Leadership BITES

N.K Chaudhary, Social Entrepreneur, founder Jaipur Rugs, "The Gandhi of the Carpet Industry"

May 29, 2021 Guy Bloom Season 1 Episode 54
Leadership BITES
N.K Chaudhary, Social Entrepreneur, founder Jaipur Rugs, "The Gandhi of the Carpet Industry"
Show Notes Transcript

Nand Kishore Chaudhary, a social entrepreneur, is the founder of Jaipur Rugs, one of India’s largest manufacturers of hand knotted rugs, and is often referred to as the ‘Gandhi of the Carpet Industry’.

NK says:

“My life’s purpose is to create a business that is all about innocence: serving innocents, employing innocents, led by innocents. Innocent people have the power to see and understand things others cannot. That will transform the business beyond recognition, because they can go so deep into the human condition.”

With just two looms and nine artisans in 1978, his journey four decades later stands at Jaipur Rugs becoming a global social enterprise, exporting to over 60 countries while providing sustainable livelihood to 40,000 artisans, in 600 remote villages across five states in India, out of which 80% of them are women.

A journey of four decades, countless stories, and an indomitable spirit; full of love, compassion, and perseverance.

This is a great vide to get a sens of NK.....: Two Plates
This is also a great insight.....: The Healing Organisation

