Since the dawn of the new millennium many businesses, ours included, began to reflect on our legacy. Business, like so many things in life, has to have a ying and yang, a take but also give back dynamic that goes beyond the communities we operate in. Part of this shift is also just not the right thing to do, but it's also a moral imperative in an uncertain world where every purchase we make we want to feel in some small way that we as consumers aren’t consuming at the cost of others. It’s a concept called “social good” and increasingly something that you expect out of more and more brands you buy from to the tune of 64% of you being more loyal and loving brands that do good in the world. Social good is when a company or brand does something for the betterment of society that also has a positive effect on the world. In other words, it's us doing our part to make the world a better place.
The Impact of Poverty in India
Before becoming a citizen of the United States, growing up in India I was only too aware of the crushing poverty and need everywhere I looked. Even today over 228.9 million people are living in poverty in India, with mothers living in fear of where the next meal for their children and families will come from. As I talked about in my recent articles after returning home to India this past summer with my daughter, villages in India are still underdeveloped and lack progressive thinking. This environment of desperation has become a breeding ground for cons, opportunism and black market dealings that take advantage of the disadvantaged. The topic of “ethically sourced hair” has thankfully become more known today than it used to be, as the black market for human hair has become big business.
A popular alcoholic drink called toddy as well as other homegrown alcohols further exacerbate the situation as there, as here, people turn to alcohol to try and escape from their reality and feelings. Farmers and laborers, lacking access to education and turning to alcoholism inevitably leads to women and child abuse. It’s a cycle of trauma that passes on from one generation to the next, broken only when people are given options and a path to break free of it.
India Giving Day
This past March the very first India Giving Day took place to encourage the 2.7 million immigrants who came to the United States and became citizens to give back to our native country. Organized by the India Philanthropy Alliance made up of 14 different American nonprofit organizations, over $60 million was raised to fund healthcare, education, gender equality and other needs. Their goal is to triple that amount in the next few years and helping fund humanitarian projects and build out education and infrastructure to allow people who want to work, who are desperate to work the jobs and skills to do so.
Building Communities and Empowering Women
When my husband Gautama and myself founded Perfect Locks we didn’t just want to give women their confidence and dignity back when it came to their hair, but also help women and build communities back in India. We wouldn’t exist, nor would you have the kind of hair you love if not for the sacrifice of women giving their hair willingly at temples during the ritual of tonsure. We wanted to not just take from this region, but help build the communities these amazing women live in and by extension help their families.
During my trip this summer with my daughter we visited our factory there and I had a wonderful day meeting the talented women, true artists of wefts, who make the products you enjoy. Spending the day with them we talked about children and lives, their wishes and dreams and every one of them is treated well and paid well for their skills. The women at our factories range from 25 years old to 65 years old, many of them related…all working together and teaching one another. Their skills vary, but everyone is valued with whatever they can contribute. Jobs range from sorting and washing to hand sewing and hand knotting. Beyond fairness, they are all given a path forward, to grow their skills and knowledge and rise in position. For older women or women who may have medical issues such as arthritis, etc. we give them lighter jobs so they are still able to work and take home money.
One of the workers shared her thoughts with me in a video I wanted to share with you in which she expressed her gratitude for her job and how it’s allowed her to become an independent woman and provide for her family.
Stories of Empowerment
Below are the questions and answers translated:
- Question 1: How do you feel working here?
- Answer: I have been working in the factory for 14 years. Mostly women are working here and we are all very happy.
- Question: 2: How does this money help you?
- Answer: The salary helps me and my family. Her family consists of her husband and 2 children. It helps my kids for their education and it helps her with all her expenses.
- Question 3: Final words you wanted to share with our customers?
- Answer: I feel very very happy and grateful!
Conclusion: Making a Positive Impact
I am so proud to know these women, so proud to provide for these women and love the way in which they are all there for each other. They are empowered, breaking free of a cycle, and together are building a future for their families.
At the end my day, I can sleep well knowing that halfway around the world food is being put on the tables and you are smiling in the mirror at your beautiful hair. Now THAT is some social good.