Neelam Chhiber of Industree Crafts Foundation was awarded the India Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 award for her efforts towards empowering rural artisans by helping them turn from ‘piece-rate workers’ — paid strictly as per the quantity of the output — to entrepreneurs. The three other finalists in the fray for the award were Sudesh Menon of Waterlife India, Gyanesh Pandey of Husk Power Systems, and Matthew Spacie of Magic Bus.
Chhiber, an alumnus of the National Institute of Design, set up Industree Crafts Foundation in 1994 with the intent of empowering rural artisans. It works both at production and market ends of complex supply chains and has impacted more than 10,000 artisans living below the poverty line, by putting them in charge of their own enterprises.
The enterprise also helps rural artisans form self-help groups in addition to helping them procure working capital and develop business skills. The artisans are then provided assured business orders on designs created by Chhiber's enterprise, which also provides these groups a marketing platform through its retail brand Mother Earth. Operating out of Bangalore, the enterprise impacts 10,000 marginal producers 61% of who live below the poverty line.
“There is a need in the country to help artisans with little access to resources and participation in India's booming retail markets," Chhiber said.