Beyond commerce at Jaipur Rugs: The pursuit of sense, sensibility and Manchaha
MAY 15, 2023 | By Pratishtha Rana
The thing about piloting a business is that it is not all so complex as you might think. Laborious, though, it is. Before all the fancies of the human world such as passion, drive, excitement, ROI (of course) come to play, what’s undeniably crucial is the intent behind setting up a business. Thus, intent is the heart and the other factors are the brains.
For over 45 years, an equilibrium between these two (heart and brains) has been kindling an unprecedented narrative of business at Jaipur Rugs. Since 1978, the brand founded by Nand Kishore Chaudhary has been doing more than just selling rugs. It has been fostering a community of weavers from the many uncharted villages, where despite all conditions, the intentions of crafts and arts continue to thrive.
“The vision that my father has is so timeless. He believes that the weaver or the person who is making the business has been commoditised so much that he has no idea why he’s making it — for money or otherwise. The customers are also buying it only as a commodity. Our vision is to be able to change that and make it into an experience for both of them,” says Yogesh Chaudhary, the second-generation director of Jaipur Rugs.
What’s reassuring at Jaipur Rugs is that the end product is never as much about nailing the expected standard of ‘aesthetic’, as much it’s about giving a shape to artisan’s voice in the form of yarn and loom. The brand’s leap beyond commerce that taps the raw, artistic side of its employees — the weavers — was witnessed when ELLE DECOR India’s editor Mrudul Pathak Kundu visited the Jaipur Central Jail and the village of Manpura Mancheri near the Pink city in Rajasthan.
“Entering and wading through the prison was a reality check of sorts. Jaipur Rugs’ basis of creating Manchaha collection has been about giving the inmates a platform to express their emotions and skills.” A lot of them keenly participate in weaving the rugs, imbuing their thoughts, perceptions, realisations about their life and surroundings on it. “For some the process of weaving has been a way of cleansing from their past into something positive. Most often this brings a change not just within you but also towards society,” states Mrudul.
A day with Shanti Devi and the weaving community
Similarly, in the villages, where the buzz of the progressive city life hardly touches the rural habitats, a new lease of life finds way here, thanks to Jaipur Rugs transforming the untapped knowledge of the natives into an empowerming milestone. At Manpura alone, a cluster of weavers is led by Shanti Devi, who is a promising representation of a skilled artisan turned entrepreneur.
This enlightening exercise of employing artisans and extending them a consistent source of income indicates a convincing balance between sustaining a commerce-led business and expressions of the weaver’s innermost creativity.
Throughout the conversation with Mrudul, each of Shanti Devi’s words sounded like a testament to the pure camaraderie and joy the weavers share with one another, slipping in and out of their house chores seamlessly. “Shanti devi fed us daal baati churma, which she cooked in the morning to be able to spend time with us,” tells Mrudul, for whom a big takeaway was the wavering spirit amongst the ladies of Manpura. “With each Manchaha, you are part of their lives and they to yours,” she sums up.
“We’ve had so many cases where we encourage the customers to visit the weavers who made their carpet. Once, a family from London travelled to India and met the weavers in-person, loved a carpet and decided to buy it for their daughter. The whole family sat together with the three-generation weavers and the kids on the carpet, shared food and enjoyed their conversations,” recalls Yogesh.
The transition of the carpets from a commodity to collectible is a heartening change the brand is gradually observing. As Yogesh informs, a fraction of the customers are buying Manchaha rugs as pieces of art, rather than as mere furnishing for floors. “For a year or so, we had a couple from Delhi interested in owning a Manchaha rug. But it wasn’t in their budget, so they promised to come back and buy it soon. And every 3 to 6 months they used to visit and finally bought one. They expressed it was a dream to get a Manchaha and how much joy it brought in their family and home.”
He adds, “There are people who are collecting Manchahas. Some people have over 50 rugs, some have bought more than 20-30 rugs. They are collecting it as art pieces, while some are going to museums as well. So I feel that the percentage may be a little small but it’s happening.”
Pavitra Rajaram x Jaipur Rugs
Founder and Creative Director of her eponymous firm Pavitra Rajaram in cahorts with Jaipur Rugs presented a brand new collection dubbed Manjun on the grounds of Salone del Mobile Milano 2023. The carpets in essence and in visuals so Indian, were accorded a contemporary lens at the European design week, proving how pertinent the impact of the exchange between the country’s heritage artistry and global consumer base can have at once.