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Working with more than 45 artisan groups that employ 250 families, Aspiration International (AI) is providing makers in Northern India with a way out of poverty.
Traditionally, many designers and artisans have had little education and earn a meager living by learning a craft from parents and grandparents and attempting to sell their wares domestically. But whether they’re handcrafting copper and stainless steel kitchenware, stone decor items, jewellery or wood handicrafts, selling locally can lead to exploitation. In some cases, artisans who are unable to read or do basic math either aren’t paid for the work, or are paid less than what was promised.
Exporting to international markets, however, requires a business background and knowing how to design a product that will appeal to buyers in other cultures around the world while maintaining consistent quality. Many makers who work in cottage industries have never been taught these important skills.
Aspiration International began to change that, in 1981 when Padam N. Kapoor, Chief Executive Officer, decided to take what he had learned while working in small artisan businesses and use that knowledge to uplift and highlight the artisans in the interiors of Northern India. The organization, an exporter, promotes cottage industries, develops international markets for them, and works with artisan groups, individual craftspeople and their families to give them useful business and technology skills so they can become independent and create even more work in their villages and neighbourhoods.
The education doesn’t end there. Owners talk to makers about the importance of their daughters’ schooling, AI gives women—who may prefer to work from home—a chance to work and care for their families, and it pays rates above the minimum wage. Some artisan groups have launched with the help of “no interest” loans.
“We wish to be associated with like-minded organizations so that more work can be generated for these groups,” writes Mr. Kapoor.
Ten Thousand Villages Canada began carrying the handcrafted stainless steel, copper curry pots from Aspiration International in 2016.