Neerja International is the largest Manufacturer and Exporter of Blue Pottery in India. It’s Showroom and Warehouse is located in Jaipur City. The company was founded in 1978 by Leela Bordia. She has been instrumental in creating 1000 unique designs and more than 300 Blue Pottery products. Neerja International is actively involved in supporting thousands of Jaipur craftsmen and their families.
- National Outstanding Export Awards for 1993-1996 and 1998-2003
- Leela Bordia received the Best Woman Entrepreneur Award in 1991.
- Featured in World and National Magazines and Newspapers: Vogue, Marwar, Femina, Inside Outside Indian Express, Discover India Statesman, Flair, Inside Outside, Sunday Mail, The Times of India, Rajasthan Patrika, Offical Magazine of the Bead Association of California, Business in Asia, Dainik Bhaskar, and Bangalore Times.
- Various awards from International Societies commending Neerja's support of the local craftsmen and their families.
Leela Bordia was born in 1950 in Calcutta, India, into a well-off Jain family
Rajasthan. Her father was an
executive in a car factory and her mother worked with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mother Teresa, amongst the poor
destitute in Calcutta. Her mother's experiences made a deep impression on the young Leela.
In 1968, as Leela completed a Bachelor of Science degree at Rajasthan University, her mother died at a young age. Six years, later Leela Married an engineer, Kamal Bordia, and moved to Jaipur, where she worked as a teacher at a Montessori School. Although some people in her family and community would have preferred her to stay at home, her husband and mother-in-law supported her decision to go out to work. In 1976, she gave birth to a daughter.
By 1978, Leela Bordia was visiting local villages around Jaipur to engage in social welfare activities. The problems of the poor were huge. She did not have sufficient financial resources to organize any long-term programs. However, having noticed the traditional Blue Pottery work in the villages, Leela Bordia wondered if this art form could be marketed more widely as a way of improving the standard of living of villagers. She knew little of ceramics, so while visiting her brother in the United States, she undertook a one-month course in pottery techniques and designs. Leela Bordia recognized that Blue Pottery would have innovative designs to appeal to a large market.
In 1980, she established Neerja International with four craftspeople, two men and two women. In 1981, she became founding secretary of the Jaipur Rotary Club. Leela Bordia completed another ceramics and pottery course, this time in Mexico. Back in Jaipur, the business continued to grow.
In 1991, Leela Bordia won an award from the national organization Women Entrepreneurs and Executives (India). A Swiss exhibition of handicrafts from around the world visited Neerja International. Leela Bordia continued to see her company succeed internationally and the standard of living of its workers improve.
Work Practices Neerja International's workers work in their home villages, in ways similar to those of their parents, and grandparents. Their work is carried out on a contract basis. They deliver the finished products to central office. Craftspeople pay for the material they need through Neerja's low-interest loans, paid off with their earnings from producing the Blue Pottery. Neerja International supports it's workers in other ways as well. It provides assistance in organizing the life insurance, financial help for weddings (which can be a huge financial burden in traditional Indian culture) and support for widows and families. It also provides medical services to all workers. Neerja International's work practices also bring broader benefits to the craftspeople:
- Normal village life is not disrupted. In many other Indian villages, men have to go away to work in factories in the cities.
- The culture and tradition of the villages is not only preserved but also strengthened, as the living standard of the people improves.
- Traditional artistic skills in Blue Pottery are passed on to future generations, rather than being lost because young people leave the village. Young people now see a future in continuing the craft.
- Innovative and imaginative craftspeople can flourish because they are not part of a factory production process.
- Because the work is labour intensive, it encourages employment.
- Worker's income depends on the amount they can produce.
- The company also flourishes on the work practices it has established. Capital equipment costs are low because there is no need for a factory or expensive equipment.
- Operating costs are low because the work is labour-intensive.
- Providing the workers are willing, changes to designs can be made relatively easily, without expensive re-tooling.
- Because the company supports it's workers and their families, workers have a stake in keeping the business profitable and growing.
- Because innovative and imaginative craftspeople can flourish, new ideas, for products can be produced. Innovation is an essential part of Neerja International.