Aditi Prakash, a designer in the crafts sector, shares her experience of the Jagriti Yatra
Of experiential learning, Aristotle wisely said, “The things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them.”
Recently the British Council supported an interesting annual five-day train journey called Jagriti Yatra, organised by Jagriti Sewa Sansthan, which took 450 of India's youth on an inspiring odyssey across the country in order to stir the spirit of entrepreneurship in them. The carefully-selected participants were exposed to new ideas, people and institutions that are rarely recognised for the work they do in tackling India's social and economic challenges.
Five entrepreneurs (four from the UK and one from India) picked by the British Council were a part of the trip as facilitators. These entrepreneurs came from diverse backgrounds and have had interesting personal entrepreneurial journeys.
The Indian facilitator was Aditi Prakash, a designer working in the crafts sector. Armed with two degrees from the National Institute of Design, in sculpting and industrial design, Aditi has started her own enterprise, Pure Ghee Designs.
Aditi found the yatra a life-changing experience. “I met a diverse range of people and we lived together for 15 days. Also, I was in charge of 12 girls from different parts of India and from different economic backgrounds. It was nice to see them get inspired by me since I have started my own enterprise.”
She adds, “We travelled through a mix of urban and rural areas of the country that are also home to many of the role models the yatra wished to expose us to. Through this event, participants were inspired to lead and develop institutions both nationally and within their communities. The experiential learning process involved role model visits, yatri interactions and panel discussions.”
It took Aditi almost eight years to get noticed for her work. She states, “There's a lot of social work that happens behind the scenes but not all the time do people get noticed for their contribution. Nonetheless, we do this kind of work because it's a passion and not because we need recognition.”
Aditi explains her entrepreneurial consultancy: “Pure Ghee Designs was named after a craftsperson who brought me a gift of homemade ghee from his village. For him, it was the best gift possible as it was pure, homemade, and precious. PGD extends this gesture to a collection that is all things Indian. A research, design and production studio, we constantly explore ways to make place for traditional crafts in modern lives. Our products include limited edition bags made from traditional textiles.”
“PGD aims at delivering exceptional cultural content and celebrates the Indian design aesthetic, whether it is fabric from fourth and fifth generation craftspeople in Bhuj, Barmer, Banares or kitschy lungis from the streets of Hyderabad and Cochin.”
For Aditi, who is passionate about travelling to new places, inspiration stems from observing people's lives in different cultures. She explains, “I've worked with craftspeople in various parts of India as well as from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, South Africa and the United Kingdom. I feel my design sensibilities have been inculcated from cities I've lived in. Whether it is Hyderabad, Ahmedabad or Delhi, each of these cities has a rich history and culture that have found expression in the fabrics and designs of my creations.”
She is fascinated by anything handmade and is constantly exploring ways to integrate crafts with modern lifestyle choices and tastes. She believes in creating products that are powerful antidotes to the “big but hollow commercial brands”.
“My learning curve has been rather sharp and with this yatra, my skills have been put to better use. Opportunities like these are like pursuing a practical MBA,” she feels.
Generating employment for people belonging to small communities is what drives her and Aditi's advice to young entrepreneurs is, “Dream big and believe in yourself. You are the author of your life's story, so pen it the way you want to see it turn out.”