READ India: Finding a niche for textiles

Kathryn with Indian Women

This is the third of a four-part guest blogger series from MBAs Without Borders‘ Kathryn Svobodny on her 5-month advisory experience with READ Global. Click here to read the previous post.

Thoughts of India bring to mind a number of exciting images: Yoga, elephants, megacities, and of course, markets. Both Indians and visitors love to visit the chaotic, open-air markets of India to hunt for bargains. It’s difficult to resist the sequined shoes, sparkling bangles, and bright colorful clothing. However, with so many products already available in the marketplace, how can rural producers compete?

This is what I set off to research in India as an MBAs Without Borders Advisor to READ Global.

In India, READ engages in a number of programs that train rural women to work with textiles. Through the READ Center in Geejgarh, Rajasthan, about 2,000 women have been trained in basic sewing and embroidery techniques. In the Dwarka Center, which is close to Delhi, a group of women have received training and supplies to create a number of textile-related projects. Women are always busy crocheting scarves, making baby clothes, and stitching totebags for sale at local markets.

Textile production can have positive social impacts. Teaching women sewing and embroidery skills gives them the tools necessary to become more financially independent. These programs also provide women with an increased sense of self-esteem and purpose.

What’s more, a READ Center offers a uniquely safe space for women to become entrepreneurs.

Libraries are respected spaces in rural communities in India – making them safe places to go for women who otherwise have to ask for permission from their husbands to leave the home. Women can go to READ Centers during the day to work on their projects, earn an income, and socialize, where previously they may have stayed home all day.

With so many textile-based products already in Indian markets throughout the country, READ is now looking at models where rural producers can fill a niche.

I believe there may be an opportunity for READ to partner with socially responsible business to harness the skills of women textile producers in rural villages.

Tourists, expats, and an increasing number of Indian consumers are interested in buying products that support rural and poor producers. In cities like Mumbai and Delhi, many specialty boutiques and clothing designers are hiring rural craftspeople to create their products.

Socially-responsible textile production could not only provide economic opportunities to women that make them more financially independent, but also create rural jobs and give villagers a means to make an income without having to migrate to larger urban areas.

Stay tuned for more in this four-part series from Kathryn on her experience with MBAs Without Borders and READ Global. Sign up for our RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss it!

About the guest author:

Kathryn Svobodny

Kathryn Svobodny, MBAs Without Borders Advisor

Prior to joining MBA Without Borders, I worked in community and economic development in the San Francisco Bay Area for a number of years. I received an MBA from the University of San Francisco and a BA in International Studies from the University of Oregon. I am passionate about small business development, microfinance, and volunteerism.

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