When thinking about the potential of the possibilities within handicrafts in the state of Odisha in Eastern India, I would like to confirm that the definition of “social business” that has gained attention in recent years here is that of a business that resolves social issues.

Speaking about social issues in India, the first that can be raised is the issue of poverty.
The state of Odisha that I saw while collecting data is the sixth worst among all the Indian states. Compared to urban areas, incomes in rural areas are especially low. (1)

[Capitalism is a system where the strong swallow the weak, weeding them out. Culture that becomes obsolete for the present times is destined to be erased.]

Aren’t there many people who think like this, having received a typical education in a developed country? This has been the standard of the world, an implicit rule, for a long time now.

Motherhouse (inside the Umeda Tsutaya Bookstore) playing a video of the process of producing commodities in developing countries on a large display.

However, even with the above view in mind, there are realities that must be changed. In the corners of the world where globalism has spread, due to the structural reasons of that society, there are people who can’t break out of the loop of poverty, simply because they are there.

Children born into poor families can’t not work.
Even if they go to school instead of working, there is a difference in the quality of education compared to that of the Indian urban elite and developed nations, and they can’t acquire sufficient knowledge to survive in the competition set by this rule of society.

I had learned the word ‘untouchable’ in a social studies class during my school days, but there are considerable traces in Indian society as of 2017. Although discrimination is prohibited by law, caste divisions are ingrained in the social structure.

People Tree (Ikebukuro Tobu store)
People Tree (Ikebukuro Tobu store) A specialty fair trade brand that not only supports organic cotton farmers in India, but also the lives of socially and economically disadvantaged people in developing countries.

On the other hand, the Japan I was born in is a world filled with many things.
As for Japan’s fashion business industry, People Tree and Motherhouse are known as pioneer fair trade brands. By periodically ordering handicrafts primarily from developing countries, they create employment for rural people and women.

MUJI, a brand that represents Japan, has also been increasing its purchase of organic cotton cultivated without agricultural chemicals in India annually, supporting a stable income for farmers.

Business leaders who want to improve the world even further have taken a step further from fair trade (purchasing at fair prices) to adopt processes that establish businesses while addressing social issues.

Besides, there are many brands and enterprises being born even in Japan that, out of concern for the environment, make ethical products. What is becoming a hit isn’t doing so only from the point of view of being a fair trade product, but is characterised by being supported in the market by the virtue of product’s design and quality.
Of course, even if not doing business, there are things that you can do as a consumer. It’s as simple as choosing products that don’t make anyone unhappy.

無印良品 有楽町店 
MUJI (Yurakucho store) The largest MUJI in Japan, which established the Cafe & Meal MUJI. It is advancing into Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru in India.

What can we achieve with the people here?
Can’t we leverage the skills that are already there?

Fabric, for example. There are many interesting fabrics in India, which alone is fascinating and has high potential.
Anokhi has a museum of hand block prints in Jodhpur. Fabindia, very popular in urban India, is a fashion brand that featured hand block prints from Northern Rajasthan.

It seems that the state of Odisha has not been cultivated in terms of such fields. Skills cultivated in history – such as the handwoven Ikat fabric, the silver filigree silver wire work, and the Dhokra brass craft introduced in the articles – and the villages that are involved in them are many, and they are still alive. The potential of the possibilities in handicrafts are visible. However, without happy encounters, they might die out.

Images | Text : Yoko Kobayashi (translated by Aumurto)

Related Data
(1) Poverty Ratio 2013 – Indian average 21.92%, Odisha 32.59%. It is the 6th highest among all the states of India. It is calculated based on the cost requirement of maintaining the lowest standard of living focusing on food expenditure established by the government of India.
Source : Number and Percentage of Population below Poverty Line

This post is also available in Japanese.