Babies, toddlers and children smile with wonder at the cute designs and quirky expressions, parents smile at the joy of watching their little ones and knowing that their purchase also helped a family a long way away, and the Hathay Bunano artisans smile knowing that they have sustainable, regular and flexible employment and a chance to give their own children a better life.
Meet the Hathay Bunano artisans
Shortly after arriving in Bangladesh, Samantha Morshed started Hathay Bunano ps, a non-profit organization. Through a local NGO she invited 12 young women to her home in Dhaka and taught them to knit in her spare room. After three weeks practicing knitting they started to work on the first order.
With 24 women knitting in Samantha’s spare room every day and more work than we could manage it was time to open our first rural production centres in Narshingdi, about 2 hours drive from the capital Dhaka. We chose two locations and Samantha visited them 3 days a week for 2 months teaching them to knit.
With Samantha’s husband, Morshed, now involved in the project, finally we found our first head office in Ibrahimpur and the 24 women who had been knitting at Samantha’s home transferred there. The aim was to grow through private label and to apply lessons learnt from the vast garments industry in Bangladesh to the much smaller handicrafts industry with a view to creating a ‘handicrafts project’ that could scale.
With more than 2000 women working in rural production centres around the country and inclusion of crèche facilities and pre-schools where possible, our founder, Samantha Morshed was honoured with MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) from the Queen for her services to the rural poor women of Bangladesh.
HBPS was commended on its work and achievements by President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.
It was clear that to continue to scale and to demonstrate that it was possible to scale the handicrafts sector in Bangladesh, we would have to start a brand. Having spent much of 2009 designing new products for Pebble and working on the branding, it was launched in January 2010 in the UK and Australia.
Pebblechild UK Ltd and Pebblechild Malaysia Sdn Bhd were incorporated to facilitate distribution of Pebble products through Europe and Asia Pacific.
The case study of HBPS, written by Prof Kevin McKague, Samantha Morshed and Habibur Rahman was published in the MIT Innovations journal as an example of how to create good quality employment for the young, illiterate, unskilled women of rural Bangladesh at scale. It became the ‘how to’ guide worldwide for scaling handicrafts projects.
Rayhan Kabir was appointed Executive Director of HBPS, having worked up through the ranks and understanding the mission of this social enterprise intimately. Pebble is selling through 17 distributors in 34 countries.
In March 2016 we relaunched our website to enable direct ecommerce. With such a large catalogue of products and knowing that not all retailers stock all products we wanted to be able to ensure that there was a single place where customers could find every single Pebble product.