"My artisans depend on the skill of their hands to earn their bread. I want to keep my business alive for them."
Shahnawaz Zuberi has something that many people today lack- gratitude. Both his grandfather and his father were wood carvers in Saharanpur, a quiet town in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Tough times forced his father to give up carving and take up the job of a milkman to make ends meet. Shahnawaz started helping out his family by tailoring clothes, a profession he continued for 12 years.
In 1994, he took the bold step of continuing where his father had left off bysetting up a wood carving business. He named his business, Amina Enterprises, after his mother. At first, orders weren’t easy to come by. Then someone put him in contact with Asha Handicrafts Association and Shahnawaz began dedicating himself to delivering exquisite woodwork to Asha’s clients.
His artisans work with all types of wood- sesham, papri, teak, eucalyptus and mango and combine that with brass inlay to produce pieces of furniture and other wood products reminiscent of the Mughal dynasty. Shahnawaz employs between 80-90 artisans. With Asha’s help, he ensures that all of them receive educational grants for their children, have access to medical care and are issued artisan IDs that entitle them to government benefits. Most of Shahnawaz’s artisans have been with him for over eight years- a testimony to his commitment to ensuring that his workers have greater opportunities and better working conditions than he himself did.