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nk great to have you on the episode could you just introduce yourself what the organization that you run is and give us a sense of the size so people have a sense of scale for what it is that you're doing that would be lovely yes i'm nk chodri founder of jaipur rag jaipur is connected with the 40 000 artisans in 600 villages 85 of them is the woman and we export near about 60 countries and we also have a company in in u.s jaipur living where we worked with more than 3000 customers and we have got the head offices in atlanta and we have got 130 people in our office in u.s and the revenue is more than 50 million thank you very much nk we'll get into a lot more about you and the organization so thank you for that i would like quickly to take you through the journey of my life which i call the university of hard drugs of life because it was only after my college that my real education began i started my career selling shoes from a little show that my father had started i realized that there was very little room to grow and i was offered a full-time job in a nurse nice bank i declined the offer as i wanted to do something of my own where i could enjoy what i do so about 43 years ago i started with two looms in my open house in a small town churu in rajasthan as a contractor manufacturer producing rugs for the larger exporters in jaipur i borrowed two hidden dollars from my father to buy two looms in an old cycle to travel to weaver houses and day to day work the beginning were humble yet filled with challenges one of the first challenges i faced was from my own family member in those days rugby belongs to untouchable class and were not given the same social standing as others given the strong class system in india interaction was not only discouraged but was looked down upon i faced a lot of resistance from my own family members and neighbors but i could not understand how could they may be different human beings i feel so much love with living and viewers that i used to take my lunch and eat with rivers and their families beside the loom on which they met their carpets i used to spend and tired day working with them and learned the basic of living i discovered and realized that some of the most beautiful drugs in the world were made by those people who did not have the most basic rights in the society the only encouragement i had from my wife who was not only supported me but also sometimes provided the viewers with tea and food within 2 years i established 10 looms in in around my village in rajasthan and therefore i further expanded as a contractor for next eight years after that i moved to jaipur to start my own export with my brother in 1990 i moved to gujarat where i stayed for eight years in this period i had the opportunity to train and develop a network of about 15 000 tribal men and women in the art of rugby initially i faced the challenges working with the tribals who were not only welcoming the outsiders but i knew that love empathy and respect could make the relationship much easier just in a matter of three four years they started to respect me as their guide my interest of living in villages and being close to the nature made it easy for me to connect with the tribal people and grow this business during that time i was blessed with three daughters and then two sons in my society at the time and even now girl girls gets less priority than boyas my british friend ailee kopper suggested that girls are often more efficient and more receptive so my wife and i treated all our children equally send the girls to studied in america even though our family tradition strongly disapproved of sending a girl abroad alone i encouraged all my children to take a deep interest in the american lifestyle so that when they finish their studies they would have a better understanding of the customer needs i told them that i considered myself as a viewer and thus they were doctor of a weaver and that weaving has become the biggest enjoyment in my life and this would never forget this one thing i learned why to appreciate the wisdom that people at the grass would generally have women men is home food children and budget and still take time to weave the carpets they are probably some of the best managers in the world in 1999 i separated from my brothers and started jaipur from zero i also established a company in usa to move closer to the customer initially i had little knowledge of business and finance as i spend my time with viewers in villages as a result i had to face a lot of problems and it was one of the most challenging moments of my life where i had to learn the things which i did not learn in last past 20 years of my life i had already been very successful in creating a good name of myself for quality and quantity in carpet living but once i started again i had whose problems and failure for the first three years then i started to introspect what went wrong i realized that my past success has created a false feeling of goodness within me i realized that good is the enemy of waste and i have developed a mental disease called euphoria i was highly successful at working with the people at grassroot but now i have to learn new skills and change my leadership style to run a global business i observed that it was me who was restricting the growth of the organization as i was everywhere in each decision so i have to remove myself my perception from every decisions and use natural talent wisdom and capability of the individual to see the things as they are not as i want them to be i was an ice cube so losing myself was like melting the eyes to become water that it can be flexible and take any shape to become simple enough to let natural growth happen up to now i relied on the entrepreneurial skills and leadership quality of the uneducated people and they have gained a deep understanding of our business but to support the rapid growth of the business i had to hire friends and experience educated professionals but they all put me upside down that was the right time for me to learn how to deal with so-called professionals i learned that knowledge is power but too much knowledge and knowledge gained without practice develops ego practitioners sometimes get the skills without having the knowledge to break the ego of the professionals i started a learning initiative which we named higher school of unlearning we met the professional work with our older uneducated managers in different departments to develop a deep understanding of the business processes i also took the challenge to teach them the basic fundamentals to manage the business and people like ours which they never learned in their school and colleges we worked on the management philosophy finding yourself through losing yourself finding yourself through losing yourself the more i lose myself the more i find myself in 2004 we set up japurak foundation to nurture the human connection