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The amazing success story of Fabindia

June 18, 2008

Ethnic weaves: In the tiny village of Chanderi in the Ashoknagar district of Madhya Pradesh, there is little respite from the scorching summer heat as the mercury touches 42 and 43 degrees celcius. There is a preponderance of dry dust on the barren land, which has not seen rain in months.

There is shortage of water, with daily tankers meeting the local people's meagre needs. The local population, which includes 1,000-odd weavers, could still have coped, but the mortal blow is looming in the form of disappearing demand for their cherished fabric, chanderi.

Yet, in the face of impending doom, there is an air of hope, anticipation and excitement in this sleepy little village, as 455 weaver families are poised to become owners of shares in a community-owned company, a concept totally alien to all except the few educated youths here.

Mohammed Zuber Ansari, 28, has a master's degree. After failing to find a job, he found himself in front of a loom and is still trying to come to terms with the developments. "We bought shares for Rs 1,000 and all I know is that this could change our lives in some way."

That way has been paved by Fabindia, a retail outfit that has grown from one store in the mid 1990s to 85. Dabbling in fabric, apparel, handicraft and other products, it began an experiment with community-owned companies nine years ago in an attempt to include artisans in the wealth creation process.

Text: Anjuli Bhargava

Image: Fabindia store | Photograph: Fabindia Website

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