People & CultureSuccess Stories

Leeway Handikraft – Empowering the youth of Uttrakhand

Leeway Handikraft – Empowering the youth of Uttarakhand through creativity

The Lifestyle Portal is a huge fan of Indian and ethnic handicraft, things that are handmade and attached to our roots. Handicraft items from any part of the world have a story to tell, they bear testimony to the rich culture and diversity of the people that at times, even history books cannot capture. If you want to hold a piece of history, buy a traditional handmade handicraft item.

We came across this wonderful youth empowered handicraft company from Pauri, Garhwal in Uttrakhand called the Leeway Handikraft. The Lifestyle Portal is very happy and excited to share their entrepreneurial story with the world.

Meet Akhilesh Mani an artisan by profession and the founder of Leeway Handikraft. He and his team of a small group of young boys, girls and women work on handmade reused and new wire jewellery, recycled paper jewellery and silver jewellery since 2012. They’re from a beautiful small village called Mandakhal of Pauri in Uttrakhand.

Akhilesh Mani, Founder of Leeway Handikraft

How did it all begin?

Akhilesh recalls how he started out as a hobby artist by trying to make some paper craft materials for some Delhi and Dehradun based shops. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, so he tried in some other craft work with wires while keeping the motive of reuse, reduce and recycle.

“I then decided to convert this hobby to a small scale business which I named Leeway Handikraft. I started to make use of my artistic talent and to promote others artisans also that are now working with me,” smiles Akhilesh.

Fine craftsmanship by the team at Leeway Handikraft

Branding & Investments

The name Leeway was conceptualized when Akhilesh was working on paper craft and it is meant to bring two things together. We think as a self-taught artist with a motive to empower the youth of his village and bring in an environmentally friendly concept to his creation, the branding speaks for itself.

For wire craft, he uses, reused wire, some tools and some other hardware, which cost to him about INR 1,000 rupees way back in 2010. But as the demand had increased, investment also went on increasing all the way up to INR 3lacs in 2016.

Leeway Handikraft creations made out of waste

The team at Leeway Handikraft

Initially, he asked some of his friends and relatives to help me out in his venture. Gradually with time, as the momentum at work picked up, Akhilesh identified some of the youth in his village with an artistic bent of mind and trained them for designing, marketing and production.

Challenges faced

Akhilesh clearly defines the challenges he faces in his line of work are – market research, promotion, and wastage minimization. We’re hopeful that with time as his work gets recognised and crosses more states and continents that these challenges will soon be a thing of the past.

Craftsman at work – Leeway Handikraft

Clients at Leeway Handicraft

Akhilesh mentions that he works with some renowned non-profit organisations such as the People Tree, Novica, Setu fairtrade, Sasha faitrade, Asha Handicrafts, Craft Mark, Tatsat and the Tara Project etc. And, in order to promote this work, he’s taking the help of social media, emailers and direct phone calls to customers and clients.

From start to finish

The time duration for the accomplishment of a project depends upon the nature of the size of the order. As Akhilesh recalls, “One of the biggest orders we’ve taken so far took us almost two months to complete. And we ensure that we create purely handmade crafts without using harmful chemicals and allergic metals.”

Exquisite handmade jewellery made at Leeway Handikraft

How has Leeway Handikraft helped the youth of the region?

Akhilesh sheds some light on the geographical, economical background and condition that will help us to understand why Leeway Handikraft is important in Mandakhal. He stresses whether Leeway Handikraft is a place where one is earning, for making money or is it making some other impacts on the community as a whole?

He explains, “Firstly, the district of Pauri and especially the village of Mandakhal is a hilly region where people have not enough earning sources. Unemployment, migration and college dropouts are the common problems faced by the youth and families are facing financial challenges. In these circumstances, Leeway Handicraft has provided families with a financial assistance. Few members of Leeway had arranged their college charges by working there. So this handicraft work has provided a new way for the financial growth of community people.”

More than just a handicraft – it’s a livelihood & a sense of pride

Visions & Aims at Leeway Handikraft

Akhilesh aspires to promote his village artisans and to promote recycling and to provide a sustainable financial support to the people of his village.

He signs off by saying, “So far the journey has been full of struggle. Initially, it was difficult for me to start this work because there were no future aspects. But then gradually, with the selection of right candidates to work on projects, I am hopeful to be able to launch a sustainable business out of handicraft. Further, I also want to widen the range of products and want to work on silver, knitting, embroidery, home decor etc.”

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Reused metal – turned into beautiful ear rings @ Leeway Handikraft

The Lifestyle Portal

Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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