My “MyMela” journey is a personal one and started when I was a child. I recall my
father’s love of art and his collection of beautiful handicrafts and antiques from
all over India. Over the years and through my travels around the world, it became
my passion to seek out indigenous artisans and support them by buying their exquisite
works of art. This was especially true during my many visits to the different regions
of India. I am constantly amazed and surprised by the unique beauty and intricate
detail of the items that these artisans create. In many cases their skills have
been passed down over generations. It is therefore especially tragic to see that
several of these artisans can no longer earn a living wage because of the lack of
local demand for their work. Every month one hears of master craftsmen forced into
giving up their craft in exchange for a life of abject poverty as unskilled workers
in India’s large urban centers. Many dedicated organizations have recognized this
problem and are making commendable efforts to help.
It was an article that my daughter, Sonali, sent me last summer that served as my
call to action. She had spent the previous four summers in India working with social
entrepreneurs, all Ashoka fellows. The article that she sent highlighted yet another
artisan group abandoning its work because of the difficulty of marketing their products.
Over the summer we thought through our business model and began to explore partnership
opportunities, and MyMela was born. With the help of some good friends we seeded
the project and we will be live in July 2011, just nine months later.
This is just the start of an incredible journey. I invite you to join in whatever
capacity you choose from purchasing and lending to artisans, to getting more actively
involved by volunteering to help further our mission. Please feel free to email
me at firstname.lastname@example.org
with your feedback, comments and ideas.
Navroze S. Mehta
Founder & CEO
Having the good fortune to be born to a privileged lifestyle in the U.S., my initial encounter with poverty occurred on my first trip to India when I was in the midst of my awkward middle school years. It occurred to me that the only thing separating me from the ragged children that I saw sleeping on the street was the fact that I happened to be born in a different place, under different circumstances.
Over the years, that realization has translated into a sense of responsibility. Since I have been fortunate enough to benefit from a system that has excluded so many others , there is nothing more productive or fulfilling for me than to work towards promoting system-changing innovation that will lead to a more equitable and sustainable world.
MyMela is the first step for me in a career that I plan to devote to empowering the world’s underserved populations. To me this is not about simply feeling bad, handing over a bag of rice and getting back on a plane home. It is about dedicating all resources available to us, whether it is brainpower or investment dollars, towards making positive social and environmental change.
My personal goal is to use every opportunity available to me to create opportunities for others who may not have been born into privilege but are no less worthy of the chance to succeed, to prosper and to become the next global leaders.
MyMela also reflects my recognition that the challenge of poverty is multifaceted and calls for interdisciplinary solutions, hence our combination of the principals of the Fair Trade and Microfinance movements. It also calls for a deep understanding of and respect for those with whom we work. My hope is that our online community will foster that important relationship of mutual understanding and respect between customer and producer, even though they are an ocean apart.
Co-Founder and President
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