Pak Kusmanto edited

Gangga Collection, Yogyakarta

Pak Kusmanto was happy working as a porter in the 1980s. His job was simple – to transport products from the shop to their new owners. His night job making and selling Bakpia, small pastries filled with green mung bean, wasn’t bad either. At least, not until Pak Kusmanto realised the income from both of these jobs would not be enough to support his new family – his wife had just given birth to their first child.

Pak Kusmanto was on Marlioboro street in the centre of the city, when he came up with the idea of making leather handicrafts. He saw them being sold, found out the name of a leather supplier, and soon after he was working as a porter by day and making keychains by night. Pak Kusmanto received Rp.108,000 per month for selling the products domestically – much more than the Rp.35,000 (US$3.80) he was earning as a porter.

Bracelets edited

“I was surprised by how well the products did,” says Pak Kusmanto.

In 1988, Pak Kusmanto was approached by Gilles Popal, a French man involved in selling leather products in Bali. He was particularly interested in the bracelets he saw being sold on Marlioboro. Monsieur Popal contracted Pak Kusmanto, further increasing his income and allowing him to give up portering and focus on leatherwork.

It was after this time that Pak Kusmanto decided to name his handicraft group Gangga Collection. Gangga Septiawati is the name of his daughter who is now 23 years old. The name stems from the holy Ganges river in India. As Pak Kusmanto felt blessed by his daughter, he hoped the name would bring similar blessings to his business.

Pak Kusmanto’s product range has since expanded to include stationery, photo frames and a further range of accessories. His staff, formerly just his neighbours, has also expanded into five permanent and five sub-contracted. In 1993, Pekerti came into the picture. Gangga Collection received training in the principles of Fair Trade, administration and product safety including lead, azo and nickel-free standards, and non-toxic finishing, to allow their products to be exported to buyers in Europe and the US. In 2000, Gangga Collection lost many domestic orders, making their partnership with Pekerti even more important.

Earrings edited

Pak Kusmanto and his family thankfully escaped the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake without devastation, however, damage to infrastructure and materials scarcity made fulfilling orders difficult. With the desired blessing, however, Gangga Collection survived and today successfully uses all the Standards of Fair Trade, including giving their left over materials to another handicraft group, to avoid waste.

“As a result of working with Pekerti, my children received an education,” says Pak Kusmanto. “And I  receive a much better price from export than I do selling in the local market.”