An Indigenous Brand

An empowering company creating new livelihoods in Creative and Cultural Industries amongst skilled but economically vulnerable communities of India. JIYO! – a design-led initiative of the Asian Heritage Foundation – signifies the arrival of India’s Swadeshi (Indigenous) Brand for the 21st Century.

The Jiyo! Story

India’s rural artisans and craftspeople are among the country’s greatest creative and cultural resources and are a vital part of the Indian economy. Yet despite their substantial contributions, rural artisans and craftspeople have been largely left out of India's explosive economic growth and remain among the poorest groups in the country. These groups are comprised mostly of women and the elderly - many of whom are landless, illiterate, scheduled castes and tribes and religious minorities living at the bottom of the social and economic pyramid. Due to the lack of sustainable employment opportunities in their local communities, many of them have been forced to abandon their skilled legacy trades and migrate to urban areas in search of consistent employment – often living in slums and taking any work they can reasonably obtain to support themselves and their families. Those who chose to remain in the local crafts trade are often exploited by middle men and export shops and are forced to supplement their income through other unsteady, low paying jobs on farms or construction sites, or in factories.

Jiyo was conceived by Rajeev Sethi, one of India’s top scenographers and the founder of the Asian Heritage Foundation (AHF), a Delhi-based charitable organisation preserving and showcasing the creative and cultural industries of South Asia. While spending his 45+ year career working with diverse artisan and craft communities across the country, Rajeev recognized the pressing need for new grassroots models providing necessary training, markets and funding access for these communities. 

In 2007, AHF embarked on a $1.72 million, 3-year pilot project funded by the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) and administered by the World Bank.  This pilot project brought artisans together into cluster organizations (also called Sanghas) grouped by skill set in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, two Indian states with high concentrations of rural poor. Intensive institutional capacity building and design skills upgradation were then provided to the artisans in these clusters, with an emphasis on re-positioning their traditional skills through design-led product development. The pilot culminated in the launch of Jiyo! as a dynamic, new Swadeshi (indigenous) brand with 3 categories of handmade products:  Jiyo FoodJiyo Style and Jiyo Home.

In 2014, AHF received a second grant fund of  $2.89 million funded by the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) and administered by the World Bank  for implementing a project titled"Creating Inclusive Business models   in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha"  to expand its activities in three new states and continue supporting the Community organizations in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Telangana.

All Jiyo! products are made locally in the clusters and combine traditional artisan techniques with contemporary design. As part of its larger vision, Jiyo Next, Jiyo! plans to offer additional products and services in the creative and cultural industries of India to preserve and promote the work of rural artisans and craftspeople.