artisans will be in a win-win position.”
They are now looking forward for support to set up HAT. “We certainly look upon the government to extend help, but we are not depending just on them. Private companies under their corporate social responsibilities (CSR) schemes may find the concept interesting as this will help both the artisans, customers and give a boost to this heritage craft,” says HAT coordinator Shekhar Srivastava.“On visiting the bylanes of Old City, we found that zardozi artisans work for 14 hours a day. Involving about 4 people from a family, they finish a piece of work in five-odd days. But their family income is just Rs 4,500,” international trade student Danting Huang. Even worse is the condition of chikan artisans. “Craftsmen work in dingy, dark locations and earning just Rs 2,500 a month.”