Empowering Hands, Enriching Communities: How Kaarigar Clinic is crafting legacies

Last month, Kaarigar Clinic, an AIC-GUSEC startup launched its first Business Therapy Program, a cohort-based learning program aimed to help artisans take their businesses to the next stage with four sorts of therapies available – business, design, brand and marketing, with the first being mandatory for each artisan. The cohort, first of its kind, took 25 artisans under its wing, providing them with 5-day residential tutelage, teaching them all they needed to know about building their brand from the ground up. 

Founded on research rooted in the Gandhian model that believes in inclusion and development with dignity, the startup empowers local artisans in taking their skills and business to the next level. In an increasingly individualistic world, building a culture rooted in social interaction may seem like a Herculean task, but two individuals decided to lend weight to their convictions and did it anyway.

Flipping the Script

Nilesh Priyadarshi & Noopur Kumari were two such individuals who, on mulling over why artisans have a hard time establishing their names despite making exceptional artwork, started Kaarigar Clinic, an organisation that helps artisans build their place in the world. Before getting onboarded, each artist goes through what Nilesh calls a ‘health checkup’ where the strengths and weaknesses are assessed, helping the Clinic diagnose what they need to level up. 

India’s ancient culture was one rooted in people’s social connection with each other. They purchased commodities from each other, and everyone knew where their products came from. However, in today’s world where capitalism is fairly dominant, consumers have no idea who actually makes the products they use, rendering a once-social community into a faceless one. –  Nilesh says when asked about what inspired him to start Kaarigar Clinic.  

It is interesting to note that several brands and NGOs are already working on the same to provide local artisans employment, but Nilesh & Noopur decided to flip the script and instead of having the artisans work under one brand, help them develop their own. On the face of it, it empowers artists to bolster their individual identity through their brands, but under each such collective is a well-researched model that allows equal autonomy to all workers. 

Pabiben.com: Inside the Kaarigar Clinic’s First Success Story

They first implemented their research model to establish Pabiben Rabari’s business, which started with selling embroidered items of daily use. After conducting a health check up for her offering, the Clinic took some solid decisions to turn her enterprise into a brand.

The Name

The Clinic developed Pabiben’s brand by giving the business her own name. “To give an artisan an identity boost, it is important that their name be at the forefront. If we went with a common name, it may have registered in people’s brains, but wouldn’t have made way into their hearts” Nilesh says.

The Model

The Clinic implemented the Gandhian model in Pabiben’s story to see if it would work. That involved sourcing raw materials locally, employing local people and techniques, and allowing them the freedom to work with comfort. 

A remarkable addition to the experiment also involved implementing the ‘Bottom-line approach’ – giving the women working for Pabiben a say in their earnings. This approach earned Kaarigar Clinic more than 30 national and international accolades in 3 years, with Pabiben’s brand expanding from just 2-3 products to 300+, including the ‘Pabibag’, showcasing beautiful Kutchi embroidery. Not just that, their noble initiative earned them their qualification to Shark Tank India and an invite to Kaun Banega Crorepati. With the networking boost that they got from their incubation at AIC-GUSEC, Kaarigar Clinic also introduced their unique offering at more events and among more people. 

Getting to where they are now wasn’t devoid of pitfalls, and Kaarigar Clinic had to incur losses to stay undeterred from their vision. When asked to remove the artisan’s name label from products, the Clinic told the brands to “make artisans your strength, not weakness”. Nilesh says that instead of keeping their buyers in the dark about who curated the product, he implored them to tell their buyers the story behind the origin of the product, something that led many brands to embrace the artisan’s individuality. 

Want to support your local artisans? Try Kaarigar Clinic’s Local Gift Box, a curation born out of the pandemic that encouraged people from N cities worldwide to send tokens of appreciation to their loved ones.

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