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MKS /Bhumisuta, India
MKS / Bhumisuta is a member of WFTO (International Fair Trade Association) and is registered under West Bengal Society’s Act 1961. It is a society engaged in manufacturing as well as marketing.
MKS was facing acute problems meeting its international commitments with regards to leather products. The producers were not always consistent in delivery time, leather quality and workmanship. It was then that MKS decided to invest in Bhumisuta, her sister concern, to help MKS meet its international commitments.
In the leather producing department there are seven people working full time on a regular salaried basis; a supervisor, two sample men (1 for big items such as bags and 1 for small articles), one scriber, one cutter, and two master craftsmen who are working and looking after the stitching, pasting and finally, the making. There are also additional people working here depending upon the pressure of the work.
Finishing and quality control is the job of women - three to eight women work here but once again this depends on the pressure of the work. Their wages are per-piece basis.
Most of the producers in the leather manufacturing unit are Muslim while the supervisor and the women in the finishing and quality control departments are Hindu.
MKS is helping the leather group in different ways such as pre-financing, design feedback and marketing.
This leather industry is very famous in this part of India (Kolkata and east India). The industry is organised and salaries are fairly good. Most of the people working in leather are very skilful. In Bhumisuta the employees are getting a good salary and also festival bonuses. The work atmosphere is positive.
Challenges faced by small producers we work with are broadly threefold. The first is cash flow. The second is procurement of raw material at the right price and right time. The third is assurance on access to the market. Challenges for Bhumisuta in particular are identification of skilled artisans, assuring cash flow for raw material, development of design and scouting for overseas fair trade shop buyers.
The above challenges are worthwhile for MKS as our efforts satisfy the standards of fair trade on one hand and enable MKS in its small way to protect the artisans from either shifting to another occupation or to face complete extinction.
Plans for MKS are both short and long term. In the short term MKS will continue to support existing producer groups. In the long term MKS plans to identify new production groups also.
The preference of MKS for fair trade over the traditional commercial market is shown by transparency in its activities, the protection of traditional Indian handcrafts and a sense of social responsibility towards the artisans.
The difference is a belief in a philosophy. By choosing a fair trade product a buyer helps to sustain a movement, protect a traditional art form and support the artisans.
Mithu Dam, MKS