Artisans benefit from financial literacy programmes, SASHA
SASHA (Sarba Shanti Ayog) Association for Craft Producers, a not-for-profit craft development and marketing organisation focused on marginalised women artisans of eastern India, announced a landmark 17 per cent increase in turnover and surplus in financial year 2009. While total turnover was Rs 11.5 crore, of which Rs 4 crore was from sales in the domestic market and Rs 7.5 crore from export earnings. The Association earned surplus revenues of Rs 0.72 crore.
Notably, the SASHA network of about 5,000 producers earned Rs 3.3 crore through direct sales. The principal aim of the Association's parent organisation, Sarba Shanti Ayog (SSA), is to enable and empower producers to engage in direct sales more effectively. “As such,” commented SASHA Executive Director Roopa Mehta, “this is a much larger achievement than the growth in turnover.” The SSA helps improve the capacities of artisans through assistance for infrastructure-building, providing finance, upgrading skills for product development, training in production and managerial skills and so on. All capacity-building is targeted at helping producers develop abilities to realise revenues directly and not only through the Association's sales channels.
In the last year, SASHA has also taken several steps to bolster the capabilities of the 5,000 crafts-workers involved with its networks across West Bengal, Orissa and other states in eastern India. Among others, this included initiating a financial literacy programme in collaboration with the Ahmedabad-based Citi Centre for Financial Literacy.
Announcing the results at the recently-concluded Producer Group meeting in Konark, Orissa, SASHA Executive Director Roopa Mehta said: “The growth in turnover has resulted from the more focused engagement with our network producers to enhance competitiveness, efficiency and ensure greater compliance with Fair Trade standards. The exchanges with international networks, facilitated by the World Fair Trade Organisation, has helped us in brand-building and in targeted marketing, looking at opportunities in mainstream markets. It's tough but it is a necessary step in order to strengthen the SASHA members' hands.”
The revenue growth in 2009 comes upon new marketing and brand-building initiatives taken by the Association since 2006. This has included targeted promotions in the national and international markets, venturing into the Middle East and Southeast Asian markets and collaborating with Thai Craft, an organisation of Thai artisans. SASHA also benefited from becoming a member of the Norwegian Government-sponsored FredKorpset Network and participating in the South-South Knowledge Exchange Programme, the first member of the Fair Trade Forum of India to do so.
The marketing initiatives also involved in-house measures for improving production and delivery efficiencies such as instituting enterprise-wide computerisation for better supply chain management, and launching a micro-enterprise finance model to provide easy affordable finance to producers.