Madras Craft Foundation (MCF) was a boon to the poverty-stricken artisans of Tamil Nadu. After 26 long years of struggle and success, MCF’s founder, Deborah Thiagarajan, was satisﬁed with her social venture’s achievements and was eager to move on to the next phase of her life. Was it time to hand over the reins, and if so, to whom? Sonia Mehrotra, Professor, Centre of Excellence for Case Development at Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research, Bangalore, under the supervision of Oana Branzei, Associate Professor, General Management at Richard Ivey School of Business.
American-born Deborah Thiagarajan spent her 67th birthday reviewing the past 26 years and contemplating the future of Madras Craft Foundation (MCF) and its offshoot Dakshina Chitra, a cross-cultural living museum of art, architecture, lifestyles, crafts and performing arts of a India. Established in 1984, MCF was a non-proﬁt organisation that showcased South India’s cultural and economic heritage and generated revenues from tourism, performances and cultural activities. As she reﬂected on MCF’s evolution, what made Thiagarajan particularly proud was that the social venture had been self-sufﬁcient for three years, generating enough revenues each year to cover its operating expenses. It was this self-sufﬁciency that ﬁnally gave Thiagarajan pause to think about succession. Now that her ﬂedgling social venture had grown enough to stand entirely on its own strength, could or should she turn her attention to other pursuits? She had at least three alternatives in mind: to directly mentor and promote artisans from other Indian states; run train-the-trainer programmes to facilitate the replication of MCF’s successful Dakshina Chitra model among other Indian artisans; or globalise some of the features of the MCF model.