Contrary to everything we know about rug making in India, Jaipur Rugs is a woman run, woman employing business. In our mission statement (relating to child labor) we say “Empower women, educate children”. We firmly believe that empowering women with a job and income is one of the principal ways of making everybody better off. We applaud Jaipur.
N.K. Chaudhary and his wife Sulochana Chaudhary put this to practice when they had three girl children, and at that time, no boy children. The three daughters were educated and given responsibility for running the business. Currently 80% of Jaipur’s production workers are women, 28,000 weavers, and 12,000 support staff, for a total of 40,000 people, of which 32,000 are women according to N.K. Chaudhary, CEO.
In the US, Asha is CEO of Jaipur Rugs, and Archana is COO. Kavita is based in India and runs the design department. They have two younger brothers, both involved in the business.
The rug business is dominated by men, and typically in India, men are the weavers. I remember asking the question back when I first came into the rug business. Why men and not women, could not the women be taught? The reply was no. In fact, Mrs. Chaudhary said that the problem was men cannot teach women, it takes women to teach women. So as her husband explained the business to women, and offered them jobs, it was Mrs. Chaudhary’s role to translate what a man said to what a woman would say. The issue was giving dignity to the weavers.
Chaudhary noted that the attitude in India was that “boys do right” and “girls do wrong.” Ms. Chaudhary said that “empathy and love opens every door.” They use the medium of rug making to give dignity and a good life to their workers.
Along the way, a noted Indian economist (C.K. Prahalad) wrote a case study on Jaipur rugs which is many too many pages to include here, but if you click here, you will find the contents of the study (Jaipur Rugs: Connecting Rural India to the Global Market, a supplement to the book “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid”). The relationships in the business have not changed although some of the specifics have, so for anybody who wants to understand the basics of the rug business I recommend this study.
In terms of economic development Jaipur Rugs is a major success story and may well be the future of the rug business in India, as this pool of potential women weavers is huge and untapped. It will be interesting to see how many firms at every level can re-think their model and put women in charge. Most interestingly the bulk of the consumers who actually buy rugs are women.