MESH Suppliers Making Websites in MESH Design Studio

At Fair Trade Forum India’s Annual Convention a few months ago I heard Surendra Sahi from OpenEntry speak about free websites powered by them but managed completely by artisan groups using Google spreadsheets. It sounded too good to be true so I investigated further and asked some of our groups if they were interested. When he heard about the training Pierre from KKM wrote back “Something like this has been promised in the past but it has never come to anything; we have such stories to tell about our history and our people.” Wangchuk Gyalpo from IMEX asked if another non-MESH, Tibetan group could come along too.

Last week we held an OpenEntry website training for eight supplier groups and Madan Lal who is MESH’s Fair Wages trainee.

The participants for the training were -
  • Noel from KKM Handweaving, Dehra Dun
  • Sajad Ali from Care Kashmir, Srinagar
  • Sybile Graff from Kiran Village, Varanasi
  • Kalsung from IMEX, Rajpur
  • Tsering from Tibetan Women’s Group, Rajpur
  • Sharad Khurane and Emmanuel from PHTRC, Sangli,
  • Balasubamanim from KRTC, Chettupattu
  • Muhammad Nasir from SMK, Jaipur
  • Madan Lal from MESH, Delhi
Ram Keseri (Richa) from OpenEntry conducted the three day training using basic templates set up by Surendra and his team in the OpenEntry support office in Nepal. It was the first time Richa had conducted such a workshop alone but she was delighted with the results…every group prepared a website which they presented to the other members of the group on the last day. Of course there are things to iron out but they are all to do with spelling and use of coloured fonts and adding images; no one encountered problems using the systems and everyone mastered the use of basic HTML tags to format text, add images and links etc.

Using Skype from Nepal, Surendra Sahi conducted a session on e-commerce and appraised us all of the need to be clear about the purpose of our websites. He also raised the subject of MESH forming a Market Network of crafts groups whose members are disabled of leprosy affected. There is much to consider. MESH already has this website but the template for products is better on the OpenEntry site so we shall create a link and make viewing and managing our product pages a better experience. I think we might also begin to try and sell on-line, at least within India.

The workshop was conducted in MESH Design Studio; we were blessed with almost uninterrupted electricity (just one small power cut) and even had a good Skype connection. Connectivity was a little slow as we stretched our WiFi configured for eight computers to cover thirteen, but that did not prevent anyone from working.

Lunch times were interesting as the website makers mingled with the weavers and tatters and MESH designers who were all developing new products in the other part of the studio. See our blog for that week Meshdesigns February 18th

On the way back to The Youth Hostel one evening I asked everyone in the crowded car if they would finish and maintain their sites after returning home. There was a nervous chuckle before everyone said they would try. Noel from KKM said “I will try, I know how to do it and Pierre will have so many ideas too”

Noel from KKM working on his website in MESH Design Studio
Noel from KKM working on his website in MESH Design Studio

Kalsung said “IMEX has wanted a website for a long time, everyone will be pleased with what we have achieved so far, we will include much more about the groups we work with and add the rest of the products and then it will be ready”

The next step for MESH is to get Madan Lal busy on our products pages uploading our latest catalogue and gradually, but in a focused manner, including all our products. Then perhaps a section for online sales can be opened. I shall be encouraging all the groups to finish their sites and hopefully in a few months we shall be able to include links to all the other sites with their stories, news and products.

Balasubramaniam from KRTC demonstrating his first attempt at making a website
Balasubramaniam from KRTC demonstrating his first attempt at making a website

Just to get a flavour of what was achieved in three days please see SMK’s good looking website click here

Many thanks to IM Soir whose funding of our Design Studio made this workshop possible.