Jaipur Rugs: Art That You Can Walk On
Nand Kishore Chaudhary (known as NKC) has been called 'the Gandhi of the rug industry.' Jaipur Rugs, which he founded, has 700 employees and works with 40,000 artisans from among the poorest of the poor.
He set it up in 1978 with just 2 looms and 9 artisans. The weavers come from the Untouchable class. "All my family tried to stop me," explained NKC. "But I can’t see the difference, how these people are untouchable."
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"We don’t sell carpets, we sell a family's blessing"
For 43 years Jaipur Rugs has always aspired to put people before profit. For the first 33, people in the carpet industry just didn't get it, questioned NKC’s understanding of business and doubted whether his business model could survive.
As he explained it to Doug Kirkpatrick (of Morning Star), "the weavers are making better lives for themselves. They can now provide educations for their children, make it possible for their husbands to leave the village to work, and to better their communities."
His business goal is personal development, economic self-determination and prosperity for all. "I never say that I have done any good to the weavers. It is just the opposite: They have done good to me."
Jaipur Rugs involves the ultimate in delegation. The weavers now design their own rugs, based on their community and their surroundings. Weavers are sharing details of their own lives and telling their stories through the art they are creating.
They have won major design awards and designers from the West now go to India to visit weavers and see their designs.
The rugs now come with postcards giving details of the weavers and the yarn spinners. Customers often get in touch with the individual weavers. That is real engagement between the front-line and the consumer.
Now the organisation is moving towards become fully self-managing and NKC is getting monthly coaching sessions from Jos De Blok, founder of Dutch care organisation Buurtzorg. "Don’t tell me that these people can’t manage themselves. They've already learned how to survive."
NKC is a deeply humble person. He has defined his leadership style as: "Leadership means losing oneself. The more someone loses himself, the more he can understand about society. The more I lose my ego, the more I can see the talent in my people and the society."
I don't think I have ever met an organisation so keen to learn from others. When I asked NKC to speak at our conference, he immediately asked me in turn to speak to his leadership team, and has now asked me to come back for regular sessions with them.
He was rated the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2010 for the best Start-Up internationally and was featured in CK Prahalad’s book, The fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid.
Hear from NKC at the 2021 Happy Workplaces Conference
Nand Kishore Chaudhary will be talking at the 2021 Happy Workplaces Conference on 22nd July about how we need to unlearn. We need business not to be driven from the mind but from the heart, based on love and empathy.
Other speakers include leadership gurus Tom Peters, David Marquet, Bruce Daisley and Helen Sanderson MBE.
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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer
Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.
Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.
His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.