Aik Hunar Aik Nagar (AHAN), is out to make a difference: and while a lot of people claim to do so, AHAN is actually making changes. AHAN’s first flagship outlet – ‘Handmade by AHAN’, located in Xinhua Mall, Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri Road, Lahore is a one-stop shop for the vast variety of products designed by AHAN and manufactured by rural artisans of Pakistan.
AHAN’s products span a wide variety from home accessories to trendy day wear to formal clothing to accessories for clothes. AHAN stands different in a way that all its products are handmade by skilled women and men, who are living in rural areas and striving hard to earn a living through their handicrafts. Also, AHAN is facilitating huge number of artisans from flood affected areas.“AHAN’s aim is to empower the poor by teaching them a skill which will help them earn money,” said Mr. Maroof Afzal , CEO of AHAN. “Under the banner of AHAN, we teach women and men in rural areas how to implement contemporary aesthetics onto traditional items such as creating modern shapes out of typical blue and white Multani pottery.”
“AHAN was initiated in July 2006 with the primary objective to alleviate poverty in rural and peri-urban areas of Pakistan by supporting micro and small enterprises engaged in non-farm products, like handicrafts. The idea behind AHAN was to cater to poverty alleviation through empowerment of the skilled poor,” says Mr. Maroof Afzal//, CEO of AHAN.
Having operations in almost all major cities of Pakistan through its regional offices in all four provincial headquarters i.e. Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta. Today, AHAN is working as a not-for-profit company registered under Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance 1984 and is a subsidiary of Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), under the Ministry of Production, Government of Pakistan. It is based on a unique and novel concept of the One Village One Product model prevalent in Japan, Thailand and other far eastern countries.
At the flagship outlet many contemporary handmade products are sold, and according to the AHAN team some of these items such as blue pottery, embroidered cushions and bed spreads are hot sellers. “We can barely keep up with the demand for these items,” said//, a member of AHAN’s team. “A lot of people pick up these items as gifts or accent items around the house.”
Amongst the hot sellers are also beaded bangles, representing skill of Haripur artisans and embroidered head bands, which are representing embroidery skill of both KPK and Balochistan regions. Another hot seller is the truck-art inspired sofa cushions which are available only in limited edition and are much sought especially by the expatriate community, who are eager to take a piece back home with them.
“These cushions are made in the interior of Balochistan and are inspired from truck art,” said // a member of AHAN’s marketing team. “The designing is done in our head office and we spend many hours researching on truck art and the use of colors on the back of trucks before we finalize the designs for these cushions. The designs are then sent to artisans via AHAN’s regional office in Quetta and each cushion takes approximately 15 days to complete.”
Speaking at the occasion of the launch of AHAN’s flagship outlet Mr. Anwar Cheema, Federal Minister for Production, said: “Aik Hunar Aik Nagar is an initiative which is directly targeting rural artisans and craft persons and creating employment opportunities at grassroots level through provision of product development and marketing services.”
“AHAN has been at the forefront in social development for many years now and it gives me a great pleasure to see a dream materialize into reality,” said Noorjehan Bigrami, well known revivalist whose work in breathing new life into ajrak is widely appreciated. “The opening of the first retail store will go a long way to promoting the wonderful craft Pakistan’s rural sector has to offer and I am hopeful the nation will respond to this amazing venture and ‘be Pakistani, buy Pakistani’ and support our folk traditions as proud Pakistanis.”