#Interviews

Nushaura Candles Are Lighting Up The Future Of Women Artisans

nushaura candles, tanushree jain nushaura
Five years ago, when Tanushree Jain moved from Rajasthan to Delhi to pursue her Masters, she witnessed a perceptible shift in her health. The national capital lived up to its notoriety as a polluted smokehouse and affected the 20-year-old’s hair, breathing and being. Having heard of the wonders aromatherapy candles are said to work, Jain tried her hand at making some of her own. That was when the first seeds of Nushaura Candles were sown.

“I started my venture with ten artisans,” Jain, now 25, tells SheThePeople in an interview. “I wanted to support them in their journey to be financially independent.” From ten, her candle-making community has now grown to 250 women, primarily from 15 villages across Rajasthan. 40 widows from Madhya Pradesh have also joined the team.

“I onboarded a candle-making expert who trained the artisans, and me as well,” she says.

When her computer science engineering college peers were preparing to suit up for fancy 9-5 jobs, Jain knew her heart and future lay in grassroots work. She is the first-generation entrepreneur in her family of service sector employees and holds her mother up as an inspiration for social work and enterprise.

“My mother is a teacher around villages and government schools, and has taught students from marginalised families where parents are artisans. Establishing trust with them was not hard for me,” she says. Those women from rural communities who went on to join Jain’s venture are now skilled experts in their art.

nushaura candles

An artisan working at her candle-making process for Nushaura

They don’t have to travel far or worry about logistics when making candles, Jains says. Homes are their offices.

In Rajasthan, the society is so patriarchal that many families don’t allow women to work, and more so travel for it. So, Nushaura supplies raw materials at their doorstep and has formed self-help groups for these women. Jaise ye apne ghar pe rotiyaan banati hain, vaise candles bhi banati hain.

Usha, a 36-year-old artisan from Kalwad village in Rajasthan, is married and has three children – two daughters and a son. She has been with Nushaura for three years now. “Bahar jaake kaam karte toh gharwaale bolte, par ghar se kaam karte hain toh koi kuch nahi bolta,” she tells SheThePeople over call. “Ghar baithke paise kamaa rahe hain, sab khush hain. Support karte hain. Bohot badhiya kaam hai.”

Seeing her earn an income, she says around 23 women from her village joined her in making candles. Usha leads the community with decision making, feedback, conflicts and leadership.

Nushaura Candles And Financial Independence For Rural Women

Though Jaipur-based Jain did not have professional training in either candle-making or entrepreneurship, she did have experience in social work prior to beginning Nushaura. “When I was in my final year of college in 2016, I started working with small shopkeepers and artisans and helped them showcase their ventures on e-commerce platforms in 2016. I made up my mind then that I didn’t want to work an IT job but work with people since that’s what makes me happy.”

She is now leading her business on a model that believes in mutual benefit. At Nushaura, artisans are shareholders.

The profit is shared equally between the artisan and the business, Jain says. For example, earnings of Rs 100 will be divided 50-50 between the artisan and the business. Each artisan is able to earn Rs 2000 or upwards each month.

Customers, meanwhile, are often not able to believe Nushaura’s exquisite-looking products are hand-made by artisans!

So what does a regular day at Nushaura look like? “We were experimenting with soy wax today. It’s difficult to make candles with soy wax in this weather so we were trying with vanaspati ghee. We have to complete an order today too, so we’re working on that,” Jain says.

nushaura candles

Jain training artisans on decision making and conflict resolution

On Facing Up To The Pandemic And Realising Women’s Leadership Value

Though things are better now, the first pandemic year wasn’t so easy for the candle-making enterprise. Tight delivery restrictions led to reduced orders which in turn led to a thinning of the cash flow. Jain says artisans were also reluctant to take in-person training from city people, who they thought would bring the virus to their remote, safe villages.

“We adapted and went virtual with candle exhibitions and used influencer marketing to platform our products. To continue training classes for our artisans, we supplied them with smartphones. And to keep some cash coming, we even began manufacturing sanitisers and masks. I found that the B2B model worked better for us than the B2C one, so we switched.”

Jain even put together a makeshift candle workshop on her terrace for artisans who wanted a place to work during the pandemic.

Leadership at Nushaura is something that not just Jain is spearheading solo. Within these artisan groups, there is a network of grassroots ‘sanginis’ – women with leadership qualities assigned the task of binding and taking everyone forward together. “We are even giving incentives to women who are making the best candles.”

There is much that Jain strives to do, going ahead. Besides boosting financial independence for women artisans from marginalised communities, she plans on getting deeper into research behind the science linking candles and air purification. Plans to kickstart general public training sessions for candle-making are also in the works.

“This is my place and I’m happy to be here,” Jain gushes. “I work with women a lot and know they have the potential to be so much more than they are. Everyone has the element of greatness in them. They just need to unfold it.”

Images via Tanushree Jain


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