In an age when mass production has made art impersonal, a luxury carpet enterprise is seeking to forge an emotional bond between the arts and its craftsmen with the purchasers. Through stories of its artisans, Jaipur Rugs, an exporter of hand-knotted carpets aims to make its customer aware of the hard work that goes into rug making.

Jaipur Rugs launched its Unstring a Story initiative early this year to celebrate the work of its Katwaris (spinners), who make hand-spun yarn that gives a unique texture to its luxurious handmade carpets. The initiative aims to revive the dying art of handmade carpet weaving. “When consumers buy a rug, they not only buy a piece of art that they can walk on, but they also buy a story of a weaver, and they live through the emotions of the artisans every time they look at the rug," says Yogesh Chaudhary, director at Jaipur Rugs.

Described as a play of a million coloured threads, Unstring a Story celebrates human experience in design and weaving processes. The stories of artisans explore the different processes of carpet making such as weaving, stitching and embroidering.

The initiative won recognition as the winner at the Digital Empowerment Foundation’s awards in the “Social Commerce and Enterprise" category in 2017.

Using social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the luxury rugs brand shares the stories of weavers through photographs and videos in which the spinners narrate their experiences. “We are actively present across digital-social channels and also have an e-commerce website where we connect with the customers. What we do (post) on these channels comes under our overarching mission of joining ends, i.e. the end customer and the weavers," explains the 31-year-old rug exporter.

The brand’s focus, the company says, is more on developing authentic content, and less on brand building. Aided by creative visual content, the enterprise delivers stories of spinners and their skills with an emotional appeal. “Authentic content is our tool and strategy, which helped us deliver our story to the global audience," says Chaudhary, adding: “Technology helped us bring-to-life the charming stories of our spinners. Right from the visual content we created, to the eventual social media campaign where we leveraged this content, each step was aided by technology."

The company generates the content mostly through its in-house studio and design team of photographers, videographers, editors and graphic designers, who are provided full creative freedom. “They’ve all been with Jaipur Rugs for a long time, and therefore are well-versed with our visual language."

The carpet company had also started ‘The Postcard Project’ through which the customer gets a postcard handmade by the artisan when buying a rug, and could also send one back. “For both, the weaver and the customer, to use ink to draw or write something with their own hands felt very personal and human," says Chaudhary.

Jaipur Rugs now seeks to establish itself as a premium consumer brand that would work towards the betterment of weavers, so that weavers are respected and given due credit for their work.

The company, which works with a network of 2,500 spinners, also has programmes to train weavers in areas with no viable work within their immediate area. The areas chosen are ones identified by the government as among the most economically backward geographies in the country, and are typically villages that rely entirely on the seasonal employment in agriculture. “Artisans are identified and trained through an intensive campaign that motivates weavers, explains our cause and then imparts skill trainings. The training is undertaken by experienced weavers and our staff and trainees are provided a stipend."

With the advent of machinery and machine made carpets into the market, the hand-knotted carpet industry took a major hit since the machine made carpets are cheaper and faster to produce. “Customers are often misguided and not delivered honest stories. I firmly believe that customer education is imperative, especially in the circuit of handmade products. They should be able to identify and tell a hand-made product from a machine made one," highlights Chaudhary.

Jaipur Rugs now seeks to establish itself as a premium consumer brand that would work towards the betterment of weavers, so that weavers are respected and given due credit for their work. “With this campaign, we re-learnt that honest and authentic content and messaging is the best way to communicate with and reach out to the customers. Brands should limit talking about themselves and focus more on talking about their essence," adds Chaudhary.

Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan and mBillionth awards.

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