Vinja, is an initiative of two Dutch carpenter/contractors in collaboration with an Indian member of the board and shareholder. Our first aim is to spread knowledge and experience related to construction and building techniques and manual skills, in such a way that it can be implemented, almost instantly during, and after, 6 months intensive training of. In this way, we are able to reach the "common man and woman" in India and offer them a valuable manual skill with which to provide themselves with a decent regular, income.
Our approach is simple and almost literally hands on. After only four years of conducting various trainings in south India, considerable results are apparent. 80% of all the trainees [totally a group of 30 people] have well paid, regular work or are even running their own small business.The demand for skilled construction labor in many parts of India is very great, and trainees will therefore be able to find work after finishing their training. Whether they will be employed within our own company [more about this in the next chapter], or find work in the regular market, is up to the individual trainee.
During the last four years these training projects have been mainly financed by Dutch and Indian NGO’s, partly by our own private means, and by some private donors. In order to operate as independently from donors of any kind as possible, we decided in 2007 to start a company to provide [free] trainings and to gain turnover and profit from the products manufactured during and after training.
We select and accept trainees based on their motivation, inherent skill, aptitude and some basics like, basic arithmetic and writing and reading skills. Race, gender, age, caste etc. are not selection criteria. We even encourage woman and youngsters from poor sections of society to attend these trainings.
Turnover and profit are to be the financial backbone of Vinja pvt.ltd. As mentioned above, at present we provide free trainings and we sell the products thereof
During the last four years it has become evident that there is a large ‘’hidden’’ demand for bamboo structures, throughout India. One of our experimental training projects , therefore, was to construct a bamboo workshop, of 45ft long, 18ft wide, 18ft high, with 1 floor. This building was roughly constructed within 6 weeks, with a group of 20, totally unskilled man and woman and is still, fully operational as a carpentry/cabinet making workshop, at Kottayam, Kerala.
The positive response to the building of this structure, from trainees, the local press, and spectators/potential customers, took us by surprise, especially because the use of bamboo as a full fledged building material is virtually non existent in India, since it is generally considered a poor man’s inferior construction material. More than thirty serious local, potential customers showed interest. Requests ranged from complete resorts to a simple carport.
This is why we selected bamboo, not only as training material but equally importantly, as product to be sold in the form of constructions.
Next to this; bamboo is very strong, light, relatively easy to process, long lasting after preservation, ready available, cost effective, bio-degradable and involves no deforestation as the harvesting of timber does. We are strongly inspired by architectural bamboo examples set up in Colombia [south America] by architects like Simon Velez and Marcello. They accurately show the outstanding qualities of bamboo as construction material and the special ambiance of skillfully designed and built bamboo constructions.
May 2008, Vinja Pvt. Ltd. settled in Nelamangala, 35 km from the large city Bangalore, Karnataka, south India. At present we are training 12 people. They are constructing a large bamboo workshop [40 ft long, 30 ft wide, 12 ft high, with a free [ceramic tile] roof span of 21ft] Next to this, all other facilities [canteen, toilets, office etc] are build with bamboo, by the same trainees and future employees. October/November will start with prefabrication of the first bamboo structures already ordered. We expect to erect these buildings at site, in December 2012. The demand, both for training and for design and building, is growing fast and actually outpacing our present capacity, so we too need to grow fast, although that was not our main intention originally. Our order portfolio consists at present of 26 bamboo cottages, 1 auditorium, 1 restaurant.
We are not bamboo fundamentalists as such, we are simply fascinated by it. Our more than twenty-five years of experience on small and [very] large construction sites as carpenter, supervisor, [sub] contractor, in various places [Holland, Germany, Spain, USA, Australia] and, even now India, has exposed us to a large areal of modern and ancient materials, techniques, tools, working methods, innovations and designs/layouts.
Bamboo is, by all means a fascinating and very valuable addition to this areal. We seek to combine and integrate this great ‘grass’ with other, highly underestimated, building materials, such as coconut [palm] wood, earth stabilized blocks and others. Bamboo, if rightly processed, is an excellent alternative or addition to, timber and other materials. We seek an integration of high skill [training] and quality products [market]. Our strong conviction is that this is, in the long run, profitable, in a broad sense, for all parties involved [trainees, employees, owners/shareholders, and customers]