Daughters of the Ganges work with Artisans in India to enable them to use their skills, to earn a wage and improve their quality of life. After coming across their page on Instagram I purchased a couple of pieces and got in touch with one of the founders Priyanka to find out more about the business. I guess you would call this a social enterprise business, which the concept of is still fairly new to me, although undoubtedly a better business to support than the fast fashion trade. Priyanka was kind enough to answer my questions, here’s what she had to say.
I’ve recently discovered Daughters of the Ganges, how and when did the company start?
Daughters of the Ganges is a socially conscious brand that was launched in April of 2018. As a company, we started late last year but did not start trading till DOTG (which is what we call it in short) was launched.
The brand was started when we, Kalpana and Priyanka, decided we wanted to start a business in the UK – the kind of business that would be profitable not only to the owners, but to all its stakeholders. Having origins in India, we are very aware of the arts and crafts that exist in the subcontinent and how their craftsmen are overlooked because of mainstream and fast fashion. This is where we felt we should focus our attention.
We were lucky to have close relations with CFM Market Linkages, a WFTO certified organisation based in India, that supplies handcrafted fair trade products to the US markets. With their consent we decided to extend their good efforts to the UK markets. By doing this, our hope is to expose our artisans to more trade, enabling them to earn more wages and live dignified lives.
You have some beautiful pieces on the site, how do you source your materials and who leads the design process?
Our products are sourced directly from small indigenous businesses that source their raw materials ethically and locally. Some of our products are made from recycled materials and some from natural products.
Our designs are created by our in-house designer, in collaboration with our artisans. We believe it is important to use their inputs to make the most of their expertise as craftsmen using traditional skills. By doing this, we are able to combine contemporary designs with age old crafts.
It must be very rewarding knowing that your initiative has produced a positive change in the artisans lives, do you have a particular story you can tell us about?
Knowing that the small steps that we are taking can enrich the lives of members of marginalised societies is extremely gratifying. We must tell you the story of Shyam. As a young adult, Shyam started his career sweeping the floors of one of our workshops and bringing tea for all the artisans. He watched the artisans and began to show interest in their crafts. Soon after he took initiative and asked to be trained, he was taken under the wing of a master craftsmen and has never looked back. Today, Shyam is a master craftsmen himself, training new artisans and has now become the supervisor of his workshop. He has three children that he is proudly sending to school.
Image of Shyam and family:
There are lots of existing Charities that work with social and economical development, what made you want to start Daughters of the Ganges, instead of just use existing products and make charitable donations per sale?
We do not want to do charity. Our goal is to create jobs and provide employment so that craftsmen and women can earn a living in a dignified manner. This way, they can also keep their crafts and culture alive.
India is a huge country, how do you pick the areas you work in?
India is a large country with a bounty of arts and crafts. Every region specialises in something special, differentiating them from each other. Daughters of the Ganges has launched a range of jewellery using techniques that are prevalent in and around New Delhi. Also, since our head office is based in New Delhi, it gives us the opportunity to be in touch with our artisans, listen to their issues, if any, and care for their well being.
How do you recruit the artisans you work with, do they need to have existing skills or do you work with them to develop their ability?
DOTG does not discriminate based on race, gender, religion, or caste. It doesn’t matter if you are skilled or unskilled. Our aim is to bring as many people as possible into mainstream society. Skilled employees join the workforce immediately. Whereas unskilled employees are given sufficient training by master craftsmen, following which they are included into the workforce.
What is your vision for Daughters of the Ganges, where do you see the company in 5 years time?
Our goal for the next five years is expansion. We would like to expand our collection to include more art and craft forms, to include more craft-based communities under our wing. These could include homewares like hand-block printed linen or other fashion accessories like bags. We would also like to expand our market base to include Europe. We feel that this would benefit our artisans immensely.
Vaatika jasmine cuff and Jia necklace
I found Priyanka’s answers really fascinating. Every time I wear a piece, I feel like I have done something to help build someones life, which is a really great feeling.
To check out their full range, head over to Daughters of the Ganges Now!
Love jewellery, check out one of my earlier posts here on Smoke and Ash.