Buyer Empowerments

Buyer Empowerments

May 10, 2021

I. The game changer: “It’s not us. It’s them. Train them.”

“I can educate myself to make organic, pure, sensitive textiles but who will buy if the buyer is kept uneducated? What is the point of singing songs that they cannot understand? They will choose what is cheap, looks good and convenient. Educate buyer and we will automatically be empowered. Empower buyer and we will not be compelled to make synthetic and cheap mass produced textiles. They want it. We make it because they buy it. Its not us. Its them. Train them.

― A grassroots artisan from Abaali, Arunachal Pradesh (2012)

II. The realisation: Empowering the buyer, empowers the makers by default.

I self-checked. She was right. Buyer’s every decision directly impacts the maker. Empowering the buyer, empowers the makers by default.

I felt stupid standing in front of this common sense that if we keep the focus constantly on the maker’s empowerment but a buyer remains untrained, then this cycle is fragile and short-term.

So often,

Powerloom is bought as handloom.
Chemical dyes bought as natural dyes.
Mill spun yarn bought as hand spun.
Too much product. Too cheap price.
“Good deal. Good bargain.”
“Good for gifts”
“Too expensive. Very few choices.”
“ Artisan did not bargain to lesser price so I did not buy.”
“Artisan did not look poor. Seems like he/she is earning enough”
“Many similar textiles are available for much cheaper. You got cheated”

Misconceptions. Mistrust. Mismatch.

We often do not realise that we make impulsive decisions in the absence of tools to make the right decision. We are ill-informed. We perhaps want to make the right choices, but there is not enough transparent information to enable an informed decision. And sometimes, there are few buyers who just do not want to know so much. Because the act of buying is treated as mindless therapy and not a conscious decision.


The trend of philanthropy-based marketing does not leave room for real context to surface. Current idea of “handmade marketing” treats artisans as a problem that we need to resolve. Artisans are being seen as poor, voiceless and under privileged. The visual image of a helpless and needy artisan being helped by a buyer is a cherished charity. Often, our decision is also based on quick burst of nationalism provoked by Swadeshi terms attached to textiles. And then we make emotional decisions to buy things based on that emotional chord presented to us. No further questions asked. We suddenly “feel good”. We buy without much knowledge, feeling good about “making a difference”.

Sometimes, a buyer comes home feeling fooled. Sometimes, even cheated for having made a wrong decision. This frustration of a buyer is real. When we are unable to match our intention with our action, that helplessness is also real. Every moment of doubt and confusion that a buyer feels standing at the threshold of making a decision attributes to the fact that the buyer is not empowered yet.

Gullibility? Vulnerability?

Many organisations work tirelessly, looking after the interest of the artisans, uplifting them. Yet invariably pushing down further marginalisation while worshipping the patrons so as to keep their project/ mission sustainable. They are dependent on the patrons to get funds to keep their mission running and for that the poverty of the artisan or “dying craft” is the key theme. Most others themes diminish in relevance. “Saving Artisan” is a more popular narrative than “collaborating with the artisan”.

Somehow, a strange notion is clinging to the artisans in India, like working with artisans should not be a fun thing. It should always only be a “serious and noble” thing. Like an entrepreneur working with artisans is somehow less capable of being a good human than a “craftivist”, artivist, NGO or other philanthropist organisations.

Sometimes, I feel the country still delves in the post-colonial, newly independent sentiment of free India championing their “freedom fighting”. I also smell prevalence of casteism in the way modern India is still dealing with the artisans. When I self-check, I see that I cannot constantly be in this narrative of a war-zone hero. The war is over. India has been “independent” for very long time. I cannot politicise textiles with the same old deplorable repetition. In my head, that old setting is redundant, obsolete. Now, we are in new political setting that determines the new cultural setting.

Are there any of you who feel like this, sometimes?

As a facilitator and a middle person between the makers and the buyers, I am unable to see myself walk with the old theme. I cannot see buyers and facilitators as saviours. I cannot walk heavy with this self-chosen baggage.
Craft is still here. That is what I want to enable. I want to make a bridge. But I don’t want to carry and drag when someone can be given tools to walk. I know I must keep myself light or I will burn out with all the concepts and then I will be of no real use.


