EDI sent us (Bradley and Addison) to Varanasi to investigate the local branch of the Producer Company, an organization of weavers, dyers, master weavers and other members of the crafting process. Once we arrived in Varanasi, we made our way to our accommodations. After crossing a temporary bridge–which will need to be dismantled as soon as monsoon season comes–and a short five-minute trek, we arrived at our guesthouse surrounded by picturesque scenery, animal life and the local school.
On our first day of work, we met our employers from EDI who work with the Producer Company Limited (PCL). PCL assists weavers in three clusters surrounding Varanasi: Kotwa, Lohta, and Ramnagas. We had a very productive first day visiting Kotwa, which is also where the head office of PCL is located. We were amazed to find out that this rural village was made up of 30,000 weavers! Although our first day of work was challenging, it proved very productive with our objectives changing and reshaping as the day wore on.
Ultimately, we decided that our first objective would be to encourage more weavers to join the Producer Company Limited. To achieve this, we created promotional materials with case studies that could be distributed to all weavers. We highlighted Mushtaqueem, a master weaver who exports domestically and internationally as a case study to demonstrate how beneficial joining the Producer Company Limited could be. We really enjoyed our time with Mushtaqueem, and we could tell that he truly cared about his weavers.
In addition to collecting case studies for promotional use, we were able to learn from our visit more about the ancient art of handloom and to understand more about the Producer Company Limited. We’d like to add that this visit was also a great opportunity to buy scarves by the bulk!
After meeting with Mushtaqueem, we went a couple blocks down in the Ramnagas cluster and met with the chairman of the Producer Company Limited – Amresh. Amresh was extremely helpful and provided us with a lot of detail that will help us bring tourists to the Ramnagas cluster. By attracting tours to this cluster, we hope to increase both domestic and international brand recognition and to increase of sales and revenue stream for the Producer Company Limited.
To savor the precious time we have in Varanasi, we have used every opportunity to explore this vibrant city. We’ve visited the palace where the Ramnagas King and Queen live, explored the river Ganges by boat, witnessed the candle prayer vigils on the steps of Varanasi, and seen a cow drink from a mans hand which was coming out a street tap! It seems, however, that wherever we go there’s a slightly amusing tourist fee – ‘20 rupees for Indian citizens and 150 rupees for foreign tourists’ read the sign at Ramnagas palace. Nevertheless, we feel we got our money’s worth when we saw the King and Queen of Ramnagas leave their palace; this will forever be our claim to fame!
Bradley & Addison