“Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an integral part of our company’s culture. It is, embedded in our founding principles and put into practice daily,” says Mr. Dinesh Kudalkar, Chief O&M, Coastal Gujarat Private Limited (CGPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power Company. And this is no polite posturing, he insists, this means business, realtime. Because “The effectiveness of our CSR strategy stems from the alignment of specific CSR goals with those of CGPL’s overall business objectives,” explains Kudalkar. Therefore, to the CGPL authorities negotiating prices of homemade handicraft items with city-bred traders, on behalf of Dakshaben of Tunda-Vandh village and her self help group, is as important a task as any concerning their own operations. The meticulous process that went behind setting up of Project Vartika, bears ample evidence reaffirming their sincerity and commitment to the job. The project has been designed to train rural women, extremely skilled in needlework and craft but with little experience in marketing, to be savvy entrepreneurs.
Based in the Kutch region of Gujarat, the CGPL project is spread over 6 catchment villages. Tunda-Vandh, Mota Kandagra of Mundra; Nanabhadia, Tragadi and Modva of Mandvi Taluka of Kutch. As in the case of all its projects, CGPL first conducted a need assessment and baseline survey of the region in partnership with MART. Then a stakeholder mapping was undertaken to sustain constant stakeholder dialogues and consultations. After an in depth analysis of the data, the scenario that has emerged is the following.
The communities here are famed internationally for their rabari embroidery work and tie dye design products. Now, while these items fetch substantial profits in cities in India and abroad, none of that trickle down to the real artists. Unaware of the market trends and practices, they are compelled to sell to the local traders at fixed rates or work for them as daily wage labourers.
Project Vartika proposes to change all that. To amplify their marketability and to strengthen their skills, CGPL is coordinating with Ohkai, project promoted by Tata Chemicals for further skill development and exploring the market for the local product. CGPL through project Vartika hopes to usher in a regime where the artists have direct access to the market. They also have the freedom to decide what their creations are really worth.