Dextrous with the needle, she has been making entrepreneurs. Liffy Thomas meets Srilakshmi Mohan Rao, Neelangarai resident and a FICCI awardee

Forty years of teaching art and crafts and thousands of students are behind her. But sixty seven year-old K. Srilakshmi Mohan Rao is in no mood to take it easy.

She continues to make hundreds of students employable by teaching crochets, needle work, embroidery and painting. Her contributions has fetched her the ‘Outstanding Women Achiever Award for Social Work and Entrepreneurship’ from FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), which felicitated 30 members to celebrate 30 years of its existence.

“I am happy that I have passed on my knowledge to my students. Many of them are successful entrepreneurs today. Platforms such as FICCI gave me greater exposure,” says this Neelangarai resident, whose duplex home has her works on display everywhere.

This self-taught artiste founded the Hobby Craft Centre from her home in Alwarpet in 1973, where she lived for 32 years, with two students to start with.

“I did not want to sit idle at home and I could not take up a full-time job as my son was in school,” she recalls. As its popularity grew, Srilakshmi took a loan of Rs. 400 from the Bank of Baroda to buy new products for the centre.

“I developed different kits and tools so that even an 80-year-old could learn crochet, needle work and other crafts easily,” she says, weaving wool on a circular tool to design a muffler. Impressed with her first solo exhibition at CP Arts Centre, Kothari Academy for Women roped her in as faculty of home science, where she served for 15 years.

Later, she had a stint at P. Obul Reddy Vocational Training Centre, a unit of Andhra Mahila Sabha, where she was instrumental in starting many courses to help the less privileged.

In 1992, she started Alankrutha in Anna Nagar, a social venture that taught and connected women to banks and NABARD to get seed funds. Although she is an active member of various organisations, including the World Telugu Federation and University Women’s Association, Srilakshmi is most passionate about craft. Both Hobby Craft Centre and Alankrutha are close to her heart.

“My stint with FICCI was very educative. Through the Hanns Seidel Foundation we were able to provide employment to many women. This way I built contacts and continue to help people coming to Alankrutha,” says the treasurer of FLO.

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