The artisan cooperatives are the center of the MarketPlace model of development. In a cooperative environment, each artisan is supported in her quest for economic security and personal fulfillment in an atmosphere of mutual support and acceptance. The artisans are involved in all aspects of running their businesses, from learning stitches to managing finances and making decisions about the future of the group. Artisans can advance to more responsible roles inside of their cooperative, and leadership positions rotate so that different women can have the experience of being in charge.
In monthly meetings, the member artisans discuss such things as quality control, delivery schedules, and production planning and resolve any issues as a group. Representatives of the different cooperatives also meet, and often more established groups help newer, smaller groups with training or advice or other assistance. In addition, the fabric supplier cooperatives get together with the producer cooperatives every other month to review fabric quality, delivery and payment arrangements. They visit each others' workshops so they can understand the processes as well as so that they can meet and talk with one another.
This regular interaction helps tie the different groups together in the larger MarketPlace community. The cooperatives also sometimes collaborate to plan and carry out Social Programs aimed at improving life in their communities. The supportive relationships both within each cooperative and between the various groups are important for the artisans as they deal with the changes and uncertainties of life.
Meaning "home," Aashiyana is located at Tardeo, Mumbai. The group was established as a cooperative in March 2000 and consists of 12 members. Tardeo is in Central Mumbai and is a very volatile Hindu/Muslim community. The members work constantly to keep religious biases from affecting their cooperative. They work constantly at upgrading their sewing skills which results in larger orders.
The 16 women who make up this cooperative call their group Arpan, Sanskrit for "Offering" or "Gift for the Gods." Established in 1999, Arpan is located in Thane, a city of 1.2 million northeast of Mumbai. Although Thane is an industrial city, it is very difficult for women to find employment in this area. Arpan members appreciate that the management team rotates, allowing all members to experience different roles. They agree that the decision-making process is about open discussion, dealing with disagreements, and coming to a consensus.
Ekta ("Unity") started forming in 2017 and registered as an 8-member cooperative in late 2018. The women were enthusiastic about owning their own enterprise which would provide stable work in their area. It is a young group in another way, all the women are in their 30's. They place a high priority on educating their children. The membership is a lovely mix of women from different regions and cultures, all united in their ambitions.
Ghar Udyog means "Home Based Industry" and was originally started by Mr P Ziauddin in Santa Cruz. For personal reasons, he decided to relocate and moved to Uttan about 20 Km outside Mumbai. The group consists of 22 artisans and began by making patchwork for a local buyer. Ghar Udyog in its new location began working with MarketPlace in 2008 and is steadily gaining experience in making more complicated garments.
Jivdani Mahila Mandal
Jivdani Mahila Mandal is named for the Hindu goddess whose temple is atop a nearby hill in this area far from Mumbai city. Devotees ascend 1250 steps to worship Jivdani, an act of strength and devotion which spoke to the artisans. They needed these qualities when, after organizing in 2016, they found themselves having to replace an abusive, dishonest supervisor. Afterwards they emerged stronger and more determined than ever to provide stability and good earnings. Having started with 7 members, they are now up to 11.
Nirmaan means "To Create" and grew out of Ghar Udyog which was started in 1995 by Mr. P Ziauddin. In 2007, when Ziauddin decided to relocate, Abdullah Sheikh incorporated Nirmaan to include all the artisans currently belonging to Ghar Udyog, who did not want to move. There are currently 41 women artisans in the group. Nirmaan, has machines to sew both woven and knit garments. They are a diverse group in every sense: age, religion and temperament.
Ranphul Mahila Mandal
Ranphul Mahila Mandal (Forest of Flowers Women's Cooperative), consisting of 9 women artisans, is one of the newest group with which we work. As sales increased, MarketPlace decided to reach out to more remote and needy areas outside of commercial Mumbai. Some of these women were earning a pittance collecting wild flowers and selling them, while others worked seasonally in the fields in the hot sun. It is a beautiful area and their name reflects it. The cooperative started in 2014 with MarketPlace providing assistance in registering their group and obtaining business supplies. MarketPlace also helps to train the new artisans in the basics of sewing and tailoring.
Sahara is Hindi for "Support," alluding to both financial support for the artisans' families and emotional support as well. It is just a ten minute walk from the MarketPlace Mumbai office. There are currently 30 women artisans in the group.
Aburgani, who had formerly cut all the garments at Ghar Udyog, founded Sahara in 1997. Sahara was so successful that within two years it outgrew the space it had rented and was able to buy its own workshop. Aburgani's skill in designing has enabled Sahara to produce apparel for the local market in addition to their work for MarketPlace.
Shramik ("Hard Work") Mahila Mandal's name says it all. This group of 10 women was started in 2015 in D'silva Nagar, a rural area north of Mumbai with little public transportation and poor employment opportunities. SMM allows these highly motivated women to work and earn while taking care of their children. These 4 years have been a time of tremendous growth for the women both personally and professionally. Their hard work has resulted in an impressive record of on-time deliveries and allowed them to double their production.
Women Artisans' Rehabilitation Enterprise was established in 1995 by former longtime SHARE employee Joseph Jacinto. He started WARE from his home, was then able to move into rented space, and finally purchased a workshop using his own savings and a loan from MarketPlace.
WARE's shop is a 10-minute walk from the MarketPlace office in Mumbai. The 22 members do tailoring and embroidery and are involved in all aspects of operating the business.