Each one of us has it in us to bring about a change. To make a difference. What’s important is to give it a go! Svatanya – a cultural and social enterprise, believes that to bring change, we must bring it through women. Empower them and see the magic unfold!
Svatanya is a design solution enterprise, that empowers migrant women through up-skilling, livelihood opportunities, environmental consciousness, and sustainability. With an ever-present smile spreading around brightness, Deepa Pant, the founder of Svatanya, is a person who lives from her heart and follows her gut. Follow our conversation with her to know how Svatanya has undertaken the journey to make an impact on the lives of underprivileged women and children through handcrafted toys.
I have always been career-oriented. I gave my all to the companies I worked for. After graduating from NIFT, I worked for one of the biggest exporters in Delhi NCR, with 5 factories and 2000 people on roll. But soon after, our biggest buyer filed for bankruptcy and the company snowballed into its downfall. That’s when my fighting spirit kicked in and I decided to stay back. I looked at it as an opportunity to see if I could revive the operations. With just the last 25 people remaining on the roll, we decided to tap the domestic market. We became the merchandise partner for 6 of the 8 IPL teams, partnered with Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Reebok, etc. The whole thing was up and running again!
I have had 13 years of a melange of experience in design, production, merchandising, quality assurance, buying, and retail in the domestic as well as the international apparel industry. I had it all – the status, the money, the network. Yet, the most critical piece of my puzzle was missing – the Purpose. I was forced to consider whether what I was doing was my true calling!
So back in 2013, I called it quits on my corporate career and went ahead to find that missing piece. My mother asked me to volunteer for an NGO working for children. They were looking for a choreographer to prepare the children for a dancing competition. I had the time and absolute love for dancing. So I agreed and the children went on to win the competition. That is when I realized that the missing piece was making an impact on others’ life.
With an artistic bend of mind, I knew I loved to create things. And long years of working in the industry also made me witness the dark side of it. Premium clothing brands rejected tons of finished products because of the slightest defect and I saw thousands of meters of fabric being incinerated. I knew this wastage was fundamentally wrong. I believed that a bit of conscious effort was all it needed to make several impacts at once. And thus, Svatanya was born.
The name Svatanya has its roots in the word ‘Svatantra’, meaning Freedom. I started the enterprise with the objective to empower underprivileged women, especially migrant women homemakers, by upskilling them to make handcrafted products. These products are then sold through various online and offline partners. The women not only get trained but also transition towards financial independence and self-reliance. Besides this, Svatanya is also committed to minimizing its carbon footprint by using sustainable fabrics, textile recycling, and using cut-to-order technologies. It’s almost been a decade of Svatanya, and honestly, I have never been happier.
I saw a silver lining in the norms of our patriarchal society and leveraged it. Women living in the slums are already somewhat skilled in stitching, knitting, or sewing. We train them to hone their existing set of skills and immediately put them to work. We started with just 2 women.
Initially, the women were plagued with the regressive mentality and had all kinds of inhibitions, how their husbands and elders would react to a working wife, what would the neighbours say, etc. Handling the household chores was entirely on them, so we kept it all as flexible for them as possible. Retaining them as workers is still a challenge but we have trained 800+ women to date and they’ve been the most professional workforce I have worked with.
I take pride in my workforce. It’s true that when a woman grows, her children grow, her family grows and so does society. My greatest accomplishment is that as an enterprise we have seen no order cancellations or delays in the past 9 years. Though the journey has been full of ups and downs, Feb-Mar 2020, was full of adventure as we had to execute our largest order for a multinational. To celebrate Women’s Day on March 8, we had to ship 7000 pieces of a product over 40 locations pan India within a stringent timeline of 26 days. We ramped up our capacity from 50 to 150 women and set up an assembly line of production happening in the women’s homes. We not only managed to fulfill the order but also executed several parallel orders and delivered everything before COVID hit us.
This incident is significantly close to my heart because that was when I could see the impact of my work. I could notice the change and was amazed to see husbands and fathers-in-law dropping women to work, cooking meals, and helping with household chores. The supplemental income led them to believe in their worth and aspirations. It reinforced my belief in being on the right path.
We have experimented with all different product lines through the years under our two labels, ‘Amaryn’ and ‘My Munchkin’ – Women’s apparel, clothing for kids and infants, accessories, home decor – Everything!
But what came out of the box is our range of soft toys. Soft toys, made from sustainable and upcycled fabrics are rooted in stories of Indian mythology and history. Lord Ganesha with his modak, Goddess Lakshmi adorning a saree, Buddha sitting in meditation, and Krishna with his Kamdhenu are all a part of our collection. We also launched toys inspired by our Indian rogues featuring the mighty Ravana with all his 10 heads while Lord Yamaraj with his Buffalo is on the way!
I built Svatanya as a platform to create an eco-conscious impact while reviving traditional crafts. To pivot this objective, and make an even more significant impact, my husband, Nimish Pant, and I set up the Svatanya India Foundation and started a crowdfunding initiative – Amaryn Care. Being associated with designing toys, we realized that every child needs a toy buddy. We took it upon ourselves to distribute soft toys to underprivileged and ailing children who are differently abled, suffering from terminal ailments, or residing in slums. This serves as a way to provide regular work to the women and spread joy among the children.
It feels like I have finally found the missing piece to my puzzle – the Purpose!
We are on our way to launching one of our biggest projects yet where we’ll be gifting 10,000 toys to underprivileged children and the elderly. And this time it’ll be Little Krishna – a symbol of Love and Hope. Handcrafted by Svatanya women with a lot of love and infused with Krishna’s blessings, through Project Hope we intend to impact many more lives.
We urge people to contribute Dil Khol Ke and feel the Joy of Giving themselves.
Every creation at Svatanya is special. Contrary to usual perceptions, people in underprivileged sections aren’t driven purely by monetary deliberations. Instances of women contributing cloth to make more toys or volunteering to not get paid for making toys to be donated show their level of humility.
We endeavor to create merchandise that resonates with the customer. My favorite question to ask anyone from the industry is – ‘How much waste do you generate? The next time, could you send it to me instead of incinerating it?’ Stocks of trims and leftover fabrics pour in from all over the country, which are upcycled to create each one of our products.
It has been a whirlwind, transitioning from the corporate to the social sector. But the passion to do more adds fuel to making continuous efforts. Svatanya has helped change the lives of numerous women and children, and in return, they have changed mine.
NICEorg wishes Svatanya the best of luck in its journey ahead!
If your cultural enterprise is in any of our five focus sectors and you would be interested in being featured, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org