Back in the glorious days of the 18th century, artisans had royal patronage in the various kingdoms in India. The Tambats belonged to one such group. They were craftsmen who made coins, letter forms for printing, arms, artillery and armour for the Peshwa rulers, copper and brass utensils and also wares associated with rituals. Their socio-economic condition began to decline around the early 19th century with the loss of patronage of the Peshwas, and the introduction of machine-made products and bans imposed by the British.
Today, these craftsmen supply handmade products at daily wages or are remunerated per kilogram of metal they have worked on. This is drastically undermining the skills required for handcrafting these metal wares. Coppre started by Rashmi Ranade’s intervention has been an organic process, evolving over time until it got formalized over the last couple of years. She has been working to revive ancient crafts for the past 15 years before things began to take a formal shape in January 2011.
Coppre provides designs factoring the utilitarian and aesthetic sensibilities of modern day thereby making the products relevant. Coppre also completes the loop by opening up markets for the products which are currently retailed to online stores in more than seven countries. They have also exhibited in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore.
Rashmi and her team’s love and belief in the process and various vocabularies used in the making of a craft object are fulfilling to be the vehicle that bridges the link between the craftspeople and connoisseurs.
Coppre was formally launched in Pune by Rashmi Ranade in March 2011 with startup support for two years from Forbes Marshall Foundation and INTACH Pune Chapter. Coppre is at present mentored by Mr. Adhar Mirchandani. The team works with 20 artisans and six admin staff.
With an aim to encourage and instill a sense of appreciation for each handcrafted piece, they remunerate the artisans by paying them per piece. Since the intervention has commenced they have grown 560% from the first year to the third year of operations.
Coppre has received the Craftmark certification from All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association (AIACA) which authenticates craft processes to be handmade and provides the use of the Craftmark trademark to craft producers and retailers post verification of their craft processes.
Rashmi talks about the challenges they have before typically aiming to scale up. The quality is one such challenge as Coppre’s products reflect global quality in design and production. About 20% of the operation time includes quality checks, finishing and packaging. It takes tremendous monitoring and quality checks to ensure the same especially since everything is handcrafted.
She also adds that since the products are painstakingly made, piece-by-piece productivity is a problem. However, the real challenge is to bring the younger generation into the crafts fold.
On being asked about their future, Rashmi says that on the design front they plan to launch more collections and new product categories and on the marketing front, they plan to exhibit in more cities and soon launch their e-commerce website.
Three principles vital for startup success that team Coppre believes in are identity, intention and team.
Have any tips for Rashmi and her team? Do comment.