IMPACT

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POPULATION

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VALUE

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Chanderiyaan is a pilot model started in Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh, in 2009. A key purpose of the project has been to meet the demand and supply chain of authentic Chanderi handloom products. Chanderiyaan is a network of the weavers, for the weavers and by the weavers, and is managed by self-help groups, community members, barefoot designers and digital soldiers. Besides meeting the demand and supply with extraordinary efficient system of digital tool usage, Chanderiyaan has also considerably reduced the role of middlemen who were exploiting the weavers, encouraged youth to return to their family vocation, helped infuse contemporary elements with traditional designs, provided an e-Commerce platform for direct access to market and increased the household incomes of the weaver families.

Located in the Bundelkhand region of central Indian state Madhya Pradesh, Chanderi is a rich in heritage, culture, tradition and art. While there is no exact proof of documentation stating when people started living in Chanderi, the town has seen the rise and fall of several dynasties right from the Vedic period. However, it must be noted, that when a famous traveller and chronicler, Ibn Batuta, passed through Chanderi in 1342, he wrote about his experience, and described the town as “one of the big cities of India with sprawling bazaars, full of people and goods”. Today, Chanderi is not “one of the big cities of India”. It is, in fact, a small town. But it is still sprawling with bazaars, full of people and goods, especially hand-woven sarees. If one starts peeling the layers of history in Chanderi, one can find archeological and cultural remains of various religions and communities, proving its secular environment. This rich heritage and ancient history has given birth to numerous myths and folklore, besides folk art and traditional craftsmanship.

The country today recognises Chanderi not for its heritage and architecture as much but for its handloom- made silk fabrics and fine patterns. Chanderi’s economy has always been dependent on the fortunes of its weavers. At present, there are about 3,500 weaver families and an equal number of handlooms in Chanderi, which has a population of approximately 30,000. Chanderi are sold world over, courtesy their exquisite nature. This is the reason Chanderi is perceived as a brand today. Weaving in Chanderi first began in the 1920s. Over the century, Chanderi silk has seen some transition in the form of the colours used and patterns experimented with. However, the traditional style of handloom weaving, which requires extremely careful handling of the delicate yarn, has stuck through the ages — thus, making it one of the finest hand-woven products manufactured in the country.

Banking on this glory are weavers in different parts of the country — especially Varanasi, Kota and Bengaluru — that are making “Chanderi sarees” on powerlooms. Unfortunately, not every customer can difference between this authentic and fake Chanderi sarees. Those who can, understand the value of Chanderi silk and the effort that goes into making one.

Some of the key ideas behind starting the Chanderiyaan project were to develop the skill of traditional weavers, push forward the rural handloom industry and increase the monthly household incomes of the families in Chanderi. Until 2009, weavers in Chanderi had little or no knowledge of prices of raw materials. They were heavily dependent of the middlemen.

They paid what the middlemen asked them to, and believed what the middlemen quoted. The weavers did not even design on their own but remained dependent on Master Weavers or design experts. Due to this lack of information, clubbed with no direct access to the market or customers, most weavers only earned about Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 2,000 a month despite producing some of the most beautiful sarees.

In an effort to eradicate this information poverty among weavers about their own trade and to improve their livelihood, DEF decided to initiate a digital literacy and technical education project for the weaver community of Chanderi. Chanderiyaan is the project and brand name given to the digital resource centre, Chanderi Weavers ICT Resource Centre, set up in Ashoknagar district of Madhya Pradesh by DEF in collaboration with Media Labs Asia and supported by the then Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

OTHER CLUSTERS