I started learning about ethical consumerism in college. Up until that point, I hadn’t thought much about how the goods I purchased were produced. I was mostly concerned with finding stylish pieces that fit my budget. “Cheap and best” is a phrase that Indians often use when shopping, meaning that they want quality at an affordable price. And, although we say it in other words, “cheap and best” is probably the motto of most American consumers as well.
The Problem with ”Cheap and Best”
Oftentimes, producing higher quality products at ever-affordable prices means that the makers who produce these goods suffer. Due to lack of industry and high poverty rates in our state, many people from our region of India are forced into modern day slavery, working in factories and as migrant laborers for less than minimum wages in extremely difficult conditions. At Ziyada, our heart is to create jobs for those who need them most so that they will not be vulnerable to this kind of exploitation. We want to break the cycle of poverty in our community. And, we want to offer an alternative to fast fashion to our consumers in the US.
Vinod’s Story of Redemption
Vinod works in our office in both security and packing. When he was a young boy, he lost both of his parents. He is the youngest of his siblings, and the only brother. Although his sisters love him very much, there simply weren’t enough financial resources to send him to school. So, around age 10, Vinod went to Delhi where he worked in a factory producing jeans for big name brands. Vinod laughingly tells stories about overcrowded conditions and how he and the other boys he worked with had to scramble through tiny holes in the back wall of the factory when police showed up on raids. They’d spend the night on the streets and wait to return to work the next day after the police had cleared out.
A little boy should never be making jeans that Americans buy on sale a big box stores. His childhood was stolen so that we could have jeans “cheap and best”. But his story is one of redemption. After 10 years, Vinod managed to leave Delhi, eventually making his way back home. After his return, he started working at Ziyada where he has access to fair wages, health care, a pension plan, a standard 40 hour work week, and a free lunch. Since joining our team, Vinod built his own home, and uses a bit of his land for farming. He married a precious woman named Reshma. When he talks about her, he gushes. He said, “Since she’s come into my life, I have a family and a home. She makes my life very good. I have her, I have her parents to love, and now I have a daughter of my own!”
The Power of Ethical Purchasing
When I think about Vinod’s sweet daughter and the childhood she’ll have, deep thankfulness wells up deep in my soul. This is what Ziyada is all about. Ziyada means more because we want more for our artisans and for the next generation! Ziyada is more—more opportunity, more hope, more health, more help, and more happiness. Every purchase you make is changing lives and building a better future for each of our employees! Every time you spend your dollars on ethically made goods, you are intentionally making the world a better place. So, keep on shopping! You, my friend, are making a difference!