• Social Innovation Fellowship


Economics and Literary Arts

Award Year 

Panika Project

Urban India and Katni, Madhya Pradesh
The Panika Project looks to create commercially viable products such as shoe bags, headphone covers and laptop sleeves, using a unique hand-woven cloth crafted in a village called Katni in rural India. The products are designed with handmade art, ranging from pop culture caricatures to Indian cultural art. The Panika people, local to Katni, have been struggling with poverty over the past decade due to their inability to market this cloth, which has hindered both income and living standards. I founded The Panika Project two years ago to solve this problem using innovative marketing and design and selling the resulting products at exhibitions and trade shows. Feeding off initial success from previous exhibitions, I plan on attending shows across India this summer and ultimately approaching hotels that currently lack corporate social responsibility projects to purchase these products as part of special services packages in high-end suites. I hope for these efforts to drive the Panika people to a future of self-sustenance.

Two summers ago, before I founded this venture, I visited Katni, India with my grandfather to re-connect with my roots. On my journey, I met a weaver of this unique cloth that fascinated me beyond measure. He told me how the cloth had lost appeal to people in rural India and how young boys, like his son in a few years, were forced to relocate to cities and engage in labour-intensive jobs for below minimum wage; how an entire people is left to suffer because the world doesn't know of the beauty of its skill. As he told me this story, I decided to make a change, because an artist of such talent does not deserve to cry upon the art that he produces, concerned about whether it will provide for the next two meals he wishes to feed his family. 

Every time I lose focus from this goal, I remember the boy whose future that weaver is fighting for and remind myself that he does not deserve to fight alone.