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Lavanya Bahuguna

Contributor

Mayura Balasubramanian Creates Sustain’Ability’ With The Team Of Disabled People

  • IWB Post
  •  March 9, 2020

If entrepreneurs, artists, scholars, students, and the corporate world come together as one force to run businesses focused on building a healthier planet and stronger communities, we can achieve desirable balanced economic development in no time.

This Holi, we’re inspired by Bengaluru-based organisation named Craftizen, which turns all kinds of leftover material into décor items, accessories, corporate gifts, and even Holi colours! Recently, one of their videos went viral showing how their ‘petalists’ with Intellectual Disability are using discarded flowers to make skin-friendly gulal aka Holi colours.

Intrigued, we spoke to its Founder Mayura Balasubramanian about the section of her company which makes eco-friendly colours and hence, takes care of the social well-being in several ways.

Mayura Balasubramanian copy

Excerpts,

Art and sustainability have a long history. When did you discover your relationship with the two?

About six years ago, I applied for a business plan competition under NABARD’s (National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development) Rural Innovation Fund. I was one of the winners and was awarded the Social Entrepreneur Fellowship. In 2014, I started Craftizen Foundation, an NGO that wants to preserve and evolve Indian craft skills while also empower financially the marginalised communities. Our focus has always been to create eco-friendly products alongside enabling sustainable livelihoods for people with disabilities, rural women, etc.

We at Craftizen Foundation wish all our patrons and well wishers a very colourful and happy Diwali. Let us celebrate the festival of lights in an eco-friendly way, reducing carbon footprint and creating a pollution-free environment for everyone. We are also thrilled with the response to our Diwali hampers and want to thank all the corporates and individuals who purchased our handmade goodies, each lovingly made by our artisans who are persons with intellectual and psychiatric disability. A special thank you to our centres at NIMHANS, Grameena Abyudaya Seva Samsthe (GASS), Orione Seva and Spandana Rehabilitation Centre for helping us making the beautiful and eco-friendly Diwali gifts 🙂 #diwali #india #happydiwali #buysocial #createlivelihoods #inclusion #gifting #giftingideas #giftsthatgiveback #diwalidecor #deepavali #handmade #celebration #indian #diwalispecial #indianfestivals #diwaligifts #craftsindia #craftizendesigns #consciousshopping #livelihoods #art #ecofriendly #giftingwithacause #CraftizenIndia #Craftizen #celebratewithlove

44 Likes, 0 Comments – Craftizen Foundation (@craftizen_india) on Instagram: “We at Craftizen Foundation wish all our patrons and well wishers a very colourful and happy…”

In the beginning, I managed the funds by strategically using the seed-funding I received from NABARD. Then my friends pitched in to support my idea before I went all out looking for a permanent team from relevant backgrounds (like design & rural development). Gradually, our work managed to catch the attention of the corporates in India who were willing to partner with us under their CSR activities. So far, we have proudly sustained ourselves based on such healthy partnerships. It is the new-age patrons like them who truly believe in our mission and have made tasks like skill-training, capacity-building, and production setting easier for us in 20+ centres across the country.

As a Social Entrepreneur, what lessons have you learnt so far?

I think doing an in-depth study of the ground realities helped me. I spent a considerable amount of time to know the people I wanted to work with and how I was supposed to make a positive impact on their lives. As a social businessperson, unless that’s not your mission and these people aren’t a part of your vision, your social work model might fall flat. Another important aspect is partnering with similar-minded people/companies. When I began looking for meaningful Collaborative Projects, I zeroed in on the names that would help me reach the extreme interiors and bring about change in the lives of underprivileged people. It was the very reason why Craftizen could reach out to more than 150 villages during its initial project.

What kinds of raw material do you use to make products like jewellery, accessory, and décor items?

