Fabrinda- Authenticity in Retail

By Jonathan Levi, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017

Once returning to Kochi, I visited the LuLu Mall, close by to the hotel I was staying at for the night. In the largest mall in India, I stopped by a store that friends from home and Semester at Sea recommended I see. The store was called Fabindra India, a social enterprise, Indian retail chain that sells handmade fabrics, garments, and scarves. After spending some time there, I spoke with an employee that told me how important authenticity was for them. Everything sold there is handmade by craftspeople across rural India. The store is a for-profit company but instills it message of homemade goods into its mission statement. The importance of authenticity has helped the hundreds of craftsmen around India sell their products at the price they deserve. Overall, India was very interesting. I saw everything that I could have possibly seen and more! I do not plan to come back to India anytime soon, though. Until next time!

Here is a video about the social objective to support artisans in India and promote authenticity.


Fabindra Retail Concept

India and its textile industry


By Elizaveta Dyatko, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017


Shree Carpet & Textile Mahal is a social enterprise based in Jaipur. Its mission is to preserve and share unique Indian culture while empowering local communities. Shree Carpet & Textile Mahal employs 560 local families and provides them with job training and a stable source of income. This local business specifically focuses on female empowerment, acknowledging the fact that women need more at home time to take care of the kids. Shree Carpet & Textile Mahal supplies locally produced materials to the households and picks up finished products at the agreed date.

Additionally, as the name suggests, Shree Carpet & Textile Mahal specializes on textiles and weaving. A traditional technique called screen printing is used to transfer ink on the material. All materials are environmentally friendly and are usually extracted from local plants and herbs as well as rocks and minerals. Due to the fact that the enterprise is located in the desert region of Kashmir with very few employment opportunities, Shree Carpet & Textile Mahal receives 28% of governmental subsidies to support their social mission. As a result, despite the fact that all products are handmade, they can compete with foreign manufactures on the open market.


Local woman weaving greige, an unbleached or undyed cloth or yam, Jaipur, India

The owner of the Shree Carpet & Textile Mahal demonstrates his carpets, Jaipur, India 

The School for Grandmothers

By Phoebe Weiss, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017

According to the last Census there are about 273 million people in India who cannot read. Of these 273 million women are 15% less likely than men to be illiterate. Because of this shocking statistic many women have less power in society and less opportunities to make a living. While walking the streets of India I came across many young girls working which means they were not attending school, and probably would never have the opportunity to.

Currently in a small Indian village a school was started called the aaijibaichi shala (the school for grandmothers) where older women have the opportunity to learn to read and write. None of the women who attend this school were able to attend as children because they were too busy with chores in their house or trying to make a living for their families. They attend this school for about 2 hours a day so that they are still able to perform their household routines and work.

I think this schooling platform has a lot of potential for expansion all throughout India and many other impoverished countries as well. Not only could it help provide these women with more opportunities but also it could help their children. If these women learn how to read in write they will be able to teach their kids, which will intern provide their children with greater opportunities. 

Learning about the culture through visiting an orphanage

By Kelly Kirschner, Semester at Sea,  Spring 2017

Getting off the ship in India, a group of us organized our own student lead visit an orphanage. Along with spending the day, we were able to collect clothes, shoes, and school supplies to donatefrom the ship community. 

We visited Emmanuel Orphanage which is a non profit established in 2000. Originally starting at 12 children, the home has grown to 125 residents. They provide housing, food, and education for children who are usually orphans or in single parent homes. Emmanuel’s orphanage helps children acquire basic needs and education which in turn leads them to earn employment and live independently in the future. Children come from families of all different backgrounds, such as sexual workers, beggars, lepers, and prisoners.Visiting the orphanage was an eye opening experience. All of the children were so well behaved and happy. throughout the language barrier we played hand games and danced and learned a little about their lives and what we can do to help the orphanage. Unfortunately, they desperately need sponsors to support things such as clothes, medical expenses, staff, and teacher salary. When talking to Rev. Varghese Thudian, who runs the non profit, he said there are around 40 children who aren't sponsored yet. This trip impacted me immensely and it gave me the realization that I can easily support a child's education and happiness and there are people desperately trying to help the children of India.

From Rags to… Sanitary Pads?

By Justin Eichenberger, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017

In 1999, Anshu Gupta quit his day job to found Goonj, an NGO based in New Delhi, India that highlights clothing as a “basic but unaddressed need” in developing/impoverished communities in India. In its early years, Goonj operated a cloth-for-work model, in which they would identify work that needed to be done in developing villages (i.e. building wells, repairing roads, constructing schools), and provide clothing and other essential material goods to the local peoples in exchange for the labor required to complete these projects. Goonj’s real standout program, however, was their ‘Not Just a Piece of Cloth’ campaign, which began in 2004.

A little help can go a long way

By Jenny Malina, Semester at Sea, Spring 201

“The rich get richer” is a phrase commonly associated with negative perceptions of the upper class and top 1% of the population in the United States. However, The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) brings new meaning to the phrase in India. NASSCOM is a non-profit organization founded in 1988 designed to facilitate and encourage the development of IT Services through start-up businesses in India. Members benefit from support for service quality and enforcement and from the 6-month mentorship program, which focuses on assessing strengths and weaknesses of mid-sized companies.

