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Marwar 2008

Marwar 2008


Marwar 2008

The quiet and content mien that Leela Bordia from Jaipur possesses seems very congruous with her persona. But beneath this aura of tranquility, is piquancy that led her to form NCR/a International. A woman with humble beginnings who by the sheer dint of hard work, single minded pursuit and a strong sense of commitment to her goal attained international recognition as an entrepreneur par excellence. She doesn't run fast to finish a race, but believes that slowing down and strategising is the best way to have a real shot at finishing first.

Small beginnings
The scion of a well-known Marwari family of Jaipur, Leila s parents migrated to Kolkata in the 1940s. Her father, Shri S. C. Sacheti worked in Hindustan Motors, and her mother Nagina Devi Sacheti, was a philanthropist and homemaker. She was among the first few ladies who voiced her disregard for dowry, purdah system and several such mores that were rampant during that era. Her childhood recollections are vivid memories of holding her mother's hand and accompanying her to see slum areas with another lady who always had a smile and an openness of heart. "It was only later that I realised that it was Mother Teresa, whom my mother was working with", she gushes. One of the early lessons she learnt was to be courageous and stand up to coercion instead of succumbing. She was asked to be equal and fair to all. "My mother disapproved of inequality among male and female children. So, I would never carry a lunch pack from home. I would eat bread and chai like all the other children. By being a white collar officer's daughter, I was no different from any of them." She studied at Pilani, completed her formal education and got married in 1974 and settled in Jaipur.

The wind of change
A perchance visit to a slum area made her realise that hardworking farmers had to pay their respect at the altar to earn a paltry sum for their labour, with some women even resorting to prostitution to sustain their families. Enchanted by the beauty of blue pots and urns and cognizant of the talent that existed in the village, she decided to do something to help them, though she soon discovered that the product had no demand. She got thinking and wanted them to mould designs to suit the current market's requirement, but she was met with resistance—the artisans obviously sceptical of her intentions. It was difficult says Leela, to convince them that she wanted to help them out. One artisan named Kailash, however, relented and co-operated with her. What began as social work soon became a passion. While the opportunity for change was great, she found that it had added stress to her life by attempting to change everything too fast. She slowed down and spent the next two years was recognised by the Business in Asia magazine along with other giant corporations like Korean Hyundai motor company, Nintendo for a case study on amazing entrepreneurs. Leela Bordia is the vice-President of the Federation Of Rajasthan Exporters Association, member of the All India Women's Council, an erstwhile member of the Bead Association of California, founder Secretary of the Rotary Club (East) 1980-1981 and winner of the Best Performance Shield. Leela has certainly come close to substantiating her dream of making a difference to society. Today, she has over 200 different items, each with hundreds of designs, 90 per cent of the products are exported and 10 per cent available locally. She was felicitated with the National Outstanding Export Award by EPCH from 1993-2005; best Woman Entrepreneur Award from the President in 1990; best Woman Entrepreneur Award by EPCH for three consecutive years in 2003-2005.

and other ladies' accessories and displayed them at Anokhi retail store. This coincided with the filming of a movie called The Far Pavilions, and a few English actresses liked and bought all that they saw at Anokhi. For Leela, it was nothing short of a divine intervention. She says that "this is when the business actually took off." Suddenly, she was infused with a renewed drive and she focussed all her energy into fructifying her dreams.
Neerja's blue landscape Meanwhile, Paul Comar continued to be a good friend. With his help, a touch of her own creativity and improved quality control techniques, she rose from one potter Kailash to 150 potters and the foundation stone of Neerja International was laid. Rajasthan's blue pottery had found a champion who was busy promoting the dreams of thousands of craftsmen. Impressed with her global efforts and her achievements, her commercial success

Besides, there have been various awards from International Societies commending Neerja's support to the local craftsmen and their families. Further, she was also honoured by Bank of Baroda, Jaipur in 1998 for Excellence in Exports; a certificate of Recognition, 1994 given by Globus, Switzerland and a National Award for Best Woman Entrepreneur by Institute of Marketing and Management.

