Beaded jewellery made by members of the Narikurava community, as a traditional occupation, may or may not attract the attention of high-heeled locals.

So what? An enterprising group here has identified avid fashion conscious buyers in countries as far as USA and UK. The group of 30 Narikuravar artisans at Devarayaneri Colony has made a sound beginning by exporting beaded jewellery worth Rs. 1.25 lakh to USA, under the aegis of a business enterprise christened ‘Chidiya’ (meaning jewellery in their language). The group could ensure a profit margin in the range of 40 per cent.

Thanks to the two-week design development and business enterprise workshop conducted by Narikurava Education and Welfare Society (NEWS) in July 2008, and a Skillshare International Development Worker Sarah Lee, a designer, there are indications of this venture gathering momentum. Ms. Sarah, after studying the fashion tastes abroad, integrated the gypsies into a group and initiated them into new designs to structure the market linkage. Ms. Sarah is here again to orient them to new designs.

“Chidiya is a blend of modern design with traditional gypsy craft to create a fabulous selection of handcrafted beaded jewellery. The Chidiya product range includes necklaces, earrings, bracelets and home products, which are the epitome of quality and design – with the added bonus of being 100 per cent fairly traded,” the group’s business summary states.

The Chidiya group seeks to herald economic emancipation of the gypsies who have been leading a nomadic lifestyle out of compulsion to sustain their livelihood; they sell jewellery in locations across the country leaving behind families for months together just to make a decent profit.

Having identified the need to merge private-sector business tools with development practices to create a dynamic, market driven social enterprise as a means to increase socio-economic opportunities for the Narikuravar artisans, NEWS intends to ensure stable employment and income to 500 gypsy artisans over a five-year period. One of the main objectives is to increase the average daily wage from Rs. 80 to Rs. 150 to help meet the educational, health, domestic and food needs of their children and other family members.

The key activities planned for the future include providing training on market and colour trends; jewellery making techniques and product development; business entrepreneurship, management and administration; sales and marketing; product pricing; computer and basic literacy skills, and book keeping and accounts.

The NEWS also has plans to create a website (with online ordering system), product catalogue and other marketing materials, and link Chidiya enterprise to Government handicraft development schemes, local/ international designers, and international/domestic markets.