Somewhere in the villages surrounding the temple town of Tiruvanamalai, Tamil Nadu, there is a determined set of rural women working hard to make sure our homes are chemical free.
It is the farmer in Maithreyi that first saw how she was herself responsible for contaminating water and soil around the farm by using harmful chemical laden toxic products at home. The connection was simple – water-soil-food. “Was it even possible to replace the toxicity with effective and affordable natural alternatives?” Maithreyi wondered, adding that at first, it seemed like a wild idea even to consider. That is how Wild Ideas Trust (WIT) was born – an attempt to do the unthinkable – in this case, turning homes and lives chemical free.
It is perhaps serendipitous that Maithreyi and her husband Ajay were in a place where she could access forest produce, rediscover forgotten recipes, and had women from disadvantaged backgrounds struggle to eke out a living. It is here that Maithreyi decided that the brand could take shape since her vision was to make organic products that were accessible and affordable through a brand that transformed the lives of people who worked hard building it. That there are nearly 90 barely educated rural women who have emerged from abject conditions to now successfully produce a wide range of licensed, high quality products – from home to personal care, from cloth bags to handicrafts – and run the cooperative, is a testimony to Maithreyi’s idea of a rural enterprise run entirely by women for women.
A firm believer that healthy bodies lead to happy people, Maithreyi has instituted practices that ensure overall well-being of all the women. These range from ensuring that the women have proper nutrition and free healthcare to providing creative ways of conflict resolution at home and the workplace, financial planning to help them get out of debt and providing an equitable work environment that creates a peaceful and happy workplace. All these programs help the women live a financially independent, peaceful and dignified life. Today, Wild Ideas has proved what rural women can do if provided with an opportunity.
A chance encounter with Wild Ideas products at her daughter’s school is what prompted Latha to connect with Maithreyi. Unlike the other products she had been trying, she instinctively connected to the brand for the quality and what it stands for.
The rough texture of recycled paper, the hills and trees on the label, the different colours on the label, and the women who made them. From there to landing at the doorstep of Maithreyi and her architect husband Ajay, who is the cofounder and the brain behind the brand and its identity, was a matter of time.
All it took was a day with Maithreyi and Ajay, their two kids and the women for Latha to decide that she had to be part of this incredible journey. “Here was this person redefining the vocabulary of rural enterprise. Did you know, 100% of the profits go back to the women of WIT? How could I not be a part of it, especially given that my last one decade was spent working with marginal farmers and forming women self-help groups”, says Latha, founder-partner of Lagom World and who is otherwise into regenerative agriculture. She adds, “Setting up the dedicated online store was born out of my selfish desire to play an active role in propagating widespread use of Wild Ideas’ products, and reduce water and soil contamination.”
“In 2014, we did not have off the shelf products. Today, we have the full range that can help turn our homes and life chemical free. There is no excuse,” says Maithreyi whose motto is: be good to yourself, your home and earth. In keeping with this, Latha is chasing down a goal – 1 lakh homes to adopt natural and sustainable options. As the Swedish word Lagom means – not too little; not too much; just right.