Building an efficient supply chain in rural India is tricky — to say the least.
Social enterprises often want to have ethical sourcing, and help the folks who make their products earn a better living, work in kinder conditions, and have access to healthcare and education. It’s at the core of the Fair Trade ideology. But ensuring that happens is easier said than done, especially when you’re dealing with the pothole-ridden roads of India and a calendar that’s chock-a-block with festivals and religious holidays (meaning offices closed, artisans communities on break).
Navroze Mehta has that vision. And he raised $5 million to make it happen.
Along with his daughter Sonali Mehta Rao, Mehta launched Mela Artisans, a US-based company that sells handmade products by artisans in India. The idea stemmed from their travels as a family.
Mehta is a global soul: born in England, raised in Bombay, worked in Europe, and for the last 30+ years, has been based in the US. But he routinely takes his family back to India for vacations; on these trips, he started buying local handmade products from artisans.
The reality is, though, that while Mehta and his family may have been admirers of these products, handicrafts is a struggling industry in India. In a fast-paced world, demanding quick turnarounds, large volumes, and low costs, artisans — be it in the bone, wood, or textile industries — have really struggled to keep up.
Some of the biggest hurdles facing the handicraft sector include competition from machine-made products in China, shortage of skilled labor, and changing customer preferences.
That’s what spawned the father-daughter duo to start a company together, one that would help artisans, who are often paid less than $5 a day, find new markets for their wares.
Technology, Mehta says, makes the job of connecting the dots easier.
Read the full story at Forbes.com.