Family weaving rug in front of their house
I have never been interested in carpets and that changed entirely, when I met Nand Kishore Chaudhary, founder of Jaipur Rugs, the leading manufacturer of hand knotted carpets in India.
In 1978 he started the business with two looms growing until today to a company headquartered in Jaipur, operating across 6 states of India through an independent weaver base of 40,000, selling into 40 countries world wide.
A case study of Jaipur Rugs in the book “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” is stating it as an example of a social business which helps to tackle world poverty, as Jaipur Rugs has always worked with the so called “untouchables” and ignored the predominant cast system in India. Mr. Chaudhary has set up a business, where families would receive a certain design to create a carpet at their loom at home and then sell it to his business. He would then do the final work on the carpets and sell them to wholesalers. He has always related to the weavers and also learned from them. Through his business the weavers get regular carpet jobs and they are paid, what they were told.
Beneath the business numbers and the success story, there is a story of ups and downs, of learning about the unknown, of courage, believe and happiness – “university of heart wrecks” as he calls it. I was impressed when I learned that he invested most of his money and a loan to enable his daughter to learn about American consumer behavior and households in the US and to study abroad, to increase sales to US customers. He had no clue about this country (as he had never been abroad), no idea of the return of this investment and no friends with a comparable experience to relate to.
When we asked him, how he managed all the challenges of his business, he explained, that he realized, he made his decisions due to fear, desire and unconsciousness. Looking behind the scenes of each of those helped him to better understand his thinking and eventually make better decisions.
When we went to the showroom, I could not believe the beauty of the carpets. Those designs where modern, colorful and simply impressive. What I saw where not just carpets, but artworks which could have been presented in an art exhibition. It was touching to have talked to the families producing it in the very remote villages.
He has created a business, which becomes a social business since he includes people in the loop of it, which are excluded from society. His happiness, generosity and love towards life and people create an incredible culture and atmosphere in the entire company. So true, when he said: “Love is the biggest thing, it opens a door and it opens potential.” Especially in business we tend to forget about that – or we might even be afraid, to open up like he does.
Listening to him made me feel like listening to my grandmother, since I did just not want him to stop talking about life, people and business in his incredibly humble, wise and joyful way.