"Some random fleeting thoughts crossed my mind and transformed into a distinct idea by way of my enterprise, The Villagers," says Renn Mhonbemo Kikon the owner and founder of this small business firm based in Dimapur, Nagaland. Kikon is a pebble artist and entrepreneur, whose first brand promotion was initiated by Youth Net, an NGO that works especially for the welfare of the unemployed youth, both educated and uneducated in Nagaland.
She first started making her own art using the materials she found in her own surroundings. When asked about how she had conceived the brand name and about her business, she replied; "I was born in a small town, surrounded by numerous villages. After seeing the number of educated unemployed youths around me I just could not resist the urge to start my enterprise. I chose the name 'The Villagers' to remind the unemployed rural youth that it is not just the towns and cities that provide jobs. Villagers can create their own opportunities and support one another just like I had done through this enterprise."
Kikon's key focus is to employ high school dropouts along with the villagers who have skills but are unaware of employment opportunities. Incidentally jobs are really scarce in Nagaland and the ones available are low paying and do not justify the amount of years one spends in getting the academic/professional degree. Therefore, most of the younger generation leaves for the bigger Indian cities either for higher quality education or in search of jobs.
Jobs are scarce in Nagaland and the ones available are low paying and do not justify the amount of years one spends in getting the professional degree.Kikon also believes that most people living in the state of Nagaland have this stereotypical notion that acquiring a government job is the only way to a stable lifestyle and secure future. While this is true, not everyone can make it and only 5% can actually crack the exams to qualify for various state government jobs. Kikon encourages the youth and the unemployed educated sections to explore their own skills. "Everyone can bring out something new that will be beneficial (employment wise) to oneself and to the society in general."
So how was her journey? "Initially I worked alone while creating my art and later I started employing a couple of people. My family and relatives started helping me physically, morally and emotionally." Although her brand is fairly new and relatively unheard, Kikon is determined to take 'The Villagers' to mainstream global audiences. When asked how the Pandemic affected her business, she replied, "Almost every business and big enterprise was adversely affected. Financially, I had to incur some loss, but that did not stop me or eliminate the love I have for my work".
As of now, she sells her works on Instagram and occasionally receives orders once or twice. Most of her collections are made of pebbles, polished and framed into different shapes or forms. Kikon also implies that her brand strives to be eco friendly and limits the use of harmful chemicals or products. She does not support the use of polythene bags, but rather, sends her products wrapped in wrapping papers and paper bags with the logo, 'The Villagers' printed on it.