Coronavirus: This Assam startup is teaching people how to make face masks at home
Handicrafts are a part of the rich Indian culture and people across the country earn a living by making useful and decorative items. From Pashmina shawls to pottery, we have a variety of exquisite works that are respected across the world.
Brahmaputra Fables, an integrated platform for artisans and weavers based in Assam that sells their handicrafts at a reasonable price, has taken inspiration from the handicraft industry to try and help mitigate the coronavirus health crisis that has ravaged the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more than 393 lives with about 11,487 positive cases. The government has extended the lockdown across the country till May 3 to curb the spread and demarcate various ‘hotspots’ in the country. The seven sister states of the northeast have only around 35 odd cases. Assam has about 31 positive cases.
The demand for sanitisers and face masks is at an all-time high and many places are facing a shortage. To help with the situation, Brahmaputra Fables is making masks and teaching people how to make them with easily available materials.
‘Make your own Mask’ Campaign
“As a non-teaching and non-health expertise startup, we are doing community outreach to improve community protection by DIY face masks to fight COVID-19,” Dhruba Jyoti Deka, founder of Brahmaputra Fables, tells SocialStory. “We are encouraging people to make their own masks with simple everyday household materials while maintaining social distancing by staying home.”
The organisation has made a tutorial video that shows how easily one can make a mask. The team is also spreading awareness about the same among the locals. They also maintain a database of the people who are making these masks so that those who are in the need of the equipment can connect with them.
The easy-to-make mask
The masks are stitched using normal cotton material, with three layers of protective cloth. These masks are then sanitised as directed by health workers and design experts.
“Anyone can make it using a sewing machine or normal needle, thread and scissors by watching our tutorial videos or by contacting us for instruction,” says Dhruba.
On the occasion of Rongali Bihu, a festival to mark the beginning of the Assamese New Year, the people gift each other Gamosa, a traditional scarf. This year, the startup encouraged people to gift a mask stitched with Gamosa through the ‘GiftAMask” campaign.
“In light of the situation, women weavers from various NGOs and weaving communities in Assam are making these masks,” says Dhruba. “Many individuals are also making masks to protect themselves. Some of them are associated with Brahmaputra Fables and we are trying to connect with many more of them.”
The impact of the lockdown
Brahmaputra Fables serves as a marketplace for handloom and handicrafts originating from northeast India and promotes their hard work. The platform sells handicrafts involving metal, bamboo, wood, coconut shells, water hyacinth, Kouna and others, along with hand-loomed pieces like traditional attires, fusion wear, cushion covers, shawls etc.
The lockdown has temporarily frozen the startup’s operations as courier services are closed. The artisans’ production has also been reduced as workplaces are shut to maintain social distancing. This has adversely affected revenue channels.
Brahmaputra Fables is trying to take a few steps to help these workers. Dhruba stresses on the management of the upcoming orders.
“We are trying to get orders from various customers so that individual production goes on, and as soon as the lockdown ends, we can ship these products. We are also acquiring customers, who are placing orders in bulk, which will be ready to ship once the lockdown ends. This is a very tough time for startups, and we should be supporting each other at this time,” he says.
The organisation has completed their pilot launch of a Fables Store, a tech-enabled kiosk, at Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and in Guwahati. The team was set to launch one in Delhi in March, but that could not happen due to the prevailing situation. They have also begun shipping these products internationally.
Edited by Kanishk Singh