We, at Craftizen, believe in Green Skilling, a concept that revolves around using eco-friendly raw material to come up with eco-friendly products. Our skill development courses are exclusively based on working for and with nature. Right from used flowers, natural seeds, paper dust from cardboard mills to silk threads and fabric wastes from fashion designing schools/brands, we secure them all.

Gift more meaningfully this Diwali with our handmade Eco-friendly Diwali Hampers and festive home decor products. Underserved communities including persons with intellectual disability have made these products. Your support will directly contribute to their income generation and economic empowerment. DM for more details. #diwali #india #happydiwali #buysocial #createlivelihoods #livelihoods #inclusion #gifting #giftingideas #giftsthatgiveback #festive #diwalidecor #handmade #homedecor #celebration #art #festivals #deepavali #indian #diwalispecial #indianfestivals #diwaligifts #craftizenindia #craftizendesigns

32 Likes, 6 Comments – Craftizen Foundation (@craftizen_india) on Instagram: “Gift more meaningfully this Diwali with our handmade Eco-friendly Diwali Hampers and festive home…”

Since it’s Holi, tell us more about the making of skin & environment-friendly gulal by Craftizen

We get our flowers from temples, wedding halls, and event-wallahs. Had transporting these flowers not been a problem, we would have been manufacturing a far bigger quantity that what we’re delivering at the moment. For now, we’re only able to collect them from places that are within one to two km of radius from our centres. However, sometimes, when the guardians of our staff members come to drop them, they volunteer to pick the trash-flowers on their way. This sweet gesture is their way of saying ‘thank you’ to us for empowering their family member with an intellectual disability.

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On this note, let’s talk about your amazing team that the entire country is discussing nowadays.

Craftizen has determined to strive alongside anybody who’s been sidelined by the society for not being capable enough to work. This includes people with a physical and mental disability, abandoned women, youngsters on remand, transgender people, etc. We have tie-ups with rehabilitation centres and fellow NGOs that introduce us to these talented people.

The working model is such that they usually work for four-five hours a day in our factories that are close to their home/rehabilitation centres. This year, our ‘Petalists’ managed to make 3000 kgs of natural Holi colours using flower petals.

What’s the story behind the beautiful word ‘Petalists?’

Back in 2016, about six months into the Green Skilling Program, we had thought of the brand name “Petalists” that refers to our beneficiaries, persons with an intellectual and psychiatric disability who recycle flowers, and anybody who decides to be a part of this initiative (trainers, NGO partners, etc.). Consequently, we came up with the unique tagline “Spreading Happiness Through Flowers.”

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Many kind people often donate these handmade colours to the underprivileged children in the villages, orphanage for girls, remand home for adolescent boys and even govt. schools. Hence, they also become our ‘Petalists.’

Would you like to share an inspiring story of your Petalist who witnessed positive changes after he/she started working at Craftizen Foundation?

Oh, there are innumerable stories to share. However, this one remains one of my favourites about a woman named Shikha (name changed). She was abandoned by her husband and was living in a rehabilitation centre. She faced acute depression that immensely disturbed her mental health and the will to live. However, when she started coming to our centre, she admitted that working with flowers felt therapeutic to her soul.

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In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) documented (co-authored by us) the behavioural changes of such patients working in our foundation. We recorded the therapeutic value of working with natural materials like flowers in our employees’ lives who earlier faced difficulty in coordinating colours. Those who were afraid of interacting were found fostering friendships and building effective teams. Along with these psychological benefits, we also witnessed good changes in their personalities and body gestures.

So, what’s next for Craftizen?

Wall Mural_group pic_laughing

Until now, we were partnering in states like Karnataka, Telangana, and West Bengal. After we went viral with our ‘Petalists’ video, we’re receiving appreciation calls from all over India. Schools and corporates from places like Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan are wanting to join hands with us and create replicable models in their respective areas. I see this as an opportunity to not just grow as a business but also make a thousand of others financially independent.

(pictures source: Craftizen Foundation)

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