Sirohi is a sustainable luxury brand that has been employing women artisans since its inception. Sirohi promotes a slow and simple way of living based on the ideals of Indian culture and tradition. The handwoven home and lifestyle goods are made by talented women artisans with the intention of bringing the beauty of the outdoors inside. Follow our conversation with Gauri Gopal Malik, Sirohi’s vivacious founder, as she narrates her journey of embracing her passion in order to bring about change to empower women at the grassroots level.
Inspiration and Ideation
My story is no different than any others. I belong to Muzaffarnagar, to a fairly privileged family. I had the opportunity to study in the best schools. Being an overachiever, I have always been fiercely independent and fearless. But in my home’s domestic setting, I couldn’t help but notice my mother’s financial and emotional dependence on my father despite being skilled. It didn’t mean that she didn’t want to work; instead, she had no idea how to leverage her skills in a small town. Over the years I understood that there are thousands of such women who suffer from this dilemma, whether they’re from rural or urban families. This became a deep point of frustration for me as I didn’t know if I could do something about it.
I am an Investment banker turned entrepreneur. I used to work for Deutsche Bank. The monotony of the work made me numb though it was paying me really well. I got to work in India and Tokyo, which gave me great exposure as a young postgraduate. Growing up I had the chance to study in the UK. While I was there I had the opportunity to work in South America for 3 months at a small not-for-profit in the small town of Trujillo, Peru. I worked for single mothers to help them get loans to start small businesses of their own. It was one of the most stimulating experiences of my life. I realized that there is a possibility to make a difference in others’ lives by creating a financially viable model. So after coming back to India the natural thing for me to do was to work in a bank as my Master’s degree is in Finance and Economics but my passion took hold of me and I quit.
It has only been a few years since social enterprises with a business model have been coming up in India. My life took a turn for the better back in 2012 in a village called Sirohi.
I formed the Skilled Samaritan Foundation where the idea was that one could use his/her skills to make something good out of them. I moved from Bombay to Delhi. I put my vision of bringing about change and sustainable development on a website and that’s how people started contacting me. A bunch of students from the National Power Training Institute, Delhi got in touch with me. We wanted to do something for the village communities around Delhi. And that’s how we discovered Sirohi, a beautiful arcadian village in the vicinity of Delhi. I decided to leverage its beautiful landscape to organize eco-walks. That’s how it all started. A Facebook page to promote eco-tourism and be a tour guide for the people who would join us on such tours. I would get the local people involved who would cook food for them. During one such walk, we realized that there was no electricity in the village and hence we launched a solar lighting project.
After being involved and interacting with the members of the Sirohian community for almost half a decade, I realized the opportunity gap in our rural communities. People have immense talent but lack the chance and skills to showcase it. In 2019, I launched Sirohi – to empower rural artisans, especially women.
Pillars of Sirohi
Every product at Sirohi tells a story. We create all manner of ready-to-ship and customizable home and lifestyle products. We partner with online marketplaces like Okhai, Himalayan Origins, Amala Earth, etc., and wholesalers to sell our products apart from listing them on our website. Many of these marketplaces share our vision of supporting India’s artisanal economy and encourage sustainable and responsible consumption. Besides this, our social media handle on Instagram has also helped us in effectively communicating our story.
We have partnered with some amazing home and decor retail stored across India to display our products. Our partners include the likes of Cover Story in Hyderabad, Saanch Studio in Indore, Salt Studio in Kochi, Le Marche in Delhi & Gurugram, Studio Verandah in Goa, etc.
Sirohi started operations with a single woman – Gauhar Fatma in June 2019 in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. Today, we are home to more than 750 women. The plight of women from rural and urban areas across the globe has been due to the lack of income opportunities and socio-economic barriers.
I started Sirohi with a vision to create a world where women from marginalized communities can use their existing skills in craft to earn dignified incomes and break socio-economic barriers to live as equals in their communities. We employ women artisans and hone their existing skill sets to provide them with sustainable livelihoods.
My mother heads operations for Sirohi and is working with 100 other amazing women.
Handicraft products are often seen as NGO-made products or are found in the aisles of IKEA and Homecentre. In order to revive the long-standing heritage of weaving, whether it is the craft of charpais or basketry, Sirohi uses ancient Indian weaving techniques and styles in the selection of all its goods.
In Indian history and culture, the charpai was a major piece of furniture. You could see its simplicity and functionality in homes all around the country and its communities. We mix traditional Indian craftsmanship with contemporary design sensibilities to produce practical, comfortable, and distinctive pieces of furniture and home furnishings by taking inspiration from this functional yet aesthetic design.
We use sturdy metal and wood frames for a sleek and modern look. Upon this, our skilled artisans hand weave traditional Indian patterns like Ajmeri, Dausa, Jaipuri, Jodhpuri, and more.
Society and the environment go hand in hand. We can’t overlook one while working for the other. Sirohi upholds sustainability in each of its products. Turning trash into treasure is our motto behind upcycling. Each Sirohi product is made from waste textiles, plastics, or natural fibers, using the charpoy style of weaving. We hand-weave all our products with natural and sustainable materials.
“We are all about the boss stories, not the sob ones…”
Several times in our lives, we look for purpose. At Sirohi, we have focused our efforts on design and craft, to create products that wouldn’t just be functional but would serve a purpose. Today, we have a stronghold of over 750 women working with us as financially independent equals in their communities. Leveraging their existing skill sets, we aim to handcraft a range of sustainable luxury lifestyle products. Going beyond this, we also connect our artisans with designers from all over the globe to help them understand modern design sensibilities.
I wish to showcase the skills of our extremely talented women artisans globally and build Sirohi as a socially egalitarian global brand.
NICEorg wishes Sirohi the best of luck in its journey ahead!