Rashmi Bharti


Rashmi’s belief in craft as an expression of creativity for communities led her to explore this creativity to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit of the hard working women and men, living in remote villages of Kumaon. Rashmi’s commitment to the capacity building of rural women and respect for the natural resources of mother earth was instrumental in setting up the Kumaon Earthcraft Self Relaint Co-operative (EarthCraft), an artisan’s collective enterprise producing naturally dyed silk and wool textiles and lifestyle products. Her work has been instrumental in the empowerment of rural youth, especially women, resulting in the development of an entirely rural team of managers of Avani and EarthCraft. Her belief and practice of conservation based sustainable design is inherent in all her work.

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One can find inspiration anywhere but it is the financial support that is needed to kick start something of this kind. How did you manage to raise that?

Certainly yes. We needed a decent amount of funds to start with, which we raised from a couple of institutions namely Find Your Feet, Forad and The European Union. We were also a part of a programme stimulated by the Barefoot College Tilonia, where we united for a joint venture. There were basically some organisations that truly believed in what we had been planning to do. To which they extended their monetary support which further helped us pilot our initiative.

How did the people, who you initiated this for, receive this as an idea for their development?

The time we shifted to the mountains, access to electricity was a serious problem and as we began people expected it to be offered for free. However, we explained to them how these facilities which were albeit a need could not be disseminated for free. They, thereby, continued to cope up with us in our initiative of using the solar energy. However, there were still many who refused to participate as we anyway needed some amount of money which they could not afford to contribute in. Soon after, we developed some income generation programmes restoring traditional techniques of hand spinning and hand weaving. Nevertheless, the perspective of the people did change over time and they started to participate with us with utter enthusiasm.

Do you focus on creating a global market for the products made by this local community?

The market overseas has already had these techniques for quite sometime now. It has although begun to have a good presence in India as well. However, it is relatively easier to launch these products abroad. Our focus, therefore, was on making the people of our country accept the very idea. Moreover, the market that we earlier had was based on a 60-40 ratio with 60% of the produce being exported abroad and the remaining being sold in India. However, we now have it changed into an 80-20 ration which alone points at a healthy change. We are happy to have our people acknowledging the humongous presence of significant inputs we have around us.

Every business decision related to Avani products is guided by a strong responsibility toward environment. However, most of the industries that are capable of providing maximum employment are usually hazardous to the environment. What is your take on that?

The way we had been working over these years enabled us to realise that it was certainly possible to achieve a balance between sustainability and creating employment opportunities. What we are currently doing is identifying reasons behind the failure of sustenance of these small industries. We initiated with textiles, but now are focus is also on promoting cultivation of dyes and organic detergents. We have invested quite some time in recognising alternatives of inputs that cause pollution and are, hence, responsible in bringing these industries down. Therefore, we work towards discovering possible ways that could take care of both, the environment and the employment of people living in it.

How are you looking forward to utilizing Valley of Words as a platform to spread awareness about the mountains?

Such literature festivals present us with an offer of a large audience to communicate to, our visual of a sustainable lifestyle. I believe that sustainable lifestyle is also an art of living that makes it impractical for us to segregate eco-friendliness as a subject from this Art and Literature festival. We are, thus, looking forward to a smart audience which would listen to us with receptive ears and understand our way of promoting a healthy living.

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