What do TAI, Industree and NEDFi have in common? INDIA and I!
My journey to Bengaluru (aka Bangalore) and Khetri (Assam) started with email correspondence in January 2015 from me to Gouthami, Founder of “Travel Another India” and 2010 Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards Laureate for Asia Pacific. The power of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards Community! I had remembered reading Gou’s profile sometime last year and thinking that when next I travelled to India, I would consult with her. Well……the opportunity came up quite sooner than I thought. MitiMeth had the unique opportunity of being aired on CNN’s African Start-Up continuously throughout January 2015. The global exposure through CNN was fantastic and at the same time created overwhelming expectations and opportunities. With plans to scale up impact in several more riverine / riparian communities in Nigeria and production capacity, MitiMeth needed to upgrade her product development skills and develop a wider range of crafts for production. I had to fast track my plans to learn more about crafting with natural fibres in order to be able to impart knowledge to my team and the communities. A trip to India a country world renowned for its vibrant handicrafts sector became an absolute necessity. I specified my training needs to Gou and sought her guidance. After several consultations, she recommended visiting Industree Crafts Foundation in Bangalore and Aqua Weaves in Khetri, Assam. The next few weeks in February were a flurry of emails. I contacted Aquaweaves and Mr. AK Das of NEDFi (the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation) was very receptive to my request. Aqua Weaves (a Water Hyacinth project) is NEDFi’s CSR Initiative in Assam.
I arrived in Bangalore on the morning of March 3, 2015 and my cab driver was waiting for me at the Airport just as Gouthami had said he would. I had a great time with my host family (Priya, Srikrish and their 2 kids) in their very lovely home on Sarjapur Road. In the mornings, I would take an Autorickshaw from the main road to the Industree Crafts Foundation office. Since this was not my first time of coming to India there was a sense familiarity with the environment and I felt quite comfortable with whatever public transportation I could find. I did my stint at Industree during the day and had a very warm welcome. Thanks Poonam! The team at Industree Crafts Foundation were very helpful and generous in sharing their knowledge and I was able to shadow the workers to see how the production floor worked. This was very insightful for me. On March 7th, I left Bengaluru for Guwahati. The next phase of my trip. I was met at the Airport by Ms. Catherine of NEDFi and from there met up with Mr. AK Das at the NEDFi office. I spent the next 11 days at NEDFi’s R&D Centre in Khetri where I focused on nothing but water hyacinth crafts with the Master Artisans (Thanks Momi and BK!) and a group of other Trainees from Punjab. The hands-on training experience was fantastic and I am grateful to NEDFi for their generous support and allowing me the opportunity to be trained. With the training and insights from my trips to Industree and NEDFi, I am ready to hit the ground running at MitiMeth.