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Positioning Fair Trade in Indian domestic markets
01 October 2012

By Gaynor Pais*

                                                       Photo: IRFT

It is our pleasure to share with you the progress of the Indian Fair Trade Movement. We have launched the PROFIT project in 2006 to promote Fair Trade in the Indian domestic market and to encourage Fair Trade consumption. As you may be aware of, Fair Trade has been a beacon of hope for the marginalized producers, helping them to develop skills and sustainable livelihoods through the fair trading relationship. The aim of PROFIT project was to target domestic markets rather than focusing on export markets that are beyond the capacity of many micro and small enterprises, and producers and to let them share the fruits of development.

The most significant aspects of the Indian initiative are:

  • A multi-stakeholder Fair Trade initiative which has Fair Trade organizations, large NGOs, Government, Corporate entities and consumers as stakeholders.
  • Unique initiative which will eventually bring in food, non-food products, including handicrafts and services under one roof.
  • Targeted at the domestic (national) markets unlike traditional Fair Trade, which is oriented towards global markets
Shop for Change was formed
to enable visibility of the Fair
Trade brand in the Indian
domestic markets. 

Photo: IRFT

Learning from the experience of the developed countries, and with their active participation and guidance at common stakeholder meetings, a roadmap for development of Fair Trade in India was developed in 2006. Since then, we were on our way with a clear cut strategic plan.

We realized that the conditions in India are clearly different from global Fair Trade markets. It was imperative to work on a completely different approach, which in itself was a challenge. Our primary concerns were how to market the concept, how to gather support from the producers and the standard setting that is relevant to Indian conditions and practices.

Support from TRAIDCRAFT and HIVOS ensured not only funding, but a great hand-holding support. This significantly enabled the process of introducing Fair Trade to the Indian domestic markets. It is a herculean task to establish “fairness in trade’ in India.

As we traverse the roadmap, we identified key areas:

  • To understand the relevance and implications of accepting the global systems, we study of global standards and systems for monitoring and certification;
  • Establish an independent non-profit, Section 25 Company ‘Shop For Change’, with membership from the producer groups and Fair Trade organizations;
  • Engage in consumer campaigns to support a new concept like ‘Fair Trade;’
  • Awareness raising among consumers and encourage them to make informed decision;
  • Training, mentoring and support programs for the Pro-Poor MSEs to ensure that the producers maintain consistent quality and fair pricing by efficiently managing supply chains;
  • Facilitating the development of a distribution and retail networks;
  • Advertising and PR campaigns; and
  • Networking.

Looking back, we are confident we are on track. Six long years, we have experienced a slow and steady struggle towards the realization of our aim, which is to bring Fair Trade in the Indian markets. We encountered cautious businesses telling us to “let others lead and we will follow.”  This was often the repeated rejection from corporate giants. However, we have gained positive response from consumers. The consumers were more open, and more than supportive.

 Introducing in the corporate world met a cautious attitude, 
 but consumers welcome it.

                                                                         Photo: IRFT

The tenets of Fair Trade have been addressed on various consumer platforms, targeting youth through school and college campaigns, simplifying the concept, using innovative tools and mustering mass appeal through pan India films in commercial theatres to catch attention. As each milestone is achieved, we the promoters of this cause can only feel humbled by each success etching a mark that can only invigorate the need to take longer and bigger strides towards progress and hope that leaders with good intent must necessarily have followers sooner than later.

The additional project from the European Union in 2010 called  ‘ProSustain Project’ enabled us to continue our work. Four big Fair Trade organizations in India joined in this project, to add muscle to the movement, a process started by IRFT since 2006. This was a good progress as there is much-needed pan-India partnership to strengthen further our work. This project has included a proactive stance on arts and handicrafts, an umbrella brand of Fair Trade launched a few months ago that ensures Fair Trade is visible in Fair Trade handicraft shops, and supports the cause of small and marginalized artisans under the banner of Fair Trade.

Together we can move mountains, and it is with this and only this impetus to go forward that we are confident that with the smallest of steps we moved an inch. We can mountains, faith is all we need.

For more Details on the websites: Hivos at, FTF-I at and SFC at

*Gaynor Pais is the Director of International Resources for Fairer Trade (IRFT), a Mumbai-based Fair Trade Support Organization and WFTO member since 1998.

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