Ruchi Jha Founder, iMithila

You are currently viewing Ruchi Jha Founder, iMithila

She is an Investment Banker who turned Social entrepreneur. Her venture iMithila is India’s first brand that supports Folk Art.

Ruchi Jha

INTERVIEW

Ruchi Jha

“it gives satisfaction and makes me content looking at what we have created”

Tell us about the history of Mithila/Madhubani paintings?

Mithila, or Madhubani Painting, is the world’s oldest known art form. Mithila Painting is a geographical indication of Bihar. It originated in Mithila, a region that used to be North Bihar and few parts of modern-day Nepal. Mithila or Madhubani paintings have a rich history and legacy. Goddess Sita is the daughter of King Janaka, and she was also known as Maithili. When she was getting married to Lord Ram, King Janaka asked the people of Mithila to decorate the city for the wedding. So the people of Mithila, especially women, used natural ingredients like turmeric, rice, cow dung Etc., to paint the walls of their homes. This marked the first mention of the painting, and such is the legacy of this art.

Before the massive earthquake in Bihar in the year 1934, the paintings were mainly done to beautify the walls of the home, which is the auspicious rangoli made in every household. Since natural colours were used, these paintings were washable, and every other season a new painting was made. After the earthquake, these beautiful paintings were transferred onto handmade papers to be carried and sold in other parts.

You had a successful corporate career. So, was it difficult to switch from corporate to entrepreneurship? What were the challenges that you faced?

“I am a first generation woman entrepreneur”. Entrepreneurship is altogether a different ball game. It is riskier to a job; you need to leave the comfort of getting paid every month no matter what. Here, you are responsible for everything, right from creating a business from scratch to ensuring that your employees and artisans are well taken care of. No matter what failures or successes you have, you need to keep going, not thinking about the last experience. You are actually putting a lot at stake, right from your successful job to funds and your time. It takes a big heart and a solid mind to build something.

While I was planning to start iMithila and take the entrepreneurial plunge, many people asked me why I wanted to leave my career and do something in which I had no experience in. Even my family was not convinced of my decision. But my parents and husband stood by me and supported me. It was tough, but I am glad I walked the path. “At the end of the day, it gives satisfaction and makes me content looking at what we have created here”.

How did you venture into the Handlooms and Handicraft sector, especially in an ancient art form like Madhubani?

I am from Bihar and from Mithila, which is the birthplace of the Art form. Just like any Bihari household, we also had lots of Mithila paintings and hand-painted fabrics. So I would say I was familiar with the art form but never paid a lot of attention to it.

While I was working with HDFC Bank, I happened to visit my native. I met a few known awarded artisans and mostly some not so known ones. The work was exemplary, needless to say. I felt that the art deserved more recognition and deserved to be presented on the global platform. Secondly, I felt the not so known artisans found it difficult to sell their work and make a livelihood. So I thought, why not give them a platform where their work can get visibility and earn a living. Hence, the idea of iMithila germinated in my mind, and we worked towards giving it a full shape and structure.

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Tell us about your startup iMithila Handicrafts & Handloom Pvt Ltd. How is it incorporating a traditional art form into the contemporary world? iMithila is India’s first brand in any folk art form. iMithila team is a unique blend of women folk artists spread in over twenty villages of Mithilanchal, dedicated team, and industry-focused new generation visionary entrepreneurs. Most of the iMithila apparels are also handwoven by weavers of the Mithilanchal belt. In modern times these are popularly known as Madhubani Painting and Tussar Silk. Our idea is to have the traditional art on the modern-day usage products so that we can conserve the art form without losing on the usage of the product part giving the customers value in the product they buy Madhubani & Mithila is an art form of Bihar. A lot of people migrate from Bihar in search of better livelihood. How is iMithila helping generate employment for people of Bihar in their homeland? Bihar is a state which exports human resources, both skilled and unskilled. Therefore, I believe that, if we can match the employment for the skilled ones and enhance the skills of the unskilled ones, the migration of workforce would reduce considerably. Our idea resonates with the Atma Nirbhar Bharat and Vocal For Local. At iMithila, we try to engage the artisans who have been practising the art form for ages and provide them with a platform to earn their living. We have also helped third party vendors to establish small scale factories to produce the goods within the state. We are trying to build an ecosystem around this art form in the region and not just be a trader who takes the goods from artisans and sells them. As manufacturers, we have helped these third-party vendors enhance their skills and trained them to make good quality products at par with global vendors. While doing this, we are engaging the artisans and the third party vendors and encouraging them to employ more people in their setups.