III. The decision: Remain useful and harmless, while being fun and fearless.

To keep myself useful, I shifted my attention to empowering buyers through Mora. An artisan is not always naive. Artisans when allowed to speak for themselves often display deep wisdom. I shifted my attention to translating this wisdom to the buyer. To my eyes, the problem of craft economy is not the maker. They are niche skill and knowledge banks, how can they be the problem? They are the only remaining solution. To keep them as a problem is the problem. Why “support, save, revive” the skill when a buyer can clearly “celebrate, rejuvenate and elevate” the skill!

“We are from the jungle, we are not “junglee”.
“We are not poor. We have limited resources.”
“We are not dependent on craft. We are dependent on farming.”
“We are not full-time makers. We are full-time farmers.”
“You cannot look at us as hungry and needy. We do not fall under the caste system of mainland India that puts a craftsmen at the bottom. In our land, we don’t need to be saved.”
“Modern life has created need for earning money. School, hospital and religion all need money. We earn to take care of those needs. For everything else, we are self-reliant and sufficient.”
“Your guidance helps us. But it helps you more.”
“Make a good bridge, if you want to help us.”
“We are indigenous. We are not just traditional.”
“Our tradition is dying, just like everywhere else the world is changing. But it is not dead yet. We are alive.”

- words from artisans that I came face to face with in North East India, Ladakh and Nepal

Their repetition offered a decision.

I decided to drop my egocentric training, and choose a path to remain most useful and harmless while being “fun and fearless”. (I received Cosmopolitan Award for being “Fun and fearless woman of the year 2011”. Somehow, this term stayed with me. I realise that they are not necessarily my best choices of words.)

I see that empowerment and marginalisation is less to do with poverty and riches, and more to do with power and insecurity. The foundation of empowerment is laid upon giving the right of decision-making through open and transparent knowledge. And marginalisation is maintained by altering Identity and the construed narrative of the marginalised.

I decided that I want to use Mora as a platform to create a bridge of informed choices. When the buyer has the means to celebrate a skill, then empower the buyer with terms, nuances, tools to choose their mora, most objectively. The authenticity should be the inner driving motor above all other short cuts. Money transactions should not be the only “stats and facts” that a buyer should be made aware of.

So, I told myself to get up. Walk the Walk. Do the “work”. Enjoy the unsteady road. Have fun learning. Share the insights. Share “as it is”. Refocus to the real problem. Tell the story with the facts. Educate. Always remember that observations are always subjective. Leave the drama. Looks at solution. Move. Move out of the bottle necks. Don’t be naive and emotional. Be informed. Be smart. Remain objective to other’s choices. Just state what you know. Observe human behaviour. Learn that any extreme is a lop-sided view. Offer the spectrum. Let the choices unfold.


IV. The definition: Knowing that a buyer changes the course of a product with each decision is empowerment.

I choose the word buyer and no other.
And I choose the word empowerment and no other.

Buyer: The one who chooses to buy. And in the process offers resources to the seller that changes the course of that product in the world.

Empowerment: “the act of granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts which enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness”.

“It is the degree of autonomy and self-determination which enables them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. It is the process of becoming stronger and more confident”, especially in re-claiming one’s life.

“Empowerment as a concept, which is characterised by a move away from a deficit-oriented towards a more strength-oriented perception.”

“If the path of peace is a path of introspection, the path of empowerment is one of extrospection — the act of using your place in the world as a vehicle for self-expression.”

When we combine the descriptions of these two words that we find apt, we get the definition of Buyer Empowerment that describes our subjective need of understanding.

V. The guide: Buyer empowerments to choose your mora

This year with Mora 2021, each of the textiles will carry:

  1. Name
  2. Code
  3. Title
  4. Story
  5. Buyer Empowerments
  6. Credits and acknowledgements

Each textile will have a separate page carrying a unique name with a unique code. There will be a title that will share the highlight of the textile. And then there will be a story that contains the observations, techniques and insights that I accumulated over these years. After section on buyer empowerments, there will be a list of credits and names of the key makers, collaborators and facilitators.

