Flipkart Samarth: Empowering Kullu’s women artisans who weave magic
What’s common between Ritu Devi, Ramkali, Kaushalya Devi who live in the scenic Valley of the Gods, Kullu?
“Jyada padhe likhe to nahi the, naukri to mili nahi. Par main phir bhi apne pairon par khada hona chahti thi (I was not well educated and could not get a job. But I wanted to stand on my own two feet),” says Ritu Devi, who like Ramkali and Kaushalya Devi, are artisans whose hands weave magic into wool as they craft traditional shawls, caps and mufflers in the misty hills of Himachal Pradesh.
Their workplace is often their humble abode, where they work with a lot of dedication and relentless commitment to earn a living for themselves. For anyone who has travelled to Kullu-Manali, a souvenir in the form of a ‘kullu shawl’ or ‘kullu topi’, as they are famously called, are absolute must-haves.
But, in the times of the pandemic, when not many of us are adventurous enough to take a far-away vacation, how does one get these famous products, known for their vibrant colours and well-defined, geometrical patterns?
Through Flipkart Samarth, an initiative started by the e-commerce platform in July 2019, you can buy your favourite Kullu handlooms online, with a promise of authenticity that comes straight from the weavers. And in turn support the immensely talented artisans who create these heritage products.
Ritu Devi, Ramkali, Kaushalya Devi, and many others like them are part of women’s Self Help Groups from Kullu, that handcraft the region’s famous woollen wear, supported under the aegis of Deendayal Antoyadaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM).
Recently, NULM joined hands with Flipkart Samarth to extend support to thousands of artisans like Ritu Devi, living across 25 states where the partnership is now live.
“We have really benefited from Flipkart Samarth. Earlier, we used to sell our products only in local shops. With Flipkart, our reach has widened, which is helping us sell more and earn better,” said Kaushalya Devi, another artisan.
The Samarth initiative was started with an aim to uplift and embrace India’s artisans, weavers, micro-enterprises into e-commerce, giving them access to a pan-India customer base and a regular flow of income. In addition to just offering the artisans a platform to showcase and sell their creations, the platform also offers cataloguing support, training sessions, advertising credits and more.
“When we started making our products, we had a problem selling them. Earlier, we used to sell them in small shops in the local markets of Kullu. Now, NULM helps us sell our products on platforms like Flipkart,” Ritu Devi says.
Today, Flipkart Samarth also works closely with government bodies, Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and livelihood missions to identify and empower special groups like rural entrepreneurs, women-led enterprises, differently-abled entrepreneurs, artisans and weavers.
Back in the valleys of Kullu, the initiative is having an emancipator-effect on local women. As Ritu Devi aptly puts it: “Jab ek aurat apne pairon par khadi hogi hai to uske andar khud ek shakti aa jati hai. (When a woman stands on her own two feet, she automatically becomes stronger).”
Seeing her success story has encouraged several other women in the neighbourhood, who had never stepped out of their homes, to engage in a livelihood. Even those who are not educated can now contribute to their households financially and help offer a better standard of living to their families as they unleash their creativity.
These women specialise in making woollens like shawls, caps, mufflers, ethnic winterwear and the famous Himachali topi. All their products, including the yarn used, are 100 per cent handmade, natural and locally produced. Selling their products on a platform like Flipkart is giving them international acclaim and placing Kullu weaves on the international map.
Ready yourself for the winter and get your favourite Kullu shawl and topi, straight from the artisans, right on Flipkart. Click on https://www.flipkart.com/clothing-and-accessories/~cs-dnn274t82s/pr?sid=clo&collection-tab-name=ShimlaNULM_Product_Collection