Friday, June 21, 2024

Spreading Happiness From Bhutan to the World, One Scarf At A Time

Quin never imagined that a holiday in Bhutan in 2014 would be the beginning of a social enterprise called ANA By Karma (ANA). “I started the social enterprise by accident,” she says. Quin met with a talented young village housewife in Bhutan who was struggling financially. She asked her to weave some scarves, which Quin helped her sell. What was supposed to be a one-off exercise snowballed into the ANA we know today. 

ANA By Karma started very modestly with one weaver and eight scarves in June 2014. Quin, a Chartered Accountant by profession, had zero selling experience prior to this. She never imagined that it would grow to over 70 weavers, selling in many countries and transforming lives in incredible ways, from women to children. 

“As we grew from strength to strength on the back of the weavers’ transformation and belief in self-capability, ANA has set a bold vision to be achieved in the next five years,” says Quin. 

She wrote a book, “Weaving Rainbows in the Himalayas” in the spring of 2015 to celebrate the talents of these women, who are often forgotten by their community. In the summer of 2015, she held a month-long exhibition of their scarves and their stories in Hong Kong, once again launching the social enterprise to a higher level of business.

“Focusing on one small task at a time, I patiently worked with the women to build their skills and business. Starting with teaching the weavers how to measure with a measuring tape (instead of measuring with bamboo sticks) to packaging attractively for sale, Mother Teresa’s comforting words of “Doing small things with great love” remains to be my motivation as we move forward assuredly.”

ANA by Karma is a social enterprise with a mission to spread happiness from Bhutan to the world, one scarf at a time. The first and main product is our rainbow-colored scarves, 100% handmade by women artisans in Bhutan. Each scarf embodies the Bhutanese heritage of artistic weaving, the designs inspired by Bhutan’s breath-taking landscapes and colorful culture. It also carries the emblem of the weaver who made it, and the customer can trace the scarf back to the weaver via our website,

With 35 regular weavers, another 30+ part-time weavers, and ongoing development programs, ANA’s quality and production capacity increased steadily and sustainably. Since the humble start in June 2014 with one weaver and eight scarves, ANA today sells through a network of retailers in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and China as well as distributors covering Australia, Thailand, and Macao and runs two online shops. ANA also organizes and funds community development projects such as children’s photography workshops and financial literacy classes. In 2016, ANA Trust Fund was set up for the artisans to secure their future and provide scholarship loans for their children’s education.

ANA has developed a new product, innovating the traditional Bhutanese waist belt-making techniques to produce personalized luggage belts and personalized camera straps for the globetrotters so that the product has a broader appeal and functionality in the modern world. This new item helps ANA reach a new segment of customers and removes the seasonality factor associated with scarf purchases. In May 2017, ANA won the grand prize at the FedEx Hong Kong Competition, winning HK$150,000 and marketing opportunities with FedEx.

“I feel very blessed to be given this unique opportunity to work with the Bhutanese weavers. Though I am a volunteer, I have received more things than money can buy. Love, a huge family in Bhutan, and humbleness,” says Quin. “I often say this project restored my faith in humanity because I have met the best of people through ANA, especially many selfless individuals who contacted me and expressed their wish to contribute positively while expecting nothing in return. I wish to continue contributing to ANA as long as the weavers find value in what I can do for ANA and for them.”

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