For buyer empowerments, each textile will carry features of the process, product and person that will give the buyer an elaborate peep into information organised in an easy to understand table form.
When empowerments from all the textiles of Mora 2021 are put together, the buyers will observe a spectrum. To the one seeking, a guide to make choices will be revealed. The parameters of this spectrum are as follows:

Indigenous product: Details of community, tribe, weave

Design philosophy

Textile Innovation, Design interventions

one of a kind

Sari- no fall/beading required- back finished done- ready to wear









Ahimsa Eri silk

Eri silk

Muga silk

Paat Silk

Mulberry silk



Sheep wool

Yak wool

Foraged from jungles- flora based

Cultivated in small scale gardens- flora based

Mass Cultivation/ Plantations-- flora based

Reared at home- fauna based

Mass Rearing/ Sericulture- fauna based

Industrial Manufacturing- fauna based



By splitting individually

By carding/ retting

Drop spindle & hand spun

Charkha spun/ Ambara Charkha spun

Mill spun



Back strap loom

Throw shuttle

Jacquard loom

Fly shuttle loom

Power loom

Hand stitched

Manual Sewing Machine

Electric Sewing machine



For sub zero weather

cold weather

Moderate cold weather

Pleasant- not warm not cold

Warm weather

Hot weather

Thermal insulation- good for all temperature zones






Dry Clean only

Shade dry

Sun dry

Flat dry

Hang dry


Not fragile


Thermal insulation

UV protection

Moisture Absorption

Made from nature. Back to nature

Presence of chemical in dyes. Chances of micro particle disposal.

Degrees of biodegradability

Waste sensitivity- up cycling

Mora’s direct connect with artisan

Produced in rural household with mora

Upcycled from fabric scrap- Patchwork

Support to other makers- sourced textiles

Minimmal Overheads- Optimisation

Farmer-Householder- Artisan- Artisan in available time- supporting farming lifestyle

No deadline/ pressure based work environment

Slow production- slow movement

Made at home

Made by hands

Artisan as artist not craft-labour

Reverse pyramid model

Intentional Non-injury

No bargaining with artisans

The buyer may also want to know that Mora has enthusiastically repaired, reworked any making errors related to stitching, bead work, tassels and zippers that appeared over these years and will continue to do so. Even down the years, if any of the stitches rip off, beads fall off, zippers give away, tassels wear off, Mora assures you of a lifetime of “warranty”. I will soon be doing a detailed post regarding Mora’s lifetime warranty against defects in material and workmanship. Through this post, I will also share my intention on what makes me give this empowerment of warranty to a Mora buyer who wishes to enjoy a long journey with their Mora. My heart says, as along as Mora sustains, your Mora will be looked after.


VI. The fundamental: The buyer has tools to self-study their driving motor for decision making

With empowerments, the buyers can choose their Mora mindfully, based not only on aesthetics and costing but actually on the parameters of judgement that match their intent. For some they may matter, for some they may not make any sense. Though my decision is to put it out there so one can refer to it as and when they need. This gives buyer the tools to self-study their driving motor for decision making. And what values form their individual journey of choice.

Each textile will lay out its inner and outer constitution using the descriptions in these tables, revealing the level of intricacy contributed into making the textile. Every letter that I add to the blog section will carry details on the back-end process of Mora. All these essential cues of information reveal fundamental questions of a buyer-seller-maker relationship- where am I spending my money? Who is it going to? Is it my money’s worth? Am I doing the right thing? What is my contribution?

To those who are really seeking will see through the details.


VII. The study: See through the question, “Its expensive. How much percentage of the cost is actually going to the maker?”

This is not a one line-explains all answer. Especially for a product like mora where no two Mora are alike.

So, sometimes I respond by saying, “35% of my life already given to the artisans. And this percentage will only increase over time."

