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Commerce for the Artisans, by the Artisans: the Story of Ruma Devi and a Brand That Empowers Women

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” 

Ruma Devi’s story of becoming a globally recognized brand starts with her own. 

From what started as a small group of women artisans contributing INR 100 to buy material like cloth, threads and plastic wrappers for making cushions and bags, Ruma Devi’s grit turned into “Ruma - The Craft of India”, a flourishing online business, with a bigger cause fuelling the passion of women across tribes. 

Today, Ruma Devi is more than just a name of a person. It is known as an artisan-made platform which connects rural India to Urban India directly. The brand has one vision statement - “For the artisans. By the artisans.” 

We at Shopify are glad to be a part of their journey, by being the platform for their online storefront that takes their products to customers far and wide.  

“When we started making our website on Shopify, we were really scared but it proved to be a blessing for all of our artisans. We are overwhelmed to be a part of Shopify.” 

Ruma Devi’s story here is an example of how commerce is the way to succeed today. If you’re someone who has been holding back from following your passion or a hobby, it’s time to take a leap of faith and start your own business online by signing up for a free trial on Shopify today.

From ghoonghat to glory: The journey of Ruma Devi 

The change maker of rural India, Ruma Devi is a symbol of women empowerment who is empowering artisans from rural India to earn with dignity. 

A journey that was started out by an individual with only a thread and needle at hand to passionately craft village art, has today been acknowledged by the fashion industry across the globe.  

She has also been awarded the Nari Shakti Award by the President of India for her exemplary work in the field. The Nari Shakti Puraskar or Award is an annual award given by the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India to individual women or institutions that actively work towards the cause of women empowerment. 

nari shakti award to ruma devi

‘NariShakti Award’ presented by President of India

designer of the year award to Ruma Devi

Designer of the year Award

Being born in the desert region in Rawatsar village of Barmer district, Ruma Devi had to drop out of school in class 8th whereas today she is someone who has been invited by Harvard University for her exemplary work in the field of women empowerment through innovation in the traditional craft practice. 

Ruma Devi at Harvard University

Ruma Devi at the India Conference at Harvard 2020

Her extraordinary example was presented in the British Parliament House of Lords on International Women's Day 2019. 

Today, she has changed the lives of more than 25,000 rural women artisans residing in the villages of the major Thar desert. 

Her transition from ghoonghat, a traditional head covering or headscarf, to glory started when she lost her mother at four and got married at the minor age of 17 years. Life became more challenging with the unstable family conditions that also led to Ruma Devi losing her first born child within 48 hours as she could not avail basic medical facilities. 

Like the other women in the desert, her life was also limited to the boundary of their homes, veiled and living in family and social fetters. She was left with no other option except labor work to support her family back then, which was the case of many other women in the villages. 

But instead of getting frustrated, she took the major step of making her art of traditional craft her strength in 2007 which she learned from her grandmother in childhood. Starting small - all by herself, she decided to step out to physical events, and trade shows, and venture into selling the craft full time by looping in more women artisans from the village to help her scale production.

She soon abandoned the veil, moved over family restrictions and turned craft into a life-saving and life-changing pursuit. Today, her leap of faith and courage has led to changing the lives of more than 22,000 rural women artisans. 

And that’s how ‘Ruma – The Craft of India’ was born. 

Here’s a video that shares the story of the artisans, where they come from and how they create every single piece you see on Ruma Devi today: 

The objective and the vision behind Ruma - The Craft of India 

The vision of the brand is to bridge the gap between rural and urban lifestyles, giving these artisans their own platform to make a living that will help them grow in all aspects of life. 

In their own words, the vision is stated as: 

“‘From rural to urban’ – linking the artisanal community directly to the buyer community and creating awareness among the youth about ‘The Crafts of India’.”

But with bigger visions, come their own challenges 

During the pandemic, the lives of artisans came to a standstill with no fashion shows, public gatherings or events happening to sell their craftwork at. From the haats to festive seasons like Diwali and more, many artisans lost their livelihood to not getting an opportunity to present their work. 

Due to lack of digital literacy, many of the artisans that Ruma Devi worked with were not aware of the online selling portals. Right from understanding what they were to being able to showcase their art and craft, Ruma Devi had to start from scratch to provide Digital Literacy workshops. She even went a step ahead and provided artisans free of cost smartphones to get accustomed to the changing dynamics of digital. 

As the products started to take form, there were also limited sources for professional services available at ground level like photography, website development, digital marketing etc. that would help the artisans present their work in the best light. Add to that warehouse management, inventory management, website handling and the lack of funds during the pandemic, Ruma Devi faced a sea of challenges in taking the artisanal work online. 

Starting their online journey with Shopify 

The Edelgive Foundation came forward to help Ruma Devi and her initiatives take shape online. But the eCommerce platform the initial storefront was developed on, came with its own complexities and inability to scale easily with the lack of support. 

Around this time, Ruma Devi and her team were introduced to Shopify. In their own words, “When we started making our website on Shopify, we were really scared but it proved to be a blessing for all of our artisans. We are overwhelmed to be a part of Shopify.” 

With the help of Shopify’s eCommerce platform, Ruma Devi was able to set up an online store to not just showcase the products created by artisans, but also connect them to customers faster, letting them sell their products far and wide. Today, their handmade products are bought by consumers all over India through a storefront that we’re proud is a part of our family, www.rumadevi.com

ruma devi store on shopify

Apart from setting up a storefront for the artisanal work, the Shopify ecosystem also enabled Ruma Devi’s team to deliver an up-to-date customer shopping experience with the help of free apps for marketing, design and other aspects.  

As the team states, “We added free apps by Shopify which helped us increase the technological efficiency of the website to respond to what customers expected to see on the storefront. The ability to start marketing campaigns and keep track of our sales, made it easy for us to grow our online presence and optimize the strategies to reach more buyers.” 

The journey onwards and upwards 

As Ruma Devi says, “We all have a unique talent and skill. We just have to recognize it and move forward with it confidently. No work is small or big. I started this smallest thread and needle work for my own sake, but it has now changed the lives of many other women in villages. Just believe in yourself and keep on following your passion. Grab each and every opportunity you get. Do not be afraid of failures as they are just steps to our success.” 

As Ruma Devi makes an impact on the lives of many across India, and inspires everyone across the globe, here’s to a journey together for many more years to come. 

To support Ruma Devi and her initiatives to bring forward the work of women artisans, visit their store today: www.rumadevi.com

Ready to take the first step towards making your craft a source of income? Shopify is here to support your dreams! Get started by clicking here.

 

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