MENTION BLUE POTTERY AND HER NAME IS THE ONE THAT IMMEDIATELY COMES TO MIND. LEELA BORDIA’S COURAGE AND DETERMINATION HAS PUT BLUE POTTERY ONCE AN EXTINCT ART, ON THE WORLD MAP OF ARTEFACTS
Leela Bordia is an entrepreneur with a difference. A visit to her showroom-cum office at Bhawani Singh Road in Jaipur would give the visitor some hint of her achievements as an entrepreneur. She has won numerous export awards for the blue pottery that she exports and was adjudged the best woman entrepreneur. She set up Neerja International three decades ago and she has never looked back. The story of Neerja International is truly the story of a woman's courage and determination and the will to excel and make a place for herself. Married into a Jain Oswal family she was encouraged to take up social work by her mother-in-law and husband Kamal Bordia.
Her interest in village crafts took her to many villages in and around Jaipur. Her quest to help the villagers gave her the idea to support them through a unique way. Her idea was to make them work from their villages where they could do their farming and still find some time to make blue pottery, a dying art. Blue pottery though Turko-Persian in origin, is widely recognized as a traditional craft of the Pink City Blue pottery has seen several ups and downs in its lifespan of almost 200 years. The efforts started by Kamla Devi Chattopadhyay and Rajmata Gayatri Devi to revive this art were pursued by Leela Bordia and today it is a growing industry that provides livelihood to several hundred families.
After ensuring that the craft was revived, Leela tried to market these products by setting up Neerja International. The company started with only four craftsmen. Leela's endeavour had her share of hiccups and failures and financial setbacks. Yet she was determined and her hard work started giving her dividends.
She started making blue pottery vases, bowls and plates. The spark in her and her innovative ideas gave the clay new dimensions and what came out were numerous products. She changed the face of blue pottery with her innovative ideas. She introduced such blue pottery items like door knobs, beads, candles, incense sticks, bathroom fittings, coasters, napkin holders, perfume bottles and decanter.
Once film star Rekha visited her showroom and was fascinated with the blue pottery jewelleries that she had designed. She not only bought some, but also promoted the art by wearing the beads in a special photo session. After that blue pottery jewelleries made their impact in the market.
Today Leela makes more than 100 types of necklaces, bracelets and earrings. She provides jobs to the traditional patwas by making them produce various items using their traditional skills. She makes Kalbelia jewelleries and other fashion accessories such as charms, key chains and pouch mirrors all made of blue pottery Neerja International has built an enviable reputation for producing superior quality work and supplies its products worldwide. The company takes part in various trade fairs.
"We give utmost priority to the quality of production process, raw material and packaging material. The company ensures that the products are certified by organizations such as Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services," she says. Leela has adopted a village Kotjewar near Jaipur with a population of 1000 people. The potters in this village make blue pottery and the poor lot after years of hard work built their pucca houses with the earnings they made from making blue pottery. Nerrja International helped the villagers by providing technology and the company provides them insurance cover and financial help.
Her work and achievements attracted the attention of several scholars and study team and she was chosen for a case study project under "Business In Asia" where she figured with such giants as Hyundai Motor Company of Korea, Nintendo of Japan, Shan Yi Bio-Gas Farm of China and Changi Airport of China.
She has set up Neerja Softwares Pvt Ltd specializing in custom websites, e-commerce gateways with her US educated son Apoorva. Her daughter Aparna, an MBA is married and settled in Australia.
ONCE FILM STAR REKHA VISITED HER SHOWROOM AND WAS FASCINATED WITH THE BLUE POTTERY JEWELLERY SHE NOT ONIY BOUGHT SOME, BUT ALSO PROMOTED THE ART BY WEARING THE BEADS IN A SPECIAL PHOTO SESSION
While she was trying to set up her business three decades ago, people thought that she was forced to work because her husband Kamal was not earning enough. Little did they know that she would soon be recognized as an entrepreneur who would be honoured by the government. At times she was ridiculed for her efforts and faced several humiliations. But she always remembers Swami Vivekananda's words, "They alone live who live for others."
She was invited to Berne in Switzerland by a big store to display her produce and she was made to act as the country's ambassador "Whenever I used to land at the store for the exhibition, the staff members of the store would fly India's tricolour to greet me. It was the most triumphant moment of my life," she says.
My enormous designs, the facilities at villages that I set up for the craftsmen and their homes and families which I think are all my possessions.
My family's support particularly the support of my husband and my mother-in-law
Written communication and not being very computer savvy
To make a craft museum where tourist can come and see the wonders created by the craftsmen.