Saturday, March 20, 2010

Where does FAIR trade start?

Lots of lovely stitching all as distictive as a thumb print or a signature

Hmm with our group of ladies we have had interesting developments during the week…interesting what drifts in on the wings of gossip, apparently we have asked some gentleman who goes by the name of Panalal [Panalal is also the name of our friend who acts as an interpreter, and has helped us make local contact with potential stitchers]…Panalal the Second, as we refer to him, has been going around some of the villages looking for ladies to stitch and paying them a ‘FAIR’ rate that equals only half of what we pay….

A few of our initial group of ladies, I know, have been sharing their good fortune and shonw friends how to make a sample piece to see if their work is the standard we are looking for….

We noticed the time before last, of the two ladies who had done this only one noted down the value we put on their friend’s pieces work brought along….the other lady Madame X did not….Panalal the Second as it turns out resembles Madame X’s husband.

Lesson  to learn closely monitor what is happening…keep a close look out for opportunists to take advantage of your hard work and take more than their fair share for work done.

We want everyone involved in our business to get fair remuneration for the level of effort they put in…finding a little nook to scam off others along the way is not acceptable.

BUT…how to handle it…village and family hierarchy, ‘face’ is something to be aware of when working with a different cultural background…going through the lengthy process of payment we examine each item…Madame X had a huge pile most of which were not up to scratch….yet she has continually been really pushy about more money, more money, more money…. Most other ladies knew they were onto a good wicket and seemed uncomfortable with this….

Note watch body language

Last meeting I chucked a bit of a wobbly with Madame X bringing such poor quality, and hassling for money she knew it was not worth….”I Pay cash on time each time, I bring honest work….blah, blah, blah…if she did not want the work she did not have to do it….." you get the idea.

Nerves on my part…most of the other ladies kind of drew back and under their veils…then I glanced up over Madame X’s shoulder, down a tunnel of veil were two eyes shining with encouragement, discrete encouragement…from the same lady who had been noting other’s payments previously…glancing around carefully were other eyes with similar discrete looks….

The moment passed, we went onto looking at other’s work…

In this culture a lady does not raise her voice, you do not wear your heart on your sleeve and you certainly do not melt down in public…

It was a calculated risk on my part- I wanted them to realise I am not Indian, social mores or caste are not going to push me around, I am also not stupid and I am very aware of what is going on….and we are trying very hard to be fair to all.

Praveen I must admit is a bit useless in these situations, he is too much of a good Rajasthani boy and can not stand up to the ladies…would have made mince meat of men but with ladies he is chicken.

He knew what I was doing and so added a look of suitably shocked- “Fiona-ji is upset- ahh”

Anyway leaving the village became a torture of tea after that as many ladies wanted to make sure we had another, another, another cup before we left…Madame X whispered in my ear she was sorry to upset me as well.

I am glad, she is a nice lady, just taking an opportunity that presented itself without regard to others….we needed to learn to manage things to protect everyone.

Now they know I can read the stitching,
we have learnt to only give one person as much as she, herself can do and we only pay directly into the hand of the person who stitches.

Whew!! Sometimes you wonder if it can be simpler than this…I hope so.


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