NASSCOM was started when its founder recognized a need for startup support given the business landscape in India, which strongly encouraged high performing individuals to work for large, name-brand organizations, rather than start their own businesses. By offering services, connecting businesses with financing, and passing legislation in favor of entrepreneurial ambitions, NASSCOM helps increase Indian support for entrepreneurial endeavors. In doing so, they create a domino effect throughout society and help gain support for entrepreneurs and innovators who are successfully changing the business landscape without previous recognition. The overall impact on society is extremely positive because the startup culture helps propel India’s development forward and encourages young graduates to start their own businesses, helping the economy dramatically.

NASSCOM also gives women the opportunity to engage in entrepreneurship by offering equal opportunities to all qualified applicants. More recently, they have launched the 10,000-startup initiative, which aims to assist 10,000 Indian startups with funding and launching. So far, the program has had very positive feedback and successfully launched an IPO for one of its participant organizations.

In summary, NASSCOM eliminates the risk factor of starting one’s own business by ensuring the only potential losses are the opportunity costs associated with a company’s founding. These may include time and progress from other jobs, but typically exclude monetary losses because NASSCOM connects entrepreneurs with investors at the start of a project. Thus, the overall impact on society has similarly been very beneficial.

Fulfilling dreams....

By Grace Kelly, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, and this certainly rang true throughout our visit to Surman Sansthan, an NGO in Jaipur, India. Founded on November 31st, 1998, with the mission “to bestow dreams in lonesome eyes and empower them to fulfill those dreams”, Surman currently serves as a home for 125 children ages 12 months to 18 years, providing shelter, meals, and schooling. Surman not only helps abandoned and orphaned children but also runaways. If the parents are able to reform themselves and prove to the government that they are capable parents, the children are allowed to return to their families if they want to. Over the past 19 years, Surman has helped “rehabilitate” or return 567 children to their original homes. 

The founder, Ms. Manan Chaturvedi, was previously a fashion designer in New Delhi but was inspired to start this organization when she found a child that had been left in a garbage can in the city. Manan is referred to as “Mom” by all of the children and workers at Surman and lives there with her own family. Apart from private donations, the fundingfor Surman comes entirely from the proceeds of Manan’s artistic work, most notably her paintings that are done with her fingers. Manan also produces theatrical shows, short films, and monthly magazines to help bring in money. 

Right now, the organization has 77 girls and 48 boys staying under its roof, the disproportionate number of girls a telling sign of one of India’s most pressing social problems: a clear preference for sons and gender inequality. Many parents abandon their daughters, unable to provide for them and afford the expensive dowries necessary to marry them off. Even worse, infanticide is common amongst soon-to-be mothers who discover they are having a girl. Ms. Chaturvedi hopes to change this, sending many of Surman’s young women off to universities, with some even going on to get an MBA or engineering degree. Surman’s current facilities can hold a maximum of 227 children, but they have plans to building a large development nearby that would expand their capacities to 2,500, making it the biggest in Rajasthan. 

We were lucky enough to spend a few hours at Surman playing with boys and girls of all ages. The one thing they all had in common? Their love of Snapchat! Together, we scrolled through the different filters on the app making funny faces and chatting about our favorite hobbies and music (the girls loved Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana). The boys got a real kick out of the dog filter and the girls were giggling endlessly over the flower crown one. At an organization funded by paintings, it seemed fitting that we bonded over photography and the arts. Have you found commonalities with foreigners when traveling? What were they?


Incentive Foundation of Inspiration India

It is not every tour company that decides to give back to the communities that it serves.   Inspiration India “Ride the Blue Elephant”, under the leadership and vision of Anup Nair, embraces the responsibility of creating a shared value through corporate social responsibility to his tourists, local communities, and employees.

Incentive Foundation was founded in March 2005 with the goal of empowering sustainable change through education.  The overall mission of the Foundation is to empower people and bridge the socio-economic divide in selected locations in and around India.  To achieve the goal, the Foundation provides support in the areas of education, women’s empowerment and healthcare.

In the urban village of Bandhwari outside of Delhi, the Incentive Foundation has three specific projects that are not only sustainable, but are also designed to the scalable to other locations.  These projects address the issues of education, women’s empowerment and health.

The Bandhwari Government School

The Foundation has been successful in not only improving the quality of education through collaboration with various educational institutions, but also improve the physical facilities through a program of building students’ desks/benches, painting the school and developing art work in the form of a map of India in its hallways.

Non-Formal Education

Social pressure in India discourage young women from continuing their education beyond middle school.   The Incentive Foundation is challenging that paradigm by providing young women tutoring to facilitate their successful completion of the written exams needed for entrance into universities.

Self Help Groups

The Incentive Foundation strives to empower women by providing them an opportunity to develop skills that will result in their earning wages.    The Bandhwardi’s Women Group has set up a center where women are trained in constructing fabric based products including design support, quality control and material sourcing.

Day Care  

On site day care services are provided for the women in the non-formal education  and university preparation 

Health Camps

On a regular basis, The Incentive Foundation, in collaboration with local hospitals, conducts several health camps to spread health awareness using a house-to-house campaigning methods.

12 First Floor, MGF Megacity Mall

MG Road, Gurgaon 122022