Chandroti Woolens: Using Sustainable Measures to Improve a Societal Issue

By Morgan Orangi, Career Services Ambassador

At the foothills of the Himalyas in northern India lies Chandroti Village. It might not immediately strike visitors as a place of progress, but after entering the homes and meeting the women who work for Chandroti Woolens, this observation proves false.

Shubh Chopra founded Chandroti Woolens in 2002 to help women in Chandroti and surrounding villages provide for their families and feel empowered. Chopra taught herself how to knit and then taught a neighbor who then brought her friends to Chopra, thereby starting a domino effect. Chandroti Woolens allowed the women to perform their duties at home while simultaneously making a profit since they could knit whenever their hands were free. Their only scheduled obligation was to meet once a week at Chopra’s house and show their progress or receive a new project.

Most of the women now have higher incomes than their husbands and have greatly enhanced their family’s quality of life. One of the women spoke about how the work has affected her and her son.

“But my son, if yarn gets tangled in his feet, he touches my feet because he gives this work so much worth and respect… With that money, with this money, my son furthered his studies. Today, he’s really doing something… You get confidence from here that you can do something.”

Chopra’s business model is rather simple. The profits go towards buying wool and paying the women. The women are paid according to the length of time it should take to knit a certain piece. To increase sales, Chopra consistently invigorates the business by adding new products, new stitches, and new colors. Her biggest challenge is selling. She comments, “My risk is total and is everyday the same risk. Will it sell, what I’m making? Because I am not a designer.” An Australian designer, Jac + Jack, recently discovered Chandroti Woolens and contracted them to manufacture their blankets and scarves. For Chopra, Jac + Jack represents the ideal buyer because they request specific designs and understand her time constraints.

Social Entrepreneurship
Businesses similar to Chandroti Woolens have arisen worldwide since the 80s and the term “social entrepreneurship” has come to define them. A growing number of universities have established programs for potential social entrepreneurs. According to David Bornstein, “Social entrepreneurs identify resources where people only see problems. They view the villagers as the solution, not the passive beneficiary. They begin with the assumption of competence and unleash resources in the communities they’re serving.” This description perfectly applies to Shubh Chopra.

The primary goal involves using sustainable measures to improve a societal issue. Rather than giving a handout, Chopra teaches the women a skill. Although Chandroti Woolens is a smaller scale social entrepreneurship, seeing as they include international and corporate organizations as well, Chopra hopes to employ an increasing number of women in the future. She also plans to build a website that will allow her to advertise and sell to consumers worldwide.