Town of Bagru

बगरू नगर

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Lectures, Lessons, & Life

It had been just over two weeks since my last blog post. Since then a lot has happened. Here is a list…

5 social entrepreneurship classes


Sold textiles at Union!

Mother’s Day

Rapaports Welcome back/Bon Voyage

Visit from my parents

Lectures in Contemporary India/Int’l Development

Visit from Jeremy/kicking event an Beuth House

Time with Grace<3

Getting to know Eric Spector (we are going to start on Hindi tomorrow)

And much much more…

As days literally fly by I am starting to feel more in my shoes, though there isn’t a minute that goes by when I don’t think about Bagru (perhaps when I am sleeping my mind takes a rest).

I look forward to the social entrepreneurship courses as I get to hear more about my fellow fellows experiences, which usually lends to a bout of empathy. The first of us to present was Ian, who spent his time in Siem Reap, Cambodia doing work for the Global Child and Joe to Go. Ian had a rough start with bacterial infections and dengue fever. This didn’t stop him from continuing his efforts to be apart of his community. Here are some major things I took away from Ian’s presentation…

There are successes, there are failures, but there are also a lot of in-betweens and we should be proud of those too or at the very least learn from them!

The Minerva Fellowship, despite its glamorous reputation, is no walk in the park (but there are no unicorns anywhere)!

A desire to help others is not always followed by an instant desired to be helped, or perhaps never is followed by a desire to be helped

The following class Amanda, who was also in Cambodia, had a heart warming presentation. Amanda also had the unfortunate pleasure of getting dengue fever early on in her fellowship, but she certainly did not let that get the best of her. Here are some of the lessons from Amanda’s presentation…

Teaching others is not easy, but when you work hard enough at it not only is it possible, but it is also super rewarding.

The truth is in the eye of the beholder. You may self-identify as a hip-hop/pop dancer, but others may see you as a ballot dancer. Oh and on a side note…if you know Amanda you know that dancing is encouraged and in fact preferable anytime and anywhere!

Then it was on to Estero, Ecuador! So far Aaron and Sarah have shared their experiences and thoughts, but Alagra will be next week.  They have been giving themed based lectured, which I have found highly relatable. Lessons from Aaron…

Poverty is complex. In Estero, it does not necessarily just take the form of hunger. It is multifaceted!

Dependency. While working in a developing country it is important to remind ourselves not to create a dependency, but good to know when it’s alright to lend a helping hand.

Time is a culturally bond concept.

There is no better time then the present to note that I might be going to Ecuador this summer, and it would be amazing to stop by Estero. Sarah’s presentation was the most recent and therefore is the most fresh in my mind.

Language: There is a difference between translating and understanding. Absolutely!

You can’t mess with tradition, but tradition can and will mess with you.

Small goals are good goals and can lead to grand successes.

Sarah has a goddaughter in Estero! Wow:)

This is just a shallow dip into the insights my fellow fellows have been passing on in the social entrepreneurship course. Tomorrow I will be presenting!


Most people who I see first ask me “how was it (India, being abroad, the fellowship, etc?)” A general question will usually lead to a general answer. I encourage people to get down to the nitty-gritty. Ask me anything!!! And if your follow-up question is “what’s next?” just know that I have a staged response to that, but the reality is I have no idea!

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We’re back!

It has been too long since I last posted something substantial. In the past, fellows have stopped writing blog posts once they have left their respective locations. I would like to break that tradition and continue sharing what I am learning. In fact, my fellowship is not complete yet. That is, another requirement of the fellowship is to return to Union College for one month to share my experiences with the campus and of course partake in the social entrepreneurship course that I took as a student just a year ago. Hopefully my and my fellow fellows’ participation in this class will allow us to bring reality to the meaning of working on the ground level of a developing country.

Before we jumped back into Union College living, all of the fellows met in Lake George. This offered some decompression, reacquainting, reflection, and of course some fun with my fellow fellows. Not that I didn’t know this before, but I finally had the opportunity to really learn just how amazing my co-fellows are. I look forward to getting to know them more and working with them the rest of the term.

