At the forefront of the wholesale fair trade market, Matr Boomie pushes beyond just providing livable wages to hundreds of rural artisan partners.
Working with SETU, their on-the-ground team in India, Matr Boomie provides artisans with access to the international market, skills training, literacy classes, and workshop improvements.
INSPIRATION FROM HIS HOMELAND
It was on a trip to India that Manish Gupta was inspired to help poor artisans. Although Gupta has admitted his surprise that he is selling bags and jewelry, he said that the social aspect of starting Matr Boomie called to him.
“I met artisans who couldn’t market their products while living in slums,” explains Gupta. He started Matr Boomie in 2006 to bridge the gap between impoverished artisan communities in India and the international market.
Today, Matr Boomie works with over 900 artisans living across India.
SUSTAINABLE CHANGE THROUGH DESIGN
Matr Boomie selects artisans that are normally denied access to the workforce because of status, gender, or location. They focus on employing women, minorities, and people with disabilities in marginalized communities. To learn more about the importance of these social groups, check out Matr Boomie’s 2016 Impact Report.
How does a company in Texas create sustainable business for their partners?
“For the artisans, being able to produce a strong product is key to their long term sustainability,” explains Gupta.
Matr Boomie utilizes a design team in Texas. This team designs products that are true to Indian art form and appeal to international customers.
“Puzzle boxes and bells are very popular,” explains Gupta. “Bells were initially created for sheep and cows so farmers can identify them. A farmer has a special tone for all his sheep and cows. The artisans don’t understand what we do with the bells.”
Another example are animal shaped puzzle boxes. Animals are not revered in India, so puzzle boxes are traditionally made in floral motifs. However, with animal-lovers, cat puzzle boxes are Matr Boomie’s best sellers. When a wood artisan asked Gupta what customers do with the puzzle boxes, Gupta explained that a customer used the cat puzzle box to proposal to his girlfriend, who loves cats.
“The artisan was blown away by the use for this,” said Gupta amusingly. “How products are being used in everyday life.”
Luckily for these artisans, the demand for these items helps to keep their art alive.
CONTINUING AN ART FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
Like any good parent, many artisans do not want their children to follow in their art without any hope for future economy. Wood artisans have been practicing their art for generations, using rosewood from Gupta explains that one of the biggest benefits that artisans receive from large orders such as GlobeIn’s is a boost of pride in their work.
“For an artisan to get a large order is a huge affirmation for the value of his or her art,” says Gupta. “It’s key for them to be proud and keep going.”
However, Gupta describes large orders as a double-edged sword in the realm of handcrafted goods. Since everything is handmade, artisans lack the extra capacity to produce more goods than what they already currently make.
As a large organization, Matr Boomie manages this by cross-training artisans so that the company does not have to hire or train people temporarily. This model allows artisans to work on different products when the need arises without leaving someone without a job after an order completion. Gupta frankly describes different challenges and how they have overcoming them in Matr Boomie’s blog.
A LIFELONG COMMITMENT
Gupta and his team are deeply committed to their mission of helping artisans in rural India.
“Our goal is to build a strong relationship and support artisans through quality and capacity building,” says Gupta.
Among some of the projects Matr Boomie undertakes in an effort to improve the livelihood of artisans is donating solar lamps, helping artisans get access to drinkable water, running health and nutrition workshops, conducting eye check ups and health camps.
One of the recent improvements SETU enacted was building new kilns for the bell artisans. These bells, crafted from tin and iron, are coated in powdered brass and copper. Traces of lead were found in the coatings, which when fired, released fumes that were a potential health hazard for artisans and their families.
At first, the artisans were resistant to changing their kilns. It took the company two years to research, build, pay for, and finally convince the artisans to use the new kilns. Now, the artisans have kilns that are more efficient, boosting productivity, and product their family and health.
THE GLOBEIN EFFECT
On Matr Boomie’s relationship with GlobeIn, Gupta expresses his excitement with the growth in the company’s partnership together. “GlobeIn is very committed to Fair Trade practices and is very understand of artisan challenges and constraints,” wrote Gupta in a recent exchange.
With GlobeIn’s partnership, Matr Boomie was able to recently hire 4 more women shibori artisans for 2 months of production. Additionally, the wood products sourced for GlobeIn provided approximately 275 days of work for their wood artisans. At 8-9 hours a day, this order provided over 2,300 hours of work to this artisan group.
Additionally, GlobeIn and Matr Boomie together will be sponsoring a health camp complete with eye checkups for all 200 wood artisans and their family members. This health camp has the potential to reach up to 400 members of this rural community and impact up to 1,200 people in total.
“Healthcare goes a long way. If our bodies are not fit, we are not able to work. If these artisans are not healthy, their ability to provide for their families fades away.” – Manish Gupta, Founder of Matr Boomie
Over the last two years, Matr Boomie artisans have handcrafted a number of timeless pieces for GlobeIn. From the Nose Glasses Holder to the Block Print Potholder, Matr Boomie artisans crafted pieces that add color and flare to GlobeIn customers’ homes.
Watch Matr Boomie’s video showcasing their artisans and their social mission.
Post by Barbara Lee.
Barbara is a world traveler who is passionate about sustainable food systems, responsible consumerism, and holistic living. Her professional background and interests include writing, cooking, non-profit work, and eco-conservation.