TBI Blogs: From Design to Sales – How Digitisation Is Empowering the Chanderi Weavers of MP

Twenty-seven-year-old Mohd Shahdab Ansari studied till Class X before he took up the family tradition of weaving in Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh. There wasn’t a lot of money to be made in weaving, but he persevered, driven by the knowledge that few had the talent to do what he did. Week after week, he wove saree after saree, giving them to his master weaver in exchange for meagre wages.

‘Master Weavers’ in these clusters are nothing but middlemen. They are neither weavers nor have they mastered the art of weaving. However, they are the ones who provide weavers with raw material. They also buy the finished product from weavers at a low price, sell it in the market a a much higher price and pocket the substantial profits.

Shahdab, like other weavers, was at the mercy of these master weavers.

In 2009, Shahdab heard about a design competition for weavers at Raj Mahal. The competition was organised by Chanderiyaan, an initiative by the Digital Empowerment Foundation that aims to digitally empower the weaver community of the heritage town of Chanderi.

While Shahdab participated in the design competition and earned recognition from the project team, it wasn’t until 2013 that he decided to join hands with Chanderiyaan. Once he did, there was no turning back.

Shahdab was a quick and enthusiastic learner. In not time at all, he learnt digital designing through Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software. Learning computers also helped him pursue his long-cherished dream of working professionally as a designer. He quit weaving and took up designing full-time.

In the last two years, Shahdab has created over 300 designs using advanced software. These designs are used not just by the weavers associated with the project, but by master weavers who work independently as well.

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