Taking the story forward She has consultants and designers who churn out a baffling array of bathroom accessories, jewellery, crockery, wall plates, light fittings and other lifestyle items. The colour blue has crossed borders to touch shades

of green, purple yellow etc. Her two children, Aparna and Apurv have done their MBA in different fields and were married recently. Apurv is helping his mother out while her daughter-in-law, Nupur has joined the business recently. With a MBA from Welingkar, Mumbai- Hamamatsu University, Japan, her language skills ensures that she maintaines good communication with the clients. Neerja's products are available in almost all the countries from USA, France, UK to South Africa, Japan, and Israel. "Since we have about 1000 products in over 500 designs we are able to meet country-specific
Originally, blue pottery was made from ground quartz. The dough is pressed into moulds and the unfired pieces are hand painted with oxide colours, touches of blue and white, dipped in clear glaze and fired in wooden kilns.The process is very tedious and time consuming. Once made, the blue pottery items cannot be reworked. In order to rule out cracks and other flaws, results have to be awaited till the pottery is fully done. Blue pottery of Jaipur is a mix of ground quartz, green glass, fuller's earth, borax and gum. And this is kneaded into dough, flattened and pressed into an open mould. It is then dried in the hot furnace, smoothened over, and finally taken for painting. The outlines are drawn in cobalt oxide and the design is filled in with other metal oxides, each of which is transformed into a bright colour by firing. The oxide of cobalt becomes a deep blue, that of chromium changes to green, cadmium produces a bright yellow and iron oxide becomes a red-brown. The piece is then dipped into a homemade glaze of glass, borax and lead oxide, which is made adhesive by the addition of boiled flour. Finally, they are fired at 800-850° C for six hours in a closed kiln fuelled with charcoal. The detailed black decoration is fired directly into the clear lead-free glaze, giving it a tough, resilient, dishwasher-proof finish. The kiln is left to cool for three days, avoiding any rapid temperature change that easily cracks the china.
demands," says Nupur Bordia. At home in India, they supply to boutiques and life-style stores like The Culture Shop in Mumbai, Curiosity in Pune, Kalpadruma in Chennai and Tarini in New Delhi. Visibly relaxed and content now, she takes a deep breath and is glad that she helped the poor people regain their self esteem. There were hurdles, but she smiled her way through the resistance and instead, took the initiative and dealt with the issues as they surfaced. And yet for her, family comes first. She is a firm believer of the statement, "If you can run the house well, you can run the world well." An avid homemaker with strong ideas on interior and designing, her slogan is think good and he good. *
Walking the lanes of Morocco, Istanbul and China in present times, one finds a strong presence of blue pottery. There is a strong reason and that is its glorious past that links so many countries. Notable pottery wares from Turkish lands were the tiles and bricks and the first and the most important centre of tile and ceramic making was Iznik, a place in Turkey, or ancient Nicaea, located in the north-east of Bursa on the side of the Iznik Lake. The Iznik pottery of the 15th century forms an important landmark in the history of blue pottery. Iznik's potters had to compete to survive, and they did so by imitating the Chinese designs from Yuan and early Ming porcelain, samples of which were abundantly available. They also found favour within the Roman Empire, got orders from various European countries and also by Muslim rulers like Sultan Mehmed II (1451-1481), who eventually came to India.
Even though this pottery is Turko-Persian in origin, it is today widely recognised as a traditional craft of Jaipur. Legend has it that blue pottery came to Jaipur in the early 19th century when one of its rulers, Sawai Ram Singh II (1835 - 1880) set up a school of art and encouraged artists and craftsmen from all over the country to come and settle here - a tradition initialised by his forefathers. Blue pottery has been witness to several ups and downs in the past two centuries. There was a time when it all vanished from Jaipur, but the efforts of several concerned activists helped to revive this dying art. Over the years, Neerja International set up by Leela Bordia has become synonymous with the art of blue pottery.


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