SETU-The Bridge To Artisans is made up of 2 teams. One team is located in Jaipur, India and is in charge of artisan & product development, production, quality control, logistics and most importantly, upholding Fair Trade practices. The other team is located in Austin, TX, USA and is in charge of product design, web control, sales and marketing operations. Because of our two international teams, SETU-The Bridge To Artisans is proudly classified as a true global company.
This section will help you learn more about the team members who strive towards better Fair Trade sourcing solutions.
India Team : Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
Rashmi : Founder & CEO
Rashmi Dhariwal is a successful textile engineer from a prestigious school in Rajasthan, India. Rashmi has worked in the past with a large manufacturing organization in India as head of Technology and Quality Assurance.
“I was brought up in a loving and protective family atmosphere, without ever realizing the hardships of life that a lot of people have to go through,” Rashmi tells the team.
Rashmi was leading an easy-going and comfortable life when she came in contact with an artisan community, who had expertise in hand weaving fine fabrics with intricate designs & motifs. Their art was beautiful, but they could not compete with the power-loom fabric available in the marketplace. While they were so good at their art, they still had no prospect of good income. The lack of access to a market and the technology-driven competition were taking their toll on the artisans and the art was dying along with their spirits. They were forcing their next generation to work as cheap laborers rather than pursue their rich art and culture. “That made me realize that there was a lot more in life and that I should try to make a difference, however small it may be,” Rashmi shared. She continued: “There had to be a bigger purpose of my being.”
Rashmi left her job and spent some time with the community, helping them design modern products and identify ways to reach the market. They designed modern products using their art and held exhibitions in various parts of the country, getting them appreciation for their art and business. This gave the artisans a lot of confidence and hope for their art. At the same time, the entire experience helped Rashmi visualize a process which could be used to support various artisans achieve economic sustainability and growth.
This was the time when she came across the concept of Fair Trade. She finds Fair Trade a perfect model of sustainable development through ethical trade and a powerful solution to the social & economic development of the marginalized & underprivileged communities, especially in the developing third world.
Inspired by this, she founded SETU-The Bridge To Artisans with the mission of empowering the social and economic standing of underprivileged artisans by providing them sustainable growth opportunities through Fair Trade practices. SETU’ in Sanskrit means `the bridge’. As indicated from the name, SETU-The Bridge to Artisans acts as a bridge between the underprivileged/marginalized artisans and the international/affluent markets, at the same time, working for social, economic and environmental well-being of the artisan community
After closely working with the artisan communities and understanding their challenges for 3 years, she also founded a charitable Society called SETU-Society for Empowerment & Trade Upliftment of Artisans. The basic aim of the Society is to perform works of charity, implement social & economic welfare projects, spread education and raise awareness regarding various issues amongst the weaker sections of the society.
“I now feel that I am finally doing justice to the purpose of my existence on this earth. Life has become much more meaningful. I enjoy each and every moment of my work. With Fair Trade, everyone can make a difference in the world, however small it may be“, tells Rashmi to the team.
Devendra : Mentor & Advisor
Devendra is a qualified engineer and management graduate, working with a multinational company as Chief Production Manager. He belongs to Jodhpur, a heritage city in Thar Desert region of Rajasthan, near Indo-Pak border.
Since his early life, he had witnessed the barren & tough life of poor villagers. He was very sensitive towards human issues. The challenges and lack of opportunity in the lives of these rural people always remained a concern area for him. “My vision was to create a fair world where everyone gets his fair piece of bread justly”, he tells the team.
To closely understand the issues and challenges of the poor villagers, he visited many remote villages on Indo-Pak border. He was shocked at the deprived state in which the people had to live in. After spending some time with them, he realized that they still practiced their beautiful traditional arts and crafts. Unfortunately, because of the lack of awareness and education, they were unable to convert their art into functional products of world’s interest and thus were losing a potential opportunity for their livelihood. “At that point I realized that there was actually a need of a bridge between them and the developed world, which can translate their art into customers’ language and bring them closer to each other”, he shares with the team. This vision of Devendra became the back bone to form an organization which could work as a bridge between the artisans & the global world and finally ‘SETU-The Bridge To Artisans’ was conceptualized.