Leaving Bagru was one of the most challenging tasks. It felt as if it took me a week to say good-bye to everyone. I also was trying my best to fill Allie in on what exactly was going on in the company. She seems to have picked things up really well, and I have continued to correspond with her via email. I have also tried to stay in contact with some of my friends in Bagru, which has already proven to be harder than I would like.

Today I will be focusing on my lesson plan for the social entrepreneurship course, as each fellow has an hour to discuss his or her experience. I have a meeting with my co-fellows at noon and most excitingly a lunch plan with Eric Spector the next fellow who is going to Bagru.

The plan is to post more consistently through this month than I have in the past 9, but we will see how that goes! 

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Communal Riots In Sister Printing Community

Sanganeer is a well known printing community located south of Jaipur city. Last week there was a riot in which many have been injured and some killed. Since then there have been curfews placed, which has caused backlash in Bagru as many of the printers get their fabric supplies from there. Read more here and here.

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After an aggressive round of dancing on my Shyam ki Pedal Yatra, an 80 km on foot pilgrimage to Khatushyam, I took a breather and continued my walking. One of my major efforts while I have been in Bagru is to reach out to more women. Seen here Neer is doing some sampling for Bagru Textiles, she is a very motivated and this was the first time she had the opportunity to do Bagru printing (usually she does Dabu printing). Making paparaa with Saroj and Cheyika! Standard meal, chapati is round bread made from wheat, salt , and water, gobee is cabbage, daai is yogurt, and the yellow stuff is poha! Getting my printing on. Here I am printing a dupatta (scarf), using hot discharge (the not so natural process of Bagru). Aanaar Ka Chilka, pomegranate rind, is presoaked in water as part of the preparation for the Indigo vat (who would have known?). 

Holi Cow! Hopefully I will get a chance to write a post about my Holi experience in Bagru. Group photo. Seen here some of the business members of BT have come together for a group photo. I have spent a lot of my time in Bagru with carvers, I have even learned how to do some of my own carving:) Here Babalu is carving a 9inX9in for sampling that we will do for a client. 

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Social impact

It is scary, nerve-wracking, exciting, and sad to think that in less than a month I will be leaving my Bagru home.In June of 2012, after I had graduated and returned home for a few days, I returned to Union, not because I missed the sight of the Nott Memorial or the rigor of an academic setting, but because I participated in a strategic planning session. This session was aimed at creating a plan for Bagru Textiles. Emily, the previous fellow, and Jeremy, the founder of BT, were both present along with Hal, Tom, and two entrepreneurs. I took a lot of notes, but most of what stuck with me was that Bagru Textiles needed to sell more fabric, and that quality control was an issue for finished products. Most of the discussion was based around how Bagru Textiles can generate more revenue, a critical component to a successful social entreprise. In the next few days the accountant will let us know just how successful our revenue building has been. 

More importantly, Bagru Textiles needs to balance its focus on building revenue with its focus on having a social impact. Besides the innovation that Bagru Textiles provides, just because of the direct connection between the artisan and the consumer, Bagru Textiles is only barely on its way to having a social impact. The foundation of the company has been built in a group of artisans who either have well established firms, or even private work outside of block printing and it is not benefiting the people who need it the most, i.e. hand block printers, who have no “plan B” in case there is no printing work, and factory workers who just make enough money to make it to the next month, but not enough to improve their standard of living.  Trying to penetrate these communities and understand how Bagru Textiles can have a social impact in their lives has been the biggest challenge and I suppose it will remain the biggest challenge. We have made a constitution so that all members understand that when they make extra profit on a BT order that some of that is suppose to “trickle down” to the printers, washer men, and workers who are involved with the order. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to guarantee that this is happening.

On an exciting note Allie Cuozzo, a 3rd generation Minerva Fellow, will be coming to Bagru on April 8th. She will help to design and manage things in the hiatus between when arrives Eric Spector, the next Minerva Fellow coming to Bagru, and I leave. 