Mora engages with diverse textiles, communities, geographies. To have one statement that suffices this intent and action will be oversimplifying the complexity. So, I retain the complexity by simplifying its narration and segregation, making it self explanatory. I like to offer descriptive details. Most often, I am criticised for giving too many details. But to the one who likes to study, what is too much detail?

I believe, through informed skepticism, we can become able enough to see through the process, product and person, and find answers to all our concerns. And begin to free ourselves from the realm of doubt, fear, suspicion, protection, mistrust and ambiguity. Then, we will no more need to put ourselves and the seller through the unnecessary, repetitive and often suspicious heart burn by asking a question like “how much percentage of it has actually gone to the artisan?”

A facilitator is the bridge. One cannot constantly walk the bridge without trusting it. Check the bridge. See if you can trust it. Then walk it. Make a decision. Own it. Buyer empowerment is indeed about enabling a buyer to step out of “transaction” zone and step into “transaction with trust” and “trust with transaction” zone.

It is a skill to see with maturity and sincere curiosity the process of another human being.

An empowerment. A beginning towards “good wonder”.

Most useful and harmless, while being “fun and fearless”.

VIII. The vision: If the end is artisan sustainability, then the means to that end is buyer’s sensitivity

Mora envisions that the artisans must be duly represented as Teachers, who have the ability to contribute to country’s craft based economy. They have the ability to voice a solution with their own ancient wisdom.
Mora endeavours to bring about this shift of understanding in the buyer’s conscience. And nudge the buyer to look again with new eyes at the artisan with no hierarchy, with no notion to save and protect, with only wonder and potential, through creative and functional, into their method and madness.

Mora nudges the buyer to step out of any saviour’s abyss they may have accidentally stepped into, and take a joyous dive into the ocean of craft. Enjoy the craft. Try to look beyond transactional approach during any interaction with an artisan. Would you bargain with a teacher or an artist?
If we wish that the end is Artisan sustainability, then the only means to that end is Buyer’s sensitivity. Mora upholds this bridge of understanding through informative exchange on our decade old Facebook’s community page. Mora by Ritika

Slowly but surely, Mora’s Facebook page has grown into an organic community of more than 22000 people. I imagine all of you resonating in this moment with the freedom with which I express these words to you. My lungs feel a gust of fresh air just thinking, “what a beautiful huge group of sensitive buyers we can be!”

IX. The insight: A nudge to your gentle heart

The time spent looking at an artisan at work is the time most gently spent. When the life spiral keeps spinning, one thing that has ability to bring us back to here and now is a handcraft. The one who immerses in handcraft knows from experience how a handcraft interacts with the mind.

I often wonder, how did artisans become a community to “save”? The artisans have saved my heart. They told me, be steady. They steady their heart most nonchalantly. The company of artisans evokes a wish for sincere learning.

I nudge you with all my heart to all your heart, dear fireflies, to not look to me like “Ritika is helping the artisans.” Shift the narrative and say “Ritika is living with the artisans. Learning from them. Being their student.” Keep me young. Keep me light through your narrative. And I assure you, these lungs, heart, and limbs will take me a long way. And I will take you along. As I have always done.

You call me a saviour and I will sink!

You keep me a baby of these mountain people and I will hop, jump and fly like them.

Turn around, look at them again. Look at me again. Look at us with with all our flaws and mistakes. Look at us with all our vision that is still blurred. Look at us with all the promises we have not yet kept. Look at us with all our trials and errors. And how much distance we still need to walk. Look at us as how incomplete we still are. That we are still a work in progress. That we have the potential to change as we are still “becoming”.

Change the narrative. Nudge others to change the narrative. They are not a problem we are here to solve. They are just as any one of us, living with their unique problems and unique solutions.

Empowerment is an attempt towards genuine, sincere empathy. A life lightly lived.

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. 
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. 
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. 
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. 

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig. 
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. 

So throw away your baggage and go forward. 
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, 
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. 
That’s why you must walk so lightly. 
Lightly my darling, 
on tiptoes and no luggage, 
not even a sponge bag, 
completely unencumbered.”

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