He believes that education and economic sustainability are the only ways to end the miseries of the underprivileged and the marginalized communities. He firmly believes that there is a need to develop new resources for the artisans and make this trade more profitable and attractive. He says, “Unless we are able to attract the next generation of the artisans for practicing and continuing the traditional art of their forefathers, we cannot preserve the art. We will only be successful when a parent wishes that his child too chooses his traditional art amongst all other earning options”.
He is a strong supporter of Fair Trade and says, “I think that the best way to live is to make conscious choices about the effect we want to have on the world. And choosing Fair Trade gives us the opportunity to do just that!”
Although Devendra is not involved in the day-to-day working of SETU, he always takes out time for guidance & support to reinforce company’s policies & vision plans. He still visits artisan groups in the remotest of areas to understand their problems and to suggest possible way outs. “Whenever I take one more step towards my goal of ‘empowerment to all with fair trade’, I feel happy and relaxed. This feeling of satisfaction drives me to work more for my dream to come true”, he shares.
U.S. Team : Austin TX, USA
Manish Gupta : Sales & Business Development
Manish Gupta has a professional background in engineering and operations. He graduated from IIT, Mumbai, one of the most prestigious Engineering institution in India. He has extensive work experience as a plant manager for a chemical industry company and Operations Manager for Dell in Austin, Texas. Before working at Dell, Manish earned his Masters in Operations Management from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and is a fellow of the Tauber Institute for Global Operations. Though he found his professional life enriched by these experiences, he felt this lifestyle kept him distant from his vision of leveraging commerce to uplift the underprivileged people of the world.
While he was working at Dell, Manish came across the concept of Fair Trade. He was inspired with the conscious application of trade to facilitate development and progress, and took some time off to travel within rural India. He met a number of artisans and realized that they needed help. He comments: “There is so much sadness in those hands that create such beautiful things.” Not only were these people suffering, but a number of traditional art forms were fading away. He realized he could use his skills and opportunities to create a difference in their lives, and at the same time create a fulfilling path for him. That is when he visualized a company with the mission of empowering underprivileged people in the world by reinforcing local economies through just and responsible practices. That is when he decided to join hands with SETU, an organization with the mission of empowering underprivileged people in the world by acting as a bridge between Artisans and the global market.
He leads the Marketing operations and is in charge of the overall business development.
“This has been an enjoyable journey”, he says smiling. He has had the opportunity to work with a number of great people in this industry, learning something from each one of them. “We are making a difference in lives of artisans everyday and, at the same time, engaging more and more people in this movement of social responsibility” he tells the rest of the team, “but we still have a lot more to do!” Indeed, he has set a great goal for SETU: to make Fair Trade a mainstream and sustainable business model. He is coming closer to this goal with the help of an exceptional team of professionals. Manish also serves on the board of directors for the Fair Trade Federation.
Ruchi Agarwal : Design & Product Development
Ruchi is an award-winning graduate from the “National Institute of Fashion Technology”, Hauz Khas, Delhi. Before joining SETU, she worked for labels like Zara, Guru, Mango and Ritu Beri.
Born and brought up in India, Ruchi has closely worked with various art styles and traditional crafts from different regions of India. While studying these crafts, she learned about Fair Trade and how it could help a great number of people achieve economic sustainability. She is now in-charge of design and product development of SETU US office, creating products aligned with the trends of the North American market, yet rich with traditional art.
“I really love and appreciate SETU’s commitment towards quality, art and sustainability”, Ruchi shares with the team. Keeping art and tradition alive are principles close to her heart, and SETU helps her support this cause. At the same time, she is able to help artisans bring their art into the modern world by designing functional products.