Freeset - News

Introducing Asha (our new Product Developer)

Mar 27, 2014

An interview with Asha Scariya, a Kolkatan born and bred who joins Freeset as our new Product Developer

Asha Scariya, Product Developer

Asha Scariya, who has only been at Freeset for about three weeks as our new Product Developer, is settling in well. “I have liked it a lot, I am making new friends everyday” she says; “I have not found a single woman who has not been willing to help me. Without a doubt the best part of my job is the interaction with the women, they are always smiling, always asking how my day is going, they always have funny stories to tell.”

Asha, born and bred in Kolkata, studied Apparel Design at NIFT (the National Institute of Fashion Technology) and graduated in 2011 (“I very much enjoyed it, it was stressful but good fun”). After two years of work in design and merchandising in Kolkata, mostly womenswear for international brands, she was freelancing in Bangalore when a mutual friend introduced her to Janet Rogers, Creative Director for the Freeset Business Incubator. She has actually been employed by the Incubator, but will spend the next six months at Freeset Bags and Apparel to get a feel for the company and to understand how we work, before making the move north to Murshidabad.

“This is my first time working in bags, I am still new, I still have a lot to learn, especially in regards to production,” she is keen to emphasise, “but it is exciting, it’s good to learn something new.” T-shirts are “so much closer” to what she has studied, and she has a number of potential projects lined up there too. She is a busy young woman. Already underway is a production manual that will help to reinforce quality control across the range of Freeset products, and that requires a lot of contact with the women on the production floor. It’s fortunate that she enjoys that face-to-face time, I suggest. “The women can teach me a lot themselves. They are very friendly, they know I am new”. The language barrier, a huge obstacle to overcome for international volunteers at Freeset who are looking to establish relationships with the women, is non-existent for Asha: “but I have never spoken so much Bangla in my life! Normally people want to speak English or Hindi.”

“I love the vision of the company,” she concludes, “it is very different, bold, and so needed in this community. Generally people are happy to do their own thing, to live their own lives, unaware of this problem and not knowing how privileged they are. To help women who are in the trade is amazing. I would never have thought of it, and it is hard not to be impacted by being here.” Asha enjoys the atmosphere of the place: “everyone is so friendly and helpful, it doesn’t feel like a typical corporate environment. It is so free. Here I can be myself and get work done!” Response to her job has been mainly positive amongst family and friends, indicative perhaps of a wider cultural shift within India. “Because of my training in fashion education, the main question that people ask is, am I getting paid enough? I tell them that Freeset is a gateway to another world that may not be quite as glamorous, but I would gladly choose to be here anyday, rather than in the industry. I love this job.”