How Jhumkee Iyengar Provided Jobs for Rural Housewives with her Brand ‘Ohrna’

Ohrna Instamojo spotlight story
(Last Updated On: October 6, 2020)

You are never too old to chase your dreams.

Jhumkee Iyengar, who started her dream business ‘Ohrna’ at the age of 57,  has changed the lives of several previously unskilled rural women and given them an opportunity to become financially independent.

This is the exclusive Ohrna story for all aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to give back to society and make the world a better place.

” Ohrna is a social enterprise focused on creating organic, sustainable products that enable financial independence in homebound women and preserve time-honoured crafts. Our unique designs in embroidered jute combined with regional cotton create contemporary products with a touch on the traditional.” – Jhumkee

Ohrna and the Power of Jute

Jhumkee Iyengar is a Product Designer and the Founder of Ohrna. While carrying out a little research before starting her small business, she dusted off her stitching and sewing skills and conducted workshops in rural areas to know how to educate and provide jobs for the sector.

Jhumkee Iyengar
Jhumkee Iyengar – Founder of Ohrna

Jhumkee’s inspiration? Her aunt, who trained the women of the Adivasi community the same way Jhumkee is doing so with Ohrna’s employees.

Her aunt’s love for Jute, a fibre which is very popular in India, gave Jhumkee an idea.

“Jute is a popular Indian fibre, but it is not too popular in the west. So, my prime focus was to make my products mainly using Jute. From tote bags to purses and other daily use objects, it was a slow, yet rewarding process.” – Jhumkee

Jhumkee Iyengar Ohrna Tote bag
A beautiful Jute Tote bag made by the Ohrna team

How Ohrna provided jobs to a village of unskilled women

Jhumkee works with women from the rural regions of Satara and Dhayari in Maharashtra. She travels to the villages and converses with the women, trains them to stitch, sew and design.

Ohrna women workers

She took a slightly different approach when it came to finding artisans for her brand. Instead of seeking out skilled artisans to help her speed up production, she took the time to find women who stayed home and trained them to stitch, sew and make the Ohrna products.

This was no easy task.

“ I want to help give the women Financial Independence through jobs where they could soon become self-sufficient. I spent hours providing free training for these women. That way, they learn a new skill and also earn money from the products they make for Ohrna.” – Jhumkee

While her inspiration may have been her aunt, the women from the village keep her business spirit alive, along with their eagerness to learn skills and use them to create Ohrna products.

Ohrna women
The women of Ohrna hard at work

Ohrna trained over 15 women, and Jhumkee’s 5-year plan for her business involves empowering them to make creative decisions for the organisation.

” I want to employ more than 100 women and help them understand the design and the technicalities it involves. I want to create an exhibition team that manages and sells our products, interacts with customers and networks confidently!” – Jhumkee, for her company’s future visions.

The Journey of Ohrna – from exhibitions to the Instamojo online store

Jhumkee Iyengar started her entrepreneurial journey with Ohrna in 2017 and the brand was launched first in the USA. She saw a great opportunity to showcase Indian Jute, textiles and crafts to a western audience.

“ Only when you get out of India, do you realise how rich India’s culture and heritage is. I met artisans who lamented that our time-honoured handicrafts like Kantha, will get lost forever, if not marketed and promoted enough.” – Jhumkee

Jhumkee has showcased her products at the NYNow exhibition in New York and at the time, was the only Indian store selling products there. She realised she was representing not just Ohrna, but India too!

Ohrna Products
An exhibition of Ohrna’s products

Soon, India began to take notice too.

Bringing Ohrna to India with our online store

Jhumkee wrote to the organisers of ‘Bhimthadi Jatra’, a Pune exhibition for Indian handicrafts.

Ohrna made it’s first India launch in December 2019.

“The women who make these products are the face of Ohrna, so I got them to stand at the stall and sell. It was a whole new experience for them!”

The artisans got an opportunity to directly interact with customers, share their stories, receive feedback on their work, and make sales.

The lockdown urged Jhumkee to look for online e-commerce platforms to sell Ohrna’s products to her new Indian base of customers.

“ A friend recommended Instamojo to me, and honestly, it was a blessing! We set up our online store and got to sell our products via Instamojo.” – Jhumkee

A Lesson on Sustainability from Ohrna’s team

Ohrna’s core motto is ‘responsible design’ and they choose people over products, and no item is mass-produced.

“We pack our products in old sarees and ship it to our customers globally.” – Jhumkee

OHRNA’S sustainable cloth packaging

You are only as old as your business

Despite travelling the world and gaining global acclaim for her brand, Jhumkee Iyengar still has days where she asks herself ‘Should I be taking on so many risks right now?’

However, she is happier than ever with her decision to pursue the entrepreneur route with Ohrna. Yes, the challenges are plenty, but the rewards are much better.

“ You are never too old to start your own business. It’s advisable as well because you are now wiser and better prepared for risks, both financial and operational. Keep cash reserves handy, do not dig deep into your personal finances. ”

We couldn’t agree more! If you have a dream business and never got the time to make it a reality, now is your time to shine. Simply set up your online store on Instamojo in 2 minutes and we will help you take your business forward.

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