at the grassroot this in turn brought mindset change empowering our artisan to develop the understanding of the customer needs in early 2008 professor c.k palat who was one of the top management guru at the time called me and asked me if i knew who he was i reply who does not know you but i was extremely surprised why he has called me he said that he wanted to do a case study on our business model and then i said that what we do is very simple what if you write it no one read it even my neighbors does not know me but he explained me that our global supply chain was very unique by connecting the world poorest with the richest by enhancing the capability at the grassroots i believe that innovation will be key for japurex to grow further in 2014 we begin an initiative to include our viewers in the product development and design process to unleash the creativity of the talented artisan we work with and we termed it as man saha project mansaha in hindi means freedom to design so that the artists put in their heart and soul today the mantra project has won over seven global awards in 2017 one of the artisan bimla devi who never been out of her village never went to school surprised the world with her simple yet magical designs that went on to win the german design award she also went to germany to receive the award i saw our artisan as human but my daughter kavita went to step further ahead and show an artist in them my future vision for jaipur is to create the best artisan proposition where each and every of our artisan will become the artist and shall be connected to the world of design this cell allows artisan to a greater shade of the wealth they produce furthermore i see japurak as a platform of connecting the end consumer with the artisans so that they can both emotionally connect with each other this shall lead the utmost level of dignity of our artisans in 2019 rashi in his book the healing organization published a case study on japurak about the power of innocence and how the business can heal the society and the customers i believe that innovation would be the future of the management science innocent people have the power to see and understand the things which others can't this will transform the business around the world i often say we don't sell carpets we sell the blessings we sell experiences we sell stories and the carpet is free when our customer buy the carpet he gets the blessing of our artisans and our artisans receive back the healing which comes from the customer happiness and warmth this completes the circle and we call it totality i would like to end by sharing a small experience i had when i was in college i had a very strict professor of business administration he came to my classroom and called out my role number and asked me to stand i got scared as to why he was asking for me as i was a very disciplined student and i started to think what wrong i might have done then it took out a test copy and showed to everyone in the class saying that look the answer this boy has written the question was what is the definition of business what i had replied was business is next to love business is next to love it is a creator and preserver of civilization the professor then said this boy will become a different businessman one day thank you okay that's uh that is breathtaking thank you uh thank you so much so i have quite a few questions okay as i i'm sure you're used to um so i've just um i've just highlighted a few things that you said that i'd like to hear a little bit more on from you okay uh one of them is you said ice cube you referenced yes um can you just talk a little bit more about that that was a little it went a little bit quick for me so i didn't quite pick it up but can you when you were talking about the ice cube in that um in that story um and because you were talking about you recognizing that you were the problem but also about hiring professionals that themselves haven't got the experience um so yeah the ice cube just bring that to life for me a little bit if you would what they have seen in my life he when we have too much too much knowledge so we always take the burden of the knowledge with us and then we lose that simplicity and i think to be like a child is the greatest thing in the in the life we must be like a child who is curious and will not rigid so when we become rigid and when we have a fixed mindset and we think that we know everything it stop us from the learning we became blind we can't see the future we can't see our own open mistakes so after i realized then i can see my own mistakes the micro ego which i developed within me and the ice cube is a symbol of not being rigid but then melting so you are filling the space have i understood that correctly yes yes this is this is true this is true okay good thank you and only after after that i started learning and i'm happy to tell you that now the vision which have all the big companies or all the whole world is changing changing that big vision because when when we are not there then the purpose comes yes and purpose gives a vision for the future so i loved this idea of a school i think you said a school of unlearning yes so it's a fantastic phrase and again i just want to make sure i've understood which is that people can come with i think the phrase i would have there is their cup is full and so there's no room for new knowledge but maybe i've heard something else there which is you've made an expectation that you have to learn beyond just your academic capability you have to understand from the ground up what it is like for example to use that broom or to sit in that on that loom and to understand how hard it is to do that or et cetera so if i've understood that correctly it's about learning what is around you so you can value it and appreciate it have i understood that correctly yes i would like to give you an example that i wrote a blog on my linkedin about the unlearning and the most senior strategy partner of bain and company he liked my post very much and is also a very good friend of me so this year they have chosen the theme for their for the ceo forum their first team is unlearning and they have included me they say that most of the companies including the pipe attend fortune companies the ceos and decision makers and management people they have got a very high ego and ego makes a man blind and that is very very damaging and very destructive for their companies so there's something here about um if you [Music] overly value your own knowledge and you believe that your your knowledge and your experiences and your perception are correct then that creates a rigidity in the way that you see the world yes and when we come to innovation and learning and empathy actually i have to be able to uh unlearn is interesting because senior people have had so much success that everything tells them they must be doing it the right way right because look i've achieved all of these