Muezart Maker Kevin – Wants to Put Eri Silk from Meghalaya on The World Map

A Shillongite by birth, completed his schooling in the neighboring state of Assam, went for his under-graduation to the University of Delhi, worked in a few interesting corporate jobs and is now back home in Shillong. Meet Kevin Jyrwa, a Muezart team member. Hear his story – see how an eclectic mix of experiences makes him the person he is.

If you have been following our blogs you would have met a few of our Muezart makers Rida, Hep, Baphi and Khraw. Now meet Kevin, another very young team member.

Our Mantra - Creating Opportunities Where There Are None

If you notice, Chillibreeze and its spin-off units, prefer to hire locally – to provide opportunities to the many talented youth in the North East region of India, where there are very few employment options outside of the Government. Many like Kevin go outside their state seeking jobs in other cities just because there are limited job opening in the NE. Given a choice, many would love to be back home – to be coddled by the beauty and the warmth of their state.

Kevin is the team lead of Muezart. His responsibilities range from overseeing each teams’ function, to the overall operations of Muezart. He handles our Amazon US and Etsy accounts - for sales, inventory planning, ads, and reports. Oversees all exports and shipments to customers and the Amazon warehouses. He also contributes to marketing and content efforts for Muezart. This may seem a lot, but Kevin is ‘cool’ handling it, that too with a great sense of humour.  

Kevin has been generous in sharing his life with us – you will get to experience his journey as though you were there with him. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did talking to him.

Moved to Muezart Organically From Zizira

When asked how he joined Muezart this is what Kevin had to say:

In a way I was in Muezart before it was launched! 

Muezart was spawned from Zizira, our sister company and I moved to it organically. I was handling Zizira’s supply chain, Amazon account and contributing towards content for the marketing team. That was the time Zizira discovered that many farmers were into sericulture too, as supplemental income. They were hands-on – rearing silkworms, spinning the silk, and weaving. And the silk they produced was special – called Eri silk. We spotted an opportunity for the farmers and for nurturing a heritage cottage industry, which were in line with our vision for Zizira. We had no doubts that we should step in and support Eri silkworm rearers and Eri silk weavers.

Through many brainstorming sessions we finally decided to form a separate business entity, to focus on Eri silk, and thus Muezart was born.

I don’t quite remember how the team was divided but I remember everyone in Muezart wanted me to lead them. It was an awesome feeling.

It was exciting times – a young team, many of us on our first jobs and here we were launching a new business. And, our target community would be spread across the globe - those who pursue weaving with a passion – as an expression of their love for nature and creativity. A huge challenge.

Every Job Was a Training Ground

Was Muezart his first job?

This is not my first job. I did a few different things before moving to Muezart.

To me it feels like life had put me through a training program to build my capacities so that I could handle things in Muezart! I loved every job I did, enjoyed the company of my colleagues and learnt a lot.

My first job was part time in a call center in Delhi doing hard core cold calling for a U.S. based cellular service provider. I loved it, because it was my first job and I was earning money, my own money. What I made wasn’t enough to even pay even my rent, but I learnt a lot. I loved it because I could meet a diverse group of people and experience it all. The call center environment was very casual - even my boss was as friendly as my colleagues.

A funny exchange between a customer and my colleague is etched in my memory.

Prospect: Hello
Colleague: Hello ma’am, can I speak with Mary please?
Prospect: This is she.
Colleague: Oh, hello she. Could I speak with Mary please?

😊

My second job was a full time one at a global travel service provider - a travel agency catering to UK and European countries. Here I learnt about airlines, ticketing, car hire and billing. We used Worldspan, Galileo and Amadeus before e-ticket was introduced. Everything is so easy nowadays.

In the last company I worked for, before coming back to Shillong, I was part of the business development team. Here I got to rub shoulders with SVPs, VPs, and CCOs of companies. The big boys and girls of the corporate world.

At each level I absorbed many things and from each place I added to my skill sets and abilities, all of which I use today. Experience is a great teacher.

Eri Silk Is in Our Tradition – Some Keep Them As Heirlooms

Did Kevin know about Eri silk before Muezart?

I knew about Eri silk but not about rearing Eri silkworms.

Eri silk is in our tradition and culture. Eri silk shawls are treasured by families who own them. They are gifted during special occasions or given to important guests when they are welcomed to a function. Shawls are also used in local tribal ceremonies.

Exchange of the Eri silk shawl | MuezartGiving shawls as gifts during weddings, birthdays etc is a tradition in Meghalaya

In fact, Eri silk shawls are heirloom pieces and most families have one passed down for generations. The ‘thoh rew stem’ is a yellow and red chequered shawl that most families possess. Ours is old, since before my mother’s time.

kyntang eri silk shawl endi silk peace silk shawl | MuezartA traditional Eri silk shawl

Families take special care of them – we try not to wash them often. They can be washed, but as they are used only during special occasions they are not soiled. We store the Eri silk shawls wrapped in a cotton cloth and are hung out under a shade 2 to 3 times a year.

Any Interesting Stories About Team Muezart?

Kevin has a sense of humor and sees the funny side of things. In one of his lighter moments he opened up about his colleagues. We are publishing it the way he said it – hope there is no blood shed in Muezart once this piece goes live. 😊

We have a diverse team and each one has their quirky personalities. Larry is the city boy. He looked at a green paddy field and asked what it was. He had never seen one before and thought paddy fields were always brown.

Larry - A Muezart employee | MuezartLarry is also known as the city boy 😁

Peter is a dreamer and he is the one behind our images and videos. One day he overate at lunch not realizing we had meeting coming up immediately after. We caught him dozing off. Now we try to have meetings in the morning or evening.

