The Optimist Citizen

A jewellery lover who turned the fortunes of a distressed tribal community by using ‘Bamboo’

A jewellery lover and an art enthusiast, Saloni Sacheti, an ex-SBI Youth for India Fellow, is empowering the tribals of Dangs district of Gujarat, by engaging them into an alternative livelihood source of Bamboo Jewellery making. The primary occupation of the tribals there is agriculture and manual labour. But they suffer from huge water scarcity post monsoon and hence migrate seasonally. On the other hand, this region has a huge production of bamboo. Connecting the dots, Saloni founded BAANSULI – Bamboo Artisans Social and economic Upliftment Initiative – which engages the tribals in the production and marketing of beautiful bamboo jewellery that stands out for its more ‘finished, durable and contemporary’ look.  

Looking back at her journey, Saloni reminiscences that her fascination for entrepreneurship stemmed from her family’s business background and a stale cubicle in a law firm. “When I was in college, me, my mom, and my grandmother always used to brainstorm and conjure up ways of supporting women in our nearby villages. Even when I was working in a law firm, I had an acute sentiment to create a social enterprise”, Saloni says . So when she got an opportunity to pursue it during her SBI fellowship, she left no stone unturned. Her first real challenge came in the form of winning the trust of the villagers and convincing them of the possibility of bamboo becoming a solution for the perennial financial problems. However, Saloni eventually won their trust and gradually went on to make a team of nine local craftsmen who started creating unique pieces out of bamboo each of different styles and patterns, appealing to the contemporary audience. And that’s how Baansuli was born.

The first collection of Baansuli sold out very quickly at the Dastkar Mela in New Delhi, selling jewellery worth 45,000 rupees. Till now, the company has managed to sell jewellery worth Rupees 400,000 in more than half a dozen exhibition across the country including the prominent Dastkar Mela in New Delhi.  However, everything was not all sweet and mellow in Saloni’s entrepreneurial journey. While working on the bamboo products, the team realised that bamboo posed a major challenge. Bamboo is a natural material made of organic elements and attracts excessive moisture to warp the product or allow moulds to grow, resulting in a shorter life. However, Saloni came up with the idea of treating the bamboo with alum, making it resilient from moisture and bacteria. Through this process, Baansuli turned its weakness into its strengths as a majority of bamboo jewellery dealers neglect this crucial step which assures long-lasting quality and finesses visibility in the products.

Each piece from the one-of-a-kind range of Baansuli is handmade, using antique and contemporary beads, stones, silver and rare artefacts along with the predominant use of bamboo personally sourced by Saloni herself from different places in India. The Bamboo adds a renewed durability to the piece.

It consists of a wide variety of handcrafted pieces including bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. The dedication of the craftsmen’s team at spending every day creating and making something new and truly unique is why Baansuli stands out in the jewellery market of India.

As for the future, Saloni has high hopes and aspirations for her brand. The team is continually creating new designs and thinking of new ways of crafting things by producing more bamboo products such as apparel, bags and many more.

With the on-going developments in Baansuli, it not only continues to provide a steady source of income to the artisans but also keeps them close to maintaining their true identity as farmers by performing their daily chores. The initiative is also ‘launching a new brand of theirs called ‘Aarya’ dedicated to women and especially the efforts of the women artisans of Baansuli. And these efforts are giving the much needed boost to the innate innovation practised in our rural hinterland. Baansuli’s tagline is ‘jewelry to be cherished for life’. I feel their efforts are not only creating pieces that are destined to a life of cherishment but also injecting a new lease of life for the artisans – whose work is going out on a global map through their uniquely made Bamboo-inspired jewellery designs and technical brilliance.

Saloni Sacheti and her initiative Baansuli was also a winner at the 3M CII Young Innovators Challenge 2018 under the Rural Innovation category. The applications for the 2019 challenge are open. You can apply from the link given below

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