things right so the challenge when you're when you have a lot of confirmation that you are correct is that willingness to look outside of your own truth i think is what i've heard yes yes i i want to tell you that most of the managers most of the decision they create their own open identity and so there are two things one is their role and one is their one is their identity and identity means a false image i create a false image of myself and when i create a false image of myself then i always afraid of losing it so i don't want to lose that my own identity so i generally i forget my role and my identity becomes stronger and then i became defensive and it creates the problem okay that's very interesting so i become more it becomes more important to me to defend my ego and my the way i want people to experience me because to maybe change to acknowledge i'm doing something the wrong way or to recognize that somebody is better at it than i am there's a lot of things possibly there so it requires that unlearning i like that very much okay and that led me then to that finding yourself through losing yourself in buddhism there is a phrase which is all suffering is caused by wanting and if you stop wanting then suffering ceases because comparison is the thief of joy if if i look at you and i want what you've got i my own happiness is is dissipated these elements are i'm hearing in there but that finding yourself through losing yourself is that release of ego that willingness to be vulnerable but actually within that is your strength have i understood that yes yes because the more i lose myself the more i lose my ego then i will develop the power of observation because when i'm i'm there i make all the decisions with the past i will make the old decision which prejudice and when i'm i'm not there my object became observation became so far so good that i can see the world as it is and if i can't see the world as it is then the way i see i create the problem yes so from many people of a certain level well maybe just many people if your identity if when you're looking at the world you're looking at it through almost if these glasses have my identity in them and i'm looking through yes what i'm seeing is altered reinforced or my fears through this but if i can take them off and almost be naked then i'm going to pay attention to the world in a very different way yes okay that's that's super helpful thank you um so i was very very also very interested i i'll i'll get spellings after we finished but the the this freedom to design this uh did i say yes right we'll have fun with that later i'm sure um so monsaha um uh daniel pink talks about um autonomy and mastery and he talks about purpose and in some respects that almost this feels like the stepping stone after that you know if you have autonomy to make decisions if you are getting better at what you do that mastery if you know that you're contributing to something it gives you the space to grow to innovate there's psychological safety i feel safe in my ideas and then if i'm reading this correctly that freedom to design and it could almost say the freedom to contribute but that and i might contribute my design might be the rug my design might be how this project works in some respects then that freedom to design to contribute to bring the best of myself the the art the artisan in me and if my art if my art is financials or my art is design then it it then it doesn't matter what level you're at it doesn't matter how old you are if it's there it's there again have i have i understood that yes correctly because when you get the freedom and i will i would want to add two things that the freedom should be driven by the love and direction if we give them the three things together then they will definitely put their heart and soul they do and the quality of work will totally totally change it will make their work divine so you're using uh and i i like it a lot but you're uh i was about to say the word but there and i've just recognized that i i said but i meant to say however however what i notice is that you're using a vocabulary i mean the word direction that's fine but to a western mind when we say the word love and we use the word divine in the hard commercial markets that i see most organizations working in those words don't sit very comfortably but yes i agree with you but i recognize that if i and i hesitate i recognize i would hesitate to say love and divine to a client i've got and i recognize that's my fear of their reaction to those words so i'm just recognizing that and i i don't know if you've met that reaction before but i i'm happy to recognize i'm having that reaction right now i think that the the destination come from the mind and the direction come from the heart so generally what happened in business that we are always trying to achieve the destination which is numbers and he turned over we are always talking about the numbers and we are we became very desperate to achieve the destination but only the numbers they are driven by the mind but they have no direction so if you achieve the numbers without the direction it is it is going to create the problem in the in the in the future because anything which is no driven by the love if if anything no driven by the heart it is not going to sustain so imposing slightly as i think people will work for money because they have to yes or they will work for food or for clothes they will work you know the the maslow pyramid you know the that you know to put a roof over their head and that's transactional that's maybe from a place of fear i have to do this to survive and i'm obedient so i'm not necess i'm not following you i'm obedient to you what we're talking about here is you know at the top of that maslow pyramid is self-actualization it's that late growth as an individual right i'm hearing you say bear if we go to that place yes and create uh you can say love you could say genuine care you could say a warmth you could say my recognition of you as a human being and i'm one too right but if we go to that place i'm hearing that discretionary effort innovation commitment these things flourish right i agree right okay because because then what i have seen in my whole life generally people say that i have worked hard and this is the result of my odd hard work but i don't think that that way i what i realized that when you were doing the hard work what was going in your mind if the hard worker is driven by the empathy by the love by the compassion it totally sends the result so okay how do you my experience of humanity is it's a distribution curve for everything that there are some people who gravitate towards a thing there are some people that want to see what everybody else is doing and then they'll move towards it and then there are those that are what i call the wolves they're a wolf there for whatever reason their inherent characteristics the life they've led and they may want they