In today’s environment-conscious world, when tradition, innovative design and sustainability come together it makes for an ideal fusion that cuts wastage and nurtures livelihoods. The rug industry may not be much talked about at green summits, but it is estimated that it loses billions of dollars in wasted yarn every year, with the surplus either incinerated or dumped in landfills.

Jaipur Rugs, one of India’s largest manufacturers of hand-knotted rugs, is trying to cut wastage and use the surplus yarn to make innovative products. The company has its footprint in 600 villages across five states and works with over 40,000 artisans, 80 per cent of whom are women.

Yogesh Chaudhary, director, Jaipur Rugs, explains the company’s effort at using wasted yarn: “We started a unique initiative where leftover yarn batches are hand-spun and woven into uniquely designed rugs. We have called it the ‘Manchaha’ collection.”

According to him, the leftover yarn from weaving is not enough to make a regular rug or carpet. Instead of being dumped, it is now packed in sacks and sent to weavers, who use it to weave unique designs. The designs are exclusive as no other rug can be made in similar patterns and colours. For the buyer it becomes a unique designer item.

Apart from being a sustainable initiative, the Manchaha collection encourages creativity among artisans. It also fetches additional income, particularly for the women artisans, thereby transforming local lives. They not only get recognition, as the rugs are sold in over 70 countries, but some of them get a chance to interact with the buyers as well.

In yet another initiative, Freedom Manchaha, prisoners in Jaipur, Bikaner and Dausa jails in Rajasthan get to design their own rugs on the loom.

From humble beginnings in 1978, when Chaudhary started with just two looms and nine artisans in Churu, Rajasthan, Jaipur Rugs has now grown to 7.000 looms. Nine years spent by the company during the 1970s in training over 2,500 people from the tribal community in Rajasthan has played an important role in its growth.

The material for the rugs includes wool, silk, bamboo, silk jute and cotton. These are procured from various locations including Bikaner and New Zealand. The wool is then sorted and hand-spun into yarn by traditional Katwaris, using Gandhi charkas, in Bikaner. The yarn is dyed at the company’s own facility.

Through the Manchaha initiative, rural men and women have been churning out unique designs and competing with professional designers on the global stage.