2020-21 was a difficult year for several families, not just around the country, but around the world. In India, it was particularly the neglected classes that faced the economic brunt of the health crisis. Majid Ahmad Mir, a 39-year-old master pashmina weaver hailing from Srinagar, holds specialisation in the Kani shawl, Plain pashmina shawl and reversible Pashmina shawl.
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, Mir’s family, like many others, was devastated financially. In just about a year, their sales came down by 95%. Above this, significant amount of debt was accumulated on Mir’s family as they had to continue paying people supplying materials and other weavers, who were dependent on them.
Amid such a difficult time, Eid of 2021 brought a ray of hope for Majid, when he got in touch with the Weaver Resource Bridge, a volunteer group of six women from different parts of the world helping master weavers across India find buyers for their products.
This volunteer group includes Talish Ray (a Delhi-based corporate lawyer) Meenakshi Vashisht (heritage specialist), Mani Tripathi (homemaker from Lucknow), Namrata Varma Kaul (real estate professional), Shruti Mathur (IT consultant living in Melbourne) and Monika Srivastav (based out of Bahrain).
Expressing his gratitude to the Weaver Resource Bridge, Majid said “Thanks to Talish Ma’am and the Weaver Resource Bridge, we’ve been able to establish contact with buyers, who have placed orders and relieved some of the financial distress we are facing. Besides generating sales amounting to approximately Rs 3 lakh, we have been able to pay off more than a third of our debt and still employ about 35 to 40 people in our factories, some of whom have been with us since our grandfather’s generation.”
Likewise 45-year-old Gopal Chippa, a master weaver engaged with the delightful craft of Bagru printing, also found solace through the Weaver Resource Bridge. Gopal told The Better India, “Our family has been engaged in Bagru printing for generations now. When the pandemic struck, there was no work for us. We were dependent on our meagre savings to survive the pandemic. Since teaming up with the Weaver Resource Bridge, I’ve been able to sell products worth approximately Rs 5 lakh. This has not merely helped my family, but others associated with our work.”
The Team Behind Weaver Resource Bridge: When Meenakshi reached out to Talish on Facebook to volunteer with the medical helpline, Talish suggested her to come together and start a similar resource bridge for struggling weavers. This led them to reach out to Mushtak Khan, who told them that master weavers were financially suffering with negligible sales for over a year.
Talish and Meenakshi requested Mushtak to send across a list of craftspersons along with their contact details. Only 8 out of the 20 master weavers, they reached out with with a certain sense of scepticism about whether buyers could come and purchase their inventory. Leaving behind the medical helpline to other volunteers, Talish decided to completely venture into establishing a Weaver Resource Bridge alongside Meenakshi.
Talish posted about this initiative on Facebook saying, “If anyone wants to buy items from these award-winning master weavers, they should reach out, since these are artists who need all the support they can get”. Following the post, 3 of her friends—Mani Tripathi, Namrata and Shruthi— showed an interest in volunteering and decided to step in. Another person who reached out was Monika Srivastava. She wanted to buy their items and also volunteer with the Weaver Resource Bridge in any capacity.
With an amazing team of six, they went live with the platform on May 9, 2021. About 300 buyers bought products from these weavers with sales touching nearly Rs 60 lakh. Around 60% of those who engaged in a transaction are repeat buyers. Interestingly, this group has been helping weavers without any official social media page or website. All it took to reach out to buyers, were some Facebook posts, WhatsApp messages-status and a few personal texts. Since the launch, there has been no looking back.