Chhoti Si Asha- Using Creative Ways To Recoup The Artistic Heritage Of India

“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced”. – Leo Tolstoy

India is known for its diversity in culture, spread across its states. We find different types of handmade goods and artworks made by artisans and craftsmen in different parts of the country. However, the prowess of Indian artisans and craftsmanship remains unmatched globally, and these families holding onto generational wisdom of artistry still struggle to make ends meet and sustain their livelihoods. This is also why the traditional craft industry in India is currently struggling to sustain itself and remains vulnerable. Many non-profit organisations and NGOs are however changing this reality by actively promoting their craft and also providing a platform for their talents. Corporate gifting is becoming a popular trend among organisations, helping build relationships with employees, and customised goods have paved the way for this business. This has the added benefit of supporting the artisans who make it. 

Chhoti Si Asha – Where Social Responsibility Makes The Core Of The Business

Chhoti Si Asha is a non-profit based in Chandigarh that works towards providing craft-based livelihood opportunities for women from rural backgrounds living in and around Chandigarh by leveraging the indigenous craft knowledge that the women get from their villages. Launched in 2009 by Gagan Chawla and co-founded by Jatinder Singh Mann, the brand primarily manufactures craft-based handbags, stuff toys, handcrafted games and handcrafted home accessories. They also undertake white-label production for brands that want to outsource manufacturing for craft-based products.

The brand brings that ray of hope & positivity into the lives of several women artisans with indigenous craft knowledge by empowering them with an income of their own and supporting their livelihood. The brand helps them in upskilling their craft, makes them quality conscious, develops market-driven products using their craft and then provides them with market linkages. These market linkages are provided via exhibitions, D2C selling through their website, B2B selling, white label production and Institutional sales.

Going The Extra Mile In Curating Their Entire Collection

The uniqueness of the brand lies in the customization they bring to the clients. All their products are designed keeping the market need, aesthetics and the craft knowledge of the person/cluster who produce the product. A lot of their design process has been collaborative where buyers and producers interact and customize products as per their needs.

Sharing the insights of the founder, “Our products are craft-based and designed with sensitivity towards the market need, aesthetics and the crafts person working on it. Our belief is that practising a craft keeps a person grounded and so the next generation also needs to respect and maybe learn the craft being practised by the women. So, we have designed some products keeping that in mind for children especially the urban children who are not aware of these rick crafts. We have snakes and a ladder done in embroidery with Kantha work at the back and tokens made of crochet, ludo done with patchwork and Kantha work, memory game done using the craft of crochet and a memory game is done with fun animal-based motifs of phulkari.”

The Inspirational Journey To Chhoti Si Asha

Gagan, a software professional working in the U.S. for a few years moved back to India and volunteered to work at the grassroots level. Having settled in Chandigarh, she started working with the street children to make a better connection with the city. The business side started when she was working with the grown-ups in the community of street children and was helping them with vocational training. The boys took training in sewing post which they utilized their skills to make bags for Punjab University. Gradually women from the neighbouring areas volunteered and started creating unique designs one after the other and so much was their expertise in creating that for a long time, that the brand did not have a design team in place. Gagan shares, “We love the organic aspect of how our products came into being and this is the reason why each product of Chhoti si Asha has a unique name. Each product is either associated with either the person who gave the idea or the person who made the first design. The project started with minimum funds and we invited the whole city of Chandigarh to donate their waste to us and we made products using the waste. Our first exhibition was Kabaad se Jugaad”.

The Brand’s Market Reach & Presence 

The brand ships all across India and also some products in the UK, US and Canada. Some of the major clients include Universities like Ashoka University in Sonipat, Thapar University in Patiala, Punjab University etc. The other leading corporates it caters to include Infosys, Tata Mahindra, Marriott and many more.

The brand has proudly served 1000+ customers and envisions becoming a product and service-based brand. They aim to make their own products and continuously provide meaningful livelihood opportunities to their artisan community enabling making rapid market connections.

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