may be good people but they've had to live a certain way to survive and i wonder do you find how do you handle how do you deal with how do you stop the wrong people from maybe infecting and that is the word not affecting but infecting your organization and the reason i ask that is organizations that i work with there is once you go above 10 people there is usually somebody who is playing their own game they have their own agenda and when you are talking like you talk and i can one of the reasons i was so keen to have this conversation is i trust you i can imagine that some people think that this is an easy place to be a wolf because they think they're amongst sheep and i wonder i see you i have this model which is shepherd sheepdog so the shepherd guides the sheepdog contributes and then below the line there's the sheep who are kind of obedient but doing what they're told and then you've got the wolf and i see you as the shepherd i said and i wonder how you handle the wolves yes i think that is a great question and generally people don't talk about these in their businesses everybody is suffering but nobody talk about about this my experience said that i was the biggest sufferer in my life by this cunning by the smart by dishonest people and i realized this very very late that what is the problem and ultimately i found that they are not the problem as i told you before i am the problem why i am the problem because i never defined my core i never defined my vision values my principles and ultimately ben and company help us to define our core so from last three four years we are only taking the people we are only recruiting the people who are driven by the love empathy compassion and the people who are searching the purpose in their life the people who are searching in the in the in the in the meaning meaning in their life and we started replacing those people who are very smart and not they are those are the people who are not very aligned with the values of japura with the purpose purpose of jaipural so i think we must define the values and the purpose of our business and must take only those people who are aligned with them and it will transform the whole industry so this for you then is absolute clarity that and taking that from what you feel and what you know and what you do but putting it into an overt form almost like a lighthouse so you can turn the lighthouse light on yes and you can say that's what good looks like and you can all see it so there's no confusion and if you're ever unsure because maybe somebody above you is trying to take you away from the light well there it is yes i've understood that that's really what what we've said there absolute clarity and make it known to people so yeah they don't have to be exposed to you they don't have to go well i think what he's trying to say is it's no it's very clear yes okay so okay i mean this is a story and you are a person who i could talk to for probably about two weeks so i have to be careful i have to be very careful about what i do here um so there might be a episode too but um i think i have two two probable questions one is when you live a life where you are open to learning uh it can be different to some people you know they they just they have this one moment in their life where oh that put me on the right track i have a sense that you were on the right track from the start but you know because of the upbringing the who you are so is there one maybe two but is there one book one scripture one conversation one moment of personal reflection that you can point to that said that's the bit that really or that's one of the stepping stones that if i hadn't had that conversation or met that person or read that book or that poem or whatever it is i'd have been less for not having done that and i'd love you to share something like that i think since i started this business i was driven by my heart and i realized very soon that there is a campus compass within ourselves who continuously says are you going in the right direction not or not so i listen myself but my transformation happened seven eight years before when i started jaipur again my business started growing like the wildfire so there were so many family members my five children joined the business and more and more professionals joined the business and at the time i i i found that with so many people my values are not matching and i was in stress and i don't know what was happening and at that time i realized that if i can't change the situation i will start changing myself then as i started working on myself i started a deep introspection each morning and i started working on my own own consciousness and i'm happy to say that the change which i got in last eight eight years it changing my whole family and interchanging the whole organization so the secret is that if you can't change the situation and then you take the responsibility you start changing yourself and when you start changing yourself you will see the results in your organization thank you okay and my last well my second to last question and it's a little bit of a it's a cheeky question but you know there's a humbleness to you that i respect but i'm going to still ask it what's the best bit of advice that you've ever given somebody love yourself and love whatever we do because self-love is the most important thing in our life so what is the thank you and what is the future my last question just to respect uh your time here what is the future if i if we speak again in 10 years for a podcast that says where are we now what does that look like for you and jpo rugs um give me a sense of what you have in your mind as to where where you're going i see the future as it is that eaten each and every artisan of japuram will be the artist and he will be connected with the world of design so the end consumer interior designers architect and our viewers and designers in india they will co-create because in the carpet industry everybody was working in silos that is why they can't create a great future so i think co-creation will be the future so getting rid of boundaries getting rid of that human filter that we put on things and just coming together to do something that adds value to ourselves and to others yes yes thank you okay well okay i'm going to bring us to an end and i'm going to ask you just to stay on for a few more moments so we can chat at the end um but i i loved the conversation that we had a few weeks ago i i'm so grateful that you've spent the time to to do this i think anybody that is busy running an organization and then can make time to do this he's doing something very generous so i have you know i've done about 45 episodes now of this podcast and you absolutely resonate and what you're doing is um is really really very powerful so i just want to say thank you for myself and i'm sure i'm sure there will be listeners that have loved this episode so thank you very much okay thank you you