Weaving Rural Indian Women into the Global Market

Claire Schwartz, Santa Clara University, Finance, 2017

Santa Clara University student Sandhya Bodapati works with local artisans in India and watches them practice their craft.

Santa Clara University student Sandhya Bodapati works with local artisans in India and watches them practice their craft.

In the Barmer and Bikaner regions of India, women are often denied independence and work, and the economic power this provides. In recognition of this, Rangsutra, a social enterprise in India, links rural artisans to global markets to provide them with equitable jobs while enabling economic stability and sustainable livelihoods.

During the eight weeks of July and August 2017, two undergraduate students from the other side of the world, Grace Matthews and Sandhya Bodapati at Santa Clara University, worked with this social enterprise to assess the company’s impact on women. This partnership was formed through the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, a program of Santa Clara’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Sixteen other fellows like Grace and Sandhya, who are juniors at Santa Clara University, work with social enterprises across the globe to support their social impact. The two fellows working with Rangsutra conducted a baseline assessment of job opportunities and metrics in the Indian regions served to develop how the company’s goal to uplift lives is achieved. Miller Center provides this fellowship as a comprehensive program of mentored, field-based study and action research for its selected students to support the Global Social Benefit Institute worldwide network of social entrepreneurs. After carefully learning about social entrepreneurship and sustainable business models for companies like Rangsutra, Grace and Sandhya developed a socioeconomic impact assessment tool to measure the enterprise’s impact on artisan employees. During this assessment, the fellows completed 131 interviews with participating artisans, of whom 100% were women. The women ranged in age from 16 to 55, averaging at 31 years old. In the survey, the two fellows experienced the challenge of measuring women’s socioeconomic empowerment compared to men within a household.


 The baseline metrics of the fellows’ work revealed a trend suggesting a need for more work orders in the Barmer region. In their report, the girls found that:

· 39% of the artisans were content with the amount they were working

· 61% of the women artisans asked for more work

· Nearly 100% of the participants worked for the local craft market at some point in time, giving participants a comparative insight to the benefits of working for Rangsutra

· 41% of women artisans saved their money on their own, in contrast to 24% of women who contributed to pooled household saving

· 9% of money earned by women artisans went to education for themselves or their families

Overall, the data collected represents the need for change and an increase of job opportunities in the Barmer Region. After analyzing the survey results, the fellows discovered that most women couldn’t work a full year because of the agricultural responsibilities they hold and that they want to work more than an hour more per day like they currently do. The ambition and eagerness of the women was obvious in nearly every interview in Bikaner, and the women were proud and grateful to work for Rangsutra.


 Pappu Kanwar embodies ambition. When interviewed, Pappu explicitly stated her desire for more work and suggested that she was currently unable to work for more hours because of how far away the Rangsutra work centers are from her home. However, Pappu isn’t settling with her current situation. She shared with Grace and Sandhya that she is taking the lead on opening a new center in her own village. This inspiring change maker said that she would also be the craft manager in the new center beginning next month, so earnings from this role will certainly raise her income and offer life improvements. Pappu’s example is one of many inspiring stories that illustrates how Rangsutra enables women to make changes at both personal and community levels. The employed women impact not only themselves but also their families, and in many cases, the rest of their communities too.           

Rangsutra allows women in rural India to provide an income for their families.

Rangsutra allows women in rural India to provide an income for their families.


Grace and Sandhya noted that younger women train in Rangsutra’s apprentice program while they go to school. The program allows women between the ages of 16 and 18 to work a limited number of hours throughout the week to learn skills from their mothers and other women in their community. One woman interviewed by the fellows reported that two of her daughters work as apprentices in the program, which supplements their family’s income and helps the girls gain valuable skills and practice. Through interviews with women like this artisan, Grace and Sandhya found that Rangsutra increases employed artisans’ sense of independence and future prospects as they gain their own income and apprentice younger generations.

Grace Matthews and Sandhya Bodapati working with Rangsutra.

Grace Matthews and Sandhya Bodapati working with Rangsutra.


 After their in-field research, the two fellows expressed hope to see an increase in the socioeconomic impact metrics that imply growth and that enable sustainable livelihoods for women in the Barmer and Bikaner regions of India. Grace and Sandhya recommend that Rangsutra set timeline goals for improvements to keep track of its progress. These goals are tangible products that can be shared with future investors to further help with making them possible.

The data recorded and carefully analyzed by the two students is encouraging overall. Their work with Rangsutra revealed the drastic impact that Rangsutra’s programs have upon the lives of the women in rural India. Their lives are reportedly being changed for the better, as they each expressed gratitude towards their increased independence and sense of meaning within their families and community.