From Jaipur to Milan: Here’s how Jaipur Rugs is empowering rural artisans

Did you know that the word ‘carpet’ is derived from the Latin word carpere? It loosely translates to “to pluck” because carpets were made by plucking the fabric using one’s hand and weaving them together. This art form dates back to 2,500 years and Jaipur Rugs is working hard to connect rural craftsmanship with global buyers.

The work of the artisans is not only popular in Rajasthan, but also in international markets. Let’s take a look at how the organisation operates and provides livelihood to people from 600 villages across India.

Nand Kishore Chaudhary laid the foundation for Jaipur Rugs in 1978 with a vision to provide a livelihood to artisans and he did just that. He kicked off with two looms and nine artisans at his ancestral home in Churu, Rajasthan. And, back in the day, the practise of untouchability was still prevalent.

Caste, creed and business

Disappointed by the mindset of people, Nand Kishore decided to eliminate the caste divide, especially between him and the weavers. While his family frowned upon him for working and sharing meals with them; he continued to empower them by providing employment and skill development opportunities.

In the meanwhile, he also got rid of the middlemen like contractors or subcontractors so that he could directly work with the artisanal communities and prevent them from getting exploited. After a few years, Nand Kishore moved to Gujarat and spent around nine years teaching weaving techniques to 2,500 people from the tribal communities. In the process, he realised that women were far more focused and efficient than men, and became determined to capacitate them. From then on until today, he has been working towards their welfare.

Global presence

Cut to the present day, Jaipur Rugs works with ethnically diverse communities in 600 villages across five Indian states and gives them a fair chance to earn a living through weaving. They have a strong network of about 40,000 artisans.

Jaipur Rugs flagship store at Piazzale Cadorna in Milan

Jaipur Rugs has been making its presence felt not in India but, even beyond. The organisation has a modern and eclectic range of rugs made using the finest silk and wool. They export to more than 65 countries and have just opened their first flagship store at Piazzale Cadorna, Milan. The store has been designed by Italian designer Matteo Cibic and narrates vibrant stories from rural India through contemporary handmade rugs.

What’s unique about the store is the Manchaha vault set up which showcases exquisite, exclusive rugs designed and hand-woven by the artisans. Manchaha is also Jaipur Rugs’ sustainable development initiative under which the weavers get to design their very own Manchaha (of their liking) rug in Rajasthan. Each rug is made using more than 2 lakh knots.

No factory, but an empire

Jaipur Rugs still does not have a central factory or place of production since most of the products are made in the homes of weavers or local looms. They have five retail showrooms in India – one each in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi and two in Jaipur. Internationally, they have stores in Milan, Russia (Samara), Atlanta (USA) and three in China.

Their turnover was Rs 168 crores in the last fiscal year, with a half-yearly revenue of Rs 106 crores. In 2021-22, they are expected to cross Rs 230 crores in the financial year. In the last seven months of 2021, they have produced over 32 lakh sq. ft. of rugs.

A key thing to note here is that 90% of their sales come from exports and only 10 % is domestic sales. Their source of funding is internal. Their business model is also a subject of study at management schools around the world.

Late CK Prahalad published a case study on Jaipur Rugs in his book titled, ‘The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid - eradicating poverty through profits.’ He wrote, “Jaipur Rugs provides a unique example of how a global supply chain”. He adds, “built around developing human capability and skills at the grassroots level and finding steady and well-paying jobs for rural men and women in the most depressed parts of India”. He even states that it “can connect rural poor with markets of the rich, such as the United States”.

They are ever-expanding and are coming up with a store in Hyderabad by the end of 2021. With stores in Jaipur, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Milan, Jaipur Rugs is enabling artisans to weave their dreams, one knot at a time.