Rang De had just initiated a Kolkata Chapter and as newly joined members of the organisation, we were very curious to know more about their model and ongoing projects. We decided to start off with our very first field visit to the Thakurpukur unit of the Kalighat Society for Development Facilitation along with Debanjana. It was indeed a joyful experience to take a day off from the regular monotonous work life and visit a bunch of enthusiasts. KSDF is one of Rang De’s field partner in West Bengal and apart from micro-finance lending activities it also provides vocational training and livelihood development support to the communities it works with.
Started in 2010, this unit makes jute bags of various kinds and other handmade jute products and paper items. It was a year back that KSDF decided that it was time to take their business to the next level. That was the time when Rang De provided them with collateral free, low interest credit loan. Chinmay Naik, chief coordinator between Rang De and KSDF guided us through the unit. Chinamay Da explained us how Rang De’s association since 2014 has given them funding of more than 8 lakhs which enabled them to scale up their operations, purchase machines with the latest technology and hence fulfil bulk orders which was previously not possible. They were able to double the team size, offering livelihood opportunities to 16 more people. They now operate with a team of 34 with one master trainer- Mr. Pradip Das, having an experience of more than 14 years in design and craftsmanship. Apart from the master trainer, the whole team comprises of housewives who took training for 3–6 months and now are employed on a salaried basis.
It was heart-warming to interact with one of the oldest employee named Sharma Mondal who is working from last 6 years, “Before I started working here my daily routine comprised of doing usual household chores and watching TV serials during my free time. This job gave me a purpose in life and made me financially independent. Now housewives in my neighbourhood are also inspired and they too are willing to connect themselves with us”, she said with a glimpse of blush but a sense of freedom reflecting in her eyes.
Few had the opportunity to visit Mumbai for exhibitions and it was great to know how keenly they observed the market trends and interacted with customers there. As we saw their nimble fingers stitch bags so meticulously, we realised they deserve utmost reverence for the kind of responsibility they are taking for their families and yet again we felt delighted to be part of the Rang De team!
Our discussion gradually shifted to their regular clients. This unit gets bulk orders from NABARD, UBI, Jute Smart and many well-known jewelry shops in the city. The orders keep fluctuating and they are on the lookout for more clients who would offer them continuous orders. For this they also need assistance in funding to increase the salary of the existing staff and employ more people.
Apart from all of this, what we discovered about their experience working with Government authority (Handicrafts Department) startled us. There is a payment of more than 8 lacs due from this department since the past three years. We realise how disheartening this can get, given the amount of hard work that goes into the work from each member. We appreciate the kind of transparency maintained by Rang De and urge every organization to tread the same path.
Rang De team with KSDF employees
We are grateful to the Rang De team for organizing this field trip and for giving such an enlightening opportunity to interact with a bunch of empowered beings with such daunting spirits. There is so much we can do in our own small way, it is time we take responsibility! Join us in our attempt to support families and close the gap between rich and poor because after all we rise by lifting others!