Passion for Empowering Women

Cochin, India-based Anooja Nair's online enterprise Rareitis offers rural women weavers and artisans their hard work's worth and also acts as a platform for urban women to buy handlooms and artifacts

The Womenz team had an opportunity to interview Ms. Anooja Nair- Founder Rareitis and here’s what she shared with us

What circumstances prompted you to become a teacher?

Teaching had always been my passion since childhood. After my graduation and post-graduation, I opted for a teaching job, when the IT industry was still at its early stage and there were huge demand for IT professionals in the corporate world. I am still a teacher, only the role has changed. I consider the young people working with me at rareitis as my students and I guide them on their job to shape their future with the same compassion.


What did you discover about the young generation's likes and dislikes, and how did that help you understand their needs?

The young talents, fresh from universities are like budding flowers ready to bloom. They are full of energy and vigour. They have lots of ideas and are abreast with the technological advances. One needs to give them a patient ear to understand their potential, likes and interest and streamline their energy accordingly, to help them discover themselves.

What challenges did you face while launching your own enterprise?

My research of almost a year about the Indian Handlooms and artifacts before the actual work on the website included the kind people involved, their difficulties, the places they belong to and the existing supply chain. So when we went to meet the artisans and weavers in the remote areas of almost all the states of India, we were prepared about the challenges from each place. Educating these rural populace on the merits of an online marketplace, teaching them how to use this platform to their advantage was of course a challenge, however it was much easier than we thought. The rural India seems like already on the path of becoming the digital India. They are not much untouched about the technological advancements and are keen to learn and change. The other challenges I faced were making a website distinct to others, getting the right talent pool and the fund to run the show till we reach self-sustenance mode.   

Anooja Nair, monitoring and guiding the weaver 

Tell us about the inspiration behind the genesis of rareitis?

Four years back, a chance visit to an Artifact emporium in Mumbai looking for Aranmula Kannadi (A rare metal artform from Kerala) and not finding one, put me thinking about the need of a global market for these rare arts which one can buy from anywhere, anytime.


As an online market place for rare ethnic products, how has been the customer response?

We are in the early stage, still the responses are encouraging and its gradually increasing.  However, as I said, the fund for marketing and reaching our target audience is the key

As a woman, did you face any hurdles in your journey so far?  If yes, how you faced and conquered them?

Today, women if she desires can take on any challenge provided she has a firm belief in it. I don’t recall much of any hurdle as such. The handloom and artifacts industry has lot of rural women involvement and may be that is also a reason. I meet lot of people and interact with them. Never, have I wanted to impose on them that I am a women and I look forward to any special treatment of favour. May be this attitude has helped me to ignore any hurdle in case if there had been. 

Anooja Nair at one of the loom at Balaramapuram, India

How do you procure such a wide variety of products from different states?

We travel to all these places looking for rare art forms from every Indian state. Initially, I used to travel alone with my husband. Now we have a dedicated team led by my partner Aravind R V, which goes to all the remote places finding these jewels of India. We have extensively travelled in many states like Rajasthan, Delhi, UP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Orissa, Andhra, Telangana, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. We do write interesting blogs about our travelogue in our website for our customers to understand the history behind, and place of origin of each of these products.


What are some of the outstanding qualities of artefacts and handloom products that are appreciated most?

No two products are ever alike. This is an inherent property of any handloom and artefact. Every product is a masterpiece and unique in it’s own right which transcends the craftsman’s idea into a beautiful piece of art. These products themselves are a brand in itself, like Kanchipuram saree, Paithani Saree, Banarasi Saree, Pashmina shawl, Bidriware, Dhokra, Aranmula Kannadi etc.


How have local artisans from different states benefited financially from rareitis?

We have a very transparent pricing system. The sellers put their price directly on the website which enables them to get the worth of their product. This is very unique of rareitis.


What is the creative role rareitis plays in the selection of raw materials, fabrics, metals, designs, colours, texture, etc?

We have a two stage screening process before registering a Seller on the website. The process involves details of the raw material used, vendor verification, quality checks and parameters, dyeing procedures, storage & packaging, process hygiene, cleanliness and social responsibility like avoiding child labour. In most cases, we visit their workshop and meet the people involved. We collect the feedbacks from our customers, and also from select designers, which are then passed on to the weavers and craftsmen with whom we try finding ways and means to incorporate them to enhances the product quality, look & feel without much affecting cost and productivity. We also work on process refinement to save time, cost and increase productivity.

One of the products offered by rareitis

What is the mode you choose to give more exposure to your products, such as exhibitions, fashion shows, etc?

Presently we are promoting on social media and online platforms. We have plans for exhibitions, road shows and fashion shows in the future. We also plan to associate with the various government bodies to run joint programs for the welfare of the weavers and artisans.


How would you justify your claim that 'if it's here, it's original'?

Our two stage screening process as mentioned above ensure the originality of the product showcased in our website.


Any future expansion plans?

Very soon we are introducing new product lines like paintings, books and kids wear.


Please tell us your views on the women leadership & providing her with equal opportunities?

There had been huge changes for women in terms of employment in past decade or so. Yet they are far from equal to men when it comes to opportunities. Though there had been some path breaking success stories of women leadership, yet when it comes gender equality, it is still uneven at many work places. Apart from the efforts from the Union and state governments, I believe lot of NGOs and self-help groups are also doing a good job in this field, particularly in empowering the rural women. Still at the ground level, we see much of these programs are still lacking the required thrust and reach. Rareitis is my bit of women empowerment, where I try to give the rural women their hard work’s worth who are generally the weavers and artisans and also a platform for the urban women to buy their product of choice directly, and pass on a direct benefit to their fellow women in the rural India.

Ms. Anooja Nair 

Your message to other women who are struggling to  prove themselves

Believe in yourself. Nothing is impossible if you have your eyes set on it.

Ms. Anooja Nair, we at TheWomenz team express our earnest appreciation for sharing your unique story with us. We believe it will surely stimulate fellow women in every country and continent in the world.

Here is an introductory video shared by Ms. Annoja Nair

First Published: 09-Jul-2017- 18:00