 Peter a photographer and videographer for muezart | MuezartPeter a photographer and videographer for muezart

Khraw is the ladies’ man, well that’s because he’s the one responsible for networking and engaging with our women entrepreneurs in the villages. They love him and from time to time send him some sticky rice, fruits or vegetables from their garden. He has developed a slight paunch because of their gifts (we think) which we tease him about it.

Khraw a network manager who engages with women entrepreneurs in the villages | MuezartKhraw is at the heart and soul for Muezart when it comes to having a strong business relationship with women entrepreneurs in the villages

Miranda is a free-spirited imaginative creator. And she speaks in English. Well, all the time. If we ask her anything in our local language (Khasi) she will reply in English.

Miranda a muezart maker | MuezartMiranda a maker for Muezart. She is from Jowai, a city 66km away from Shillong

Grew up Surrounded by Family

Kevin has 4 siblings, 3 brothers and a sister. He was happy to share personal snippets about his family.

We were a big family which taught us a lot about working together, sharing, being responsible and independent. I really can’t think of anything that’s the downside of having a big family, except for hand-me-downs. But again, it taught us about being frugal and not being entitled. Both my parents were working, so we siblings practically raised each other. Writing this brings back good childhood memories.

My father was a teacher so all of us siblings studied in the school where he taught – the Army Public School, Shillong. In fact, my father was the principal. Maybe it was my parents’ strategy to keep an eye on us. When my father moved to another school in the neighboring state of Assam the youngest three siblings moved with him and I completed school there. Then I was off to Delhi university where I studied English literature.

Fun School Days and Dream Growing Up

As a teenager I wanted to join the air force and become a fighter pilot. After my 10th grade I tried the NDA exam, but did not make the grade. 😌 Even today I dream about flying. Maybe someday I can get my private pilot’s license and fulfill my dream of flying.

In my school days we had time to play, do our homework, study, play carrom or a board game, have dinner by 7 PM and be off to bed at 8:30 PM.

Like any child my childhood days were full of mischievousness and growing up with my siblings and cousins we were like little gangs. We would steal fruit from our maternal grand aunt’s garden and bruise ourselves climbing the trees. I don’t remember how many times I have fallen off trees and never broke a bone. On Saturdays or Sundays, we would go to the road to buy aloo muri (a street snack) and hide in the car garage to devour it. Street food was forbidden to us which made it even more enticing and challenging to get our hands on some.

We had school friends and home friends. Like the names suggest school friends were ones we meet in school, like classmates and students of other grades too. Since we would meet only during school hours, we had different life experiences. Equally entertaining and full of mischief. Home friends are children who lived in the same locality who we played with after school.

Homework and studies were done only at home. No tuitions, no tutors no extra coaching. We had time for everything. And I believe this helped us all be disciplined even now. TV was also something we didn’t really take to. We would usually watch cartoons on a Sunday.

Surprised at His Own Capacity to Repair Electrical Appliances

Asked if he had any hidden talents, Kevin had something interesting to say.

I find I can repair most electrical appliances. I am not from science background; I detest Physics and have no formal training in electronics – yet you should see my hands work! I’m not sure where I get this ability from.

I do not know if I can call it a talent, but I love cooking for the family. Having grown up with a big family and having stayed alone in Delhi, I have acquired some cooking skills. I enjoy the slow cooking approach like marinating over-night, cooking over low flame and the sorts. BTW I make a killer butter chicken. Reading this if you want his recipe, feel free to reach out through the comments box.

I have a great fondness towards technology, and I try as much as possible to research and read to be up to date. Stocks is another area that interests me. The lives of Warren Buffett and the infamous Jordan Belfort have added to my amazement and wonder.

How Can Kevin Help Muezart Impact the Eri Silkworm Rearers in Meghalaya?

Kevin was full of enthusiasm and energy as he expressed his thoughts on how Muezart could impact Eri silkworm rearers.

I believe there is great potential for the entire ecosystem around Eri silk in Meghalaya. Until recently Eri silk was a very localized industry. Most of the time the scarves and shawls would sit in their cupboards for months before finally finding a buyer. This is the key reason our traditional practice is experiencing a fast decline. 

Added to this, the children who see first-hand their mothers not able to get decent benefits for their hard work do not want to carry forward this tradition. And we see this all around the world where traditional practices are slowly disappearing.

We at Muezart see that the way of life around Eri silk can be saved. It starts with deciding to lead a change and most importantly we need to believe we can make it happen.

The first step (the toughest) is to take Eri silk beyond the local market. Easier said than done because outside of the region Eri silk is still so unknown, even in India. So, our focus is more on the lines of introducing and educating people. But it’s an uphill battle. We are optimistic though, as a few have shown support to our efforts and they love Eri silk.

So, once we can open new markets for Eri silk it will definitely be an inspiration and an economic boon for the silkworm rears, spinners, and weavers of Meghalaya. This will influence the younger generation to want to carry forward in their mothers’ (well there are some fathers as well) footsteps.

One last question to Kevin as we wound up our chat was – what future he sees for himself over the next 5 years.

“I see myself having contributed to putting Eri silk from Meghalaya on the global map. I see myself taking people from different countries on artisan experiences. Well I definitely see myself leading a larger team Muezart.”

Are you an Eri silk weaver? Or are you looking to learn more about Eri silk? Do you think Kevin’s ideas to regenerate the cottage industry of Eri silk in the state of Meghalaya will work? Wait to hear from you.


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