Leveraging Skills into a Craft through Social Entrepreneurship and Jugaad Innovation: The Chamar leatherworkers' studio in Dharavi, Mumbai

Meghamrita Chakraborty*, Ellen Loots

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

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In India, characterised by extreme income disparity and high levels of precarious and informal labour, social entrepreneurship could challenge the status quo by improving existing systems with creative solutions. The present chapter discusses the case of the innovative venture ‘Chamar Studio’. It demonstrates how a social entrepreneur, by rehabilitating the traditional skills of leatherworkers, succeeds in enhancing labour conditions and re-claiming the identity of a low-caste community in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. Working with leather is traditionally associated with the Chamar community and by the higher castes considered impure. Moreover, the notion ‘Chamar’ and their identity as leatherworkers have long lastingly been used against a large group of people, which perpetuates the discrimination prevalent within the Indian caste system. Instead of disassociating from the traditional caste-based occupations and social stigma, with his ‘Chamar Studio’, Sudheer Rajbhar deploys the skills of leatherworkers to design and manufacture bags from recyclable rubber tyres. As a social entrepreneur, Sudheer improves the working conditions of the artisans; he also leverages the skills of manual workers into a craft; he provides a sustainable alternative for a scarce resource (leather); and he challenges severe social stereotypes. We expose why Sudheer’s innovative, social entrepreneurship can be considered to be jugaad, or: frugal, flexible, and inclusive.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreative Industries in India
EditorsAbdul Shaban, Filip Vermeylen, Christian Handke
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781003129370
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2022
EventConference: Exploring the Creative Industries in India - Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Duration: 7 Jan 2019 → …


OtherConference: Exploring the Creative Industries in India
CityTata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Period7/01/19 → …

Bibliographical note

We acknowledge Sudheer Rajbhar and the workers in Chamar Studio. Data collection took place up to the first months of 2020; writing this chapter happened during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will imaginably have as disproportionate impact on the poor, through the loss of work and remittances, rising prices, and disruptions in education and health services6 , also in India and, specifically, Dharavi.

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