Published: 04th September 2019
How FarmerStory is helping rural women in India sell their products online and beat poverty
FarmerStory is an online portal that has many products like cultured ghee, moringa powder, wood pressed organic groundnut oil, jaggery and more
I was browsing through FarmerStory, a one-stop-shop website for many things organic, and that was when I saw them, baskets made of sabai grass and another one made of bamboo. It looked like it was a labour of pure love. Turns out it is. Though sturdy and tough to look at, it is made with care by the 'super women', as the Founder of FarmerStory Harvinder Singh Matharu likes to call them, of Balasore, Odisha. "Oh, but they are!," he insists and adds, "These tribal women from Self Help Groups take care of the household and kids, cook and clean and still find the time to do this intricate work. All this in the face of poverty," stresses Harvinder. And though these baskets are just one of the several products on their website, Harvinder helps us understand the backstory of it.
The A-Team: The duo behind FarmerStory Harvinder Singh Matharu and Shweta Goswami Matharu | (Pic: FarmerStory)
FarmerStory might be two years old, but the work has been happening for about eight years and more. Their inventory of select products is organic and farmer-friendly. "But we don't have multiple products, what we have are the best products in the category," says Harvinder. Ghee, fragrances, natural dishwasher and more are what one could opt for. Their focus is also on community connect and this is how the baskets found their way in FarmerStory's product line-up.
Harvinder and Shweta have put up simple stalls in various exhibitions and their products have been popular nonetheless
What Harvinder and his wife Shweta Goswami Matharu were looking for was a hamper to curate for season gifting and for that they needed a basket. "I remember my sister used to study in Cuttack and during one my visits there, I saw these women and their work," says the 38-year-old and as faith and friends would have it, connections were established and Harvinder found himself in Balasore. "These baskets are biodegradable, good for the environment, don't catch fungus and are washable too. Each basket is unique, almost as if it has a soul of its own. Since the past six months, we have been able to support 100 households through constant employment," says the Jamshedpur-born Harvinder.
The full picture: A collage of how FarmerStory makes the best of the baskets | (Pic: FarmerStory)
And just like the story of the baskets is incomplete without recognising the contribution of FarmerStory, the story of FarmerStory is incomplete without mentioning Rajesh Kumar Patra, National Coordinator and Member of Rural Active Women's Handcraft Artisan Association (RAWHAA). Not only is he serving as a meditator, together, RAWHAA and FarmerStory have plans to expand their product base. "We want their art to reach urban markets, where the purchasing power resides," explains Harvinder who is also Head Business Development - Sharing Economy at IDfy, an IT and services company. Having been brought up in Tata Nagar, Jamshedpur, seeing the work the Tatas did for tribals and seeing his mother who was a tireless social worker, especially focussed on women entrepreneurs, Harvinder clearly has his heart in the right place to take this and FarmerStory forward. And he goes on to prove us right when he says, "We want to benefit the right kind of people."
Their friends are persuading them to open a store since their products are so popular
For Harvinder, what is truly delightful about the process is the welcoming and ever-smiling nature of the women. Not only are they eager to work, and no, it's not for the money, but with the purpose of sharing their art, it is about how accommodating they are. "If I offer a suggestion to alter something in the design, they don't resist. And I can never forget the fact that when I visited their homes for the first time, none of the women let me leave the house without offering something to eat. All this despite their own circumstances," recalls the Mumbai-based entrepreneur. Clearly, these women have a spirit which can't be contained by what's happening around them. And we feel like Harvinder and his wife are on a journey to help spirits like theirs, and many others, soar high.
A closer look at the baskets and those who make them:
In the open: Sabai grass in all its glory | (Pic: FarmerStory)
Under the sun: Women working with the grass | (Pic: FarmerStory)
Slow and intricate: Women stitching mats from sabai grass | (Pic: FarmerStory)
Working together: Making the best with the grass | (Pic: FarmerStory)
In the making: Baskets taking shape | (Pic: FarmerStory)
The product: Baskets, complete and ready | (Pic: FarmerStory)
The whole package: The package and how it looks | (Pic: FarmerStory)
So what goes inside these wonderful baskets?
- Healthy Gift Hamper (Bamboo - Large): The large bamboo basket has products of Amorearth like ghee, moringa powder, jaggery block and powder, lemon slices and more
- Healthy Gift Hamper (Sabai Grass - Medium): The medium sabai grass basket has products of Amoreath like turmeric powder, jaggery peanut butter and more
For more on them, check out farmerstoryindia.com