Social Entrepreneurs & Craft: A Mini Shopping Guide

A set of creative entrepreneurs working — with support from UnLtd India — to build sustainable livelihoods for craft communities across the country

Words by Jessica Jani
Illustrations by Saumitra Deshmukh

13 Feb 2021

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This story is part of Issue #3 of Big Little Things, a limited-edition magazine, produced and published by Paper Planes for UnLtd India, a launchpad for early-stage social entrepreneurs. Read more about this collaboration and UnLtd India here.

Embroidered Accessories

Aditi Dubey Lee started Ruas as a bid to empower women artisans across the country and create opportunities for their financial independence. The organisation works with 25 traditionally skilled female embroiderers from the Ahir community, the Suf community and the Jat community in Kutch, Gujarat, the Todas from the Nilgiris, and chikankari artisans in Uttar Pradesh, to make beautifully embroidered camera, guitar and bag straps, pouches, and jewellery, available on Ruas’ website.

Ikat & Kalamkari Home Decor

Khwaab works with the women of Mandawali in East Delhi. The organisation, spearheaded by Pooja Chopra, Shruti Venkatesan and Yash Warrier, empowers 29 artisans from the community who are trained to make lifestyle products from fabrics like ikat and kalamkari, procured from craft clusters across the country. Khwaab retails the products made by the women, which include bed linen, curtains, bags, knitwear and most recently, masks, through their website.

Kolhapuri Leather Shoes

Hitesh Kenjale, Lakshya Arora and Abha Agrawal launched Desi Hangover to work with the cobbler community in Kolhapur. Their aim is to reach a larger market with the community’s handwoven leather shoes — a skill that has been mastered over generations. With machinery on par with global shoemaking standards and design interventions, Desi Hangover seeks to build on the skills of these artisans. The Mumbai-based enterprise currently works directly with 100 artisans across the value chain and the shoes are retailed online and in select stores.

Chikankari for Children

With Asya, Ambika Nehru looks to financially and socially empower the women artisans of Jais Village in Uttar Pradesh by training them in traditional chikankari embroidery. The organisation currently works with a core group of about 35 women who make contemporary chikankari garments for children and also take custom orders for grown-ups. Asya pays the women per piece, at a substantially higher rate than the market.

Read more about Big Little Things here.


Jessica Jani was formerly part of the editorial team at Paper Planes. Find her on Twitter at @_jesthetic.

Saumitra Deshmukh is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator based in Mumbai.

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