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Empowering Artisans and Preserving Heritage Crafts with Navroze Mehta

Navroze Mehta Discusses How Mela Artisans Aids Artisanal Communities, Combining Sustainability with Heritage Preservation

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Devin: What is your superpower?

Navroze: Whatever you do, you do it with complete passion, jumping in with both feet. I do that with everything I believe in.

In today's episode of Superpowers for Good, I had the pleasure of speaking with Navroze Mehta, Founder and CEO of Mela Artisans, about a mission very close to his heart and crucial to many: the empowerment of artisanal communities in India. Navroze shared the inspiring origins and impactful journey of Mela Artisans, a venture he co-founded with his daughter after a striking revelation about the decline of artisanal communities in India.

Navroze explained, "From the years 1980 to 2010, we had lost 30% of our artisanal base." This alarming statistic drove him and his daughter to action, leading to the creation of Mela Artisans. Their goal was clear: to empower artisans, enabling them to continue their craft and pass it on through generations. This not only preserves the rich heritage of Indian crafts like woodcarving and metalworking but also sustains these communities economically.

"The most gratifying part of this," Navroze said, "is giving about 3,500 artisans full-time work every year." His company does more than just employ these artisans; it engages with them on a deeper level, providing infrastructure and support to help them thrive in their native settings without needing to relocate to urban centers.

Mela Artisans stands out for its commitment to design excellence, which has led to their presence in high-end stores and mass-market retailers alike. Their products are a blend of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design, making heritage crafts accessible to a broader audience. "We want it not to be in a luxury bubble," he emphasized. "We want everyone to be able to afford these products."

Navroze's approach to business is not just about preserving old techniques; it's about revitalizing them, ensuring they remain relevant and appreciated in a modern context. This philosophy underpins every beautiful piece that comes from Mela Artisans, turning traditional crafts into objects of desire for the contemporary home while supporting the artisans who make them.

Join us in celebrating the artistry and entrepreneurial spirit that Navroze Mehta brings to the world of heritage crafts. His work not only beautifies homes but also enriches lives, making a tangible difference in the artisan communities of India.

FINAL HOURS: Zette's Round Ends Friday!


AI Episode Summary

1. Devin Thorpe, the host of the Superpowers for Good show, introduces the episode and his guest, Navroze Mehta of Mela Artisans, a company supporting artisans primarily in India.

2. Navroze Mehta details the founding of Mela Artisans by his daughter, Sonali Matharu, as a response to the decline of the artisanal community in India, aiming to preserve heritage crafts and empower artisans.

3. The company’s mission is to provide sustainable employment to artisanal communities and sell their handcrafted products in high-end stores and department stores across the U.S., making luxury products affordable and accessible.

4. Navroze showcases various handcrafted items from Mela Artisans' product line, including a wooden bowl, a tray made of sustainable mango wood, jewelry boxes with bone or resin inlay, a candleholder combining multiple materials, and intricate marble and metalwork pieces.

5. The discussion includes the expansion of Mela Artisans beyond India to source from artisans in Vietnam and Bali, Indonesia, increasing the variety of handcrafted products offered.

6. Navroze explains the pricing of their products, emphasizing the goal to offer high-quality, luxurious items at reasonable, affordable prices without sacrificing craftsmanship.

7. The relationship with artisans is based on empowerment rather than employment, with Mela Artisans facilitating infrastructure, financial education, quality control, and design innovation for artisan clusters.

8. Mela Artisans is raising capital through a Regulation A Crowdfunding offering, allowing lower minimum investments from the public to participate in the growth and success of the company.

9. The conversation shifts to discuss Navroze's superpower, which he identifies as a passion for making a difference, inspired by his father's example as a physician dedicated to serving those in need.

10. Navroze recounts how Mela Artisans navigated the challenges of the pandemic, supporting their artisan and employee communities throughout the crisis, maintaining commitment to their mission of empowerment and craftsmanship.

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How to Develop Empathy, Passion, Persistence As a Superpower

Navroze Mehta's superpower, as he shared in this episode, can be defined in three words: Empathy, Passion, Persistence.

His superpower revolves around his deep-seated belief in empathy, passion, and persistence. Navroze described how these qualities have been essential throughout his career, from his medical ventures to his work with Mela Artisans. He credits his father, a maxillofacial surgeon who dedicated his skills to helping burn and cancer victims often without charge, as a significant influence on his development of these traits. This upbringing instilled in him the drive to use his abilities to make meaningful changes and give back to society.

An illustrative story that showcases Navroze's superpower occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with canceled orders and a potential financial crisis for his artisanal community in India and his team in the United States, Navroze decided against layoffs. Instead, he ensured full payment for the artisans and transformed his company into a digitally competent entity on Amazon. This story highlights his commitment to his community and his ability to adapt and persist through hardships.

To develop his superpowers as personal strengths, Navroze suggests:

1. Be empathetic and compassionate in all your dealings.

2. Approach everything with passion; immerse yourself completely.

3. Do not easily accept defeat; perseverance is crucial despite challenges.

4. Keep believing in your vision, even when others doubt it.

By following Navroze's example and advice, you can make empathy, passion, and persistence a skill. With practice and effort, you could make it a superpower that enables you to do more good in the world.

Remember, however, that research into success suggests that building on your own superpowers is more important than creating new ones or overcoming weaknesses. You do you!


Guest Profile

Navroze Mehta (he/him):

Founder and CEO, Mela Artisans Inc.

About Mela Artisans Inc.: Mela Artisans provides handcrafted festive lifestyle home decor rooted in the Indian tradition and fused with modern designs with a mission to preserve the age-old art forms through fair trade practices that enhance the livelihoods of the artisans. We have a strong base of retailers in the US from luxury boutiques to big box retailers. We also sell online on all the major marketplaces. Our orders provide work on an annual basis for over 3,000 artisans.

Website: www.melaartisans.com

Linkedin: linkedin.com/company/mymela/

Company Facebook Page: facebook.com/melaartisans

Biographical Information:  Navroze Mehta is Founder & CEO of Mela Artisans Inc. (www.melaartisans.com). He co-founded Mela with his daughter Sonali Mehta Rao. Mela Artisans blends traditional handcrafting techniques with contemporary design in home and fashion to promote social uplift in artisan communities.

Navroze is also the Executive Chairman of New Day Diagnostics LLC. At New Day Diagnostics, the mission is to empower patients with affordable, accessible, and innovative diagnostic solutions that make a real difference in their lives. The company brings groundbreaking diagnostic ideas to life, from colorectal cancer blood tests to digestive disease testing and everything in between.

Navroze received an MBA from Syracuse University and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Sydenham College at the University of Bombay, India. Navroze has been a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) for 25 years, is past chair of the Americas Gateway Chapter, and served as Regional Chair of the Economic Development Network. He is also a past member of the Ashoka Support Network (www.ashoka.org), a leader in the field of social entrepreneurship and has invested in several social impact enterprises.


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