Hopefully some photos to follow in the next few days.

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Just realized that next week will almost be a month since I have last posted!

 Recently I have been placing emphasis on the importance of communication. Most people in Bagru do not know that Bagru Textiles exists. Those who do know about Bagru Textiles have a lack of understanding of the company’s mission and motives. More importantly we have been focusing on the current members of Bagru Textiles. Since people in Bagru are not accustomed to attending meetings we have been going to the people and explaining exactly what we are all about. What are our expectations for people we work with in Bagru? And what they can expect in return? What is our history? What is our mission? Who can they speak to if they have any questions?

In addition to communication, trust and confidence are two essentials of business. Deepak, our new Chair of Communications, has been putting a lot of time into the company. Vijendra and Deepak are two very different people and it has not been easy having them work together. Today they finally sat down and had a full conversation, which seemed relatively productive. Only time will tell if they will continue to work together. Confidence is one of the best gifts that one human being can give to another. Whether it is the confidence to have your voice heard, to try knew things, or meet new people, confidence, once attained, can be life changing.  A large portion of my time here has been spent building confidence, confidence in English, web use, designing, and just day-to-day decision making.

Bagru Textiles is founded on a principle of the way things have been done in the past (through middlemen) and how they can be (or should be) done in the future (directly). At this point we are marketing and exporting for artisans who otherwise would not have access to e-commerce and exporting.  But what makes Bagru Textiles business model unique is not the idea of selling products on an e-commerce website or even the idea of exporting directly, rather it’s the fact that local artisans in Bagru, individuals who normally do not interact with their consumer, are doing the marketing and exporting. In other words, it is not what it is, but who is doing it and where they are doing it. Over the past seven months I have seen and done the work of the printers, workers, washers, and carvers in Bagru and I agree they should be paid better wages and respected more than they currently are. At the same time I have had the full experience of an exporter (customs, duty, costs, taxes, etc.) This work is also not as easy as it looks on the surface level. Work is work and whether an individual is carving a block, stitching a scarf, printing a duvet cover, filling out an export invoice, hand-washing hundreds of meters of fabric or typing an email, all will be necessary to make the Bagru Textiles business go round. Having all members and employees understand that will also be essential to the companies success!

Phir milenge!

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Just noticed that it has been a very long time since I posted some photos. Hope you enjoy!

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> 3,000 meters

To say things have picked up here would be an understatement. In the past 2 weeks we have received over 3,000 meters worth of orders! All of these orders are custom. Doing custom work takes a lot of time, patience, communication, and attention to detail.

A few days ago I brought Vijendra an agenda. He usually writes his notes on scraps of paper (or not at all) so that he can remember his daily business. Though this might have worked before I explained that this method might cause confusion and become overwhelming. Now that Bagru Textiles has daily work, as the director he needs to start to take organizing more seriously. I told him it was a great habit to get into and would help in the long run. The best was the next morning and when I saw him writing in it! I hope that he continues to use it.

Posting the members’ samples on the website is taking a lot longer than I anticipated. The Internet has been really slow. So I find myself posting the samples while I am responding to emails or researching. The samples are really beautiful and they are already getting a lot of attention.

Since the business is growing we have recently hired one of our members, Deepak, as a salary based employee. So far he has been doing a great job! We try to meet up at least once a day so that I can help him with his English. He stops by Bagru Textiles (i.e. my bedroom/office) at least once a day to check if there is anything to help out with.

In the past two weeks I have been to four weddings. I was invited to many more, but had to turn down the invites. On Thursday, the Chhipa caste celebrated Naam Dev’s Birthday. Naam Dev is a saint that the printing caste worships on his birthday no one in Bagru is allowed to print otherwise they have to pay a fee to the local printing society. Still Vijendra, Deepak, Mrs. Chhipa, and I were busy. We had two guests both who were interested in custom work.

Can’t believe I only have two more months. TATA!