ORUPA (Orissa Rural & Urban Producers' Association) is a voluntary effort towards encouraging and helping the artisans of Orissa, east India, to keep traditional art forms alive. Launched on 26 January, 1990, ORUPA, was born from the expressed need of the artisans to have a marketing federation of their own.
Its mission is to create opportunities and avenues for the development of crafts and craftspeople of Orissa. ORUPA provides design development and marketing support to the artisans. It also provides managerial training linkages with financial institutes and other support and welfare programmes.
ORUPA owes its origin to a group of social scientists, social activists and members from support service agencies in Orissa for their efforts in bringing about the artisans of Orissa under one umbrella. ORUPA was borne out of a series of seminars, workshops and discussions, in close collaboration with artisan groups.
From the beginning, the primary mandate given by the artisans was to help them in developing the marketing network to gain a fair price for their products. This has not been without its challenges; design, quality, and packaging presented their own problems in the struggle to market hand made crafts. Once this was identified, ORUPA prioritised support in the field of backward as well as forward linkage. By this we mean the strengthening of the artisans' organisation, as well as the forward linkages - those that look towards the market, the development of products and their marketing, networking with other agencies, etc...
It is in this context that ORUPA took up two important tasks in the form of providing and strengthening the production base of the artisans, technically, and managerially. This encouraged the organisational aspect of the artisans; to operate collectively and act as a pressure group in terms of advocacy and lobbying to influence the macro level policy decisions. The marketing wing takes care of quality and timely production along with the marketing of the products in different market outlets. To its credit it has occupied a position in local, regional and national sphere by way of showroom sale, order sale, exhibition sale. It has also entered into export and this is further strengthened with the establishment of the website which has attracted more buyers from abroad with gradual increasing export sales of handloom and handicrafts.
Regarding the forward linkages, ORUPA works to promote the traditional industries of Orissa through networking, marketing, and promotional activities. Different Government officers, bankers, development support agencies, nation and international funding agencies etc.. have shown considerable interest in the development of ORUPA and their support has boosted the morale of the members in no small measure. Presently, ORUPA is a member of WFTO (International Federation for Alternative trade) and its Asia and India chapter. It works as a partner of International funding agencies like FNS, Misereor, WSM etc. and is also a partner of national level agencies such as DC(H), EPCH, CAPART, SIDBI, NABARD, RGVN, Helpage India etc..
Exhibitions are a great way to promote the traditional industries of Orissa, and organising them is one of ORUPA's major activities. They are organised in different parts of the country including major cities and towns. Representatives of artisan members participate in such events and sell their products under the ORUPA brand. ORUPA also participates in a number of melas organised by other like-minded agencies such as CAPART, Concern India Foundation, IITF etc.
The hustle and bustle of the melas stimulates the producers to come out of their limited rural scenario and become market-savvy. They pick up new ideas from other more experienced exhibitors. Direct interaction with customers provides them with valuable feedback. A sense of interdependence among members is reinforced among the members as they help each other in selling their products. Also, ORUPA increases its profile. A marketing federation in the voluntary sector appeals to many visitors. Exhibiting at different national level melas strengthen ORUPA's relations with the government and other such agencies, which help in promoting the organisation. In more practical terms, orders are secured from commercial exporters, and coverage by the media results in ORUPA becoming better known in the country.
ORUPA has successfully completed 12 years of service in the promotion of crafts and crafts' producers in Orissa. The organisation is well known in the state as well as the wider country for its work for artisans. Today to its credit ORUPA caters to the need of 3000 artisans' families working in 24 different craft process all over the state of Orissa.
Nabasis Das, ORUPA + Jo Lawbuary, Ganesha.