This woman entrepreneur turned her film production office into a furniture and art store
Srila Chatterjee worked for 25 years as a producer and ran Highlight Films before she decided to follow her passion for art and design and opened BARO, a furniture and art store in Mumbai.
Srila Chatterjee worked for 25 years in the advertising films industry before she decided to turn entrepreneur. In 1989, she joined Highlight Films, as a producer and continued in that role.
However, 25 years down the line, she wanted to shift gears and move onto a more exciting phase in her life.
She was always passionate about art and design, especially Indian art. At Highlight Films, she would dress up the sets, organise public art festivals and style homes for friends. She also curated the famous Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in its early days and co-founded blueFROG, one of the most iconic music spaces in the country.
Even though she has no formal education in design - she has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Master’s in Management Studies, Srila has always been interested in the process of craft and creation.
An experiment turned into a business
Srila met her Co-founder Siddharth Sirohi while working together for a Swedish film. Passionate about design, they teamed up to start making furniture that they sold from the film office. In just two years, the duo expanded to home accessories and art. They reached an intersection where a decision had to be made - either terminate the experiment or take it forward as a full-fledged project. And BARO, a furniture, art and lifestyle store was born with the vision of “a seamless union of aesthetics, ethics, and ergonomics”.
Transforming the film office at 12 Sun Mill, Lower Parel, Mumbai into their store, they decided to name it BARO as it means 12 in Bengali. Srila is the curator and Siddharth, the designer.
When asked about her pivot from production to the furniture business, the 56-year-old says,
“It's easy to do what you want to do if you are led by what interests and inspires you, and not by the need to make money.”
Collaborating with artists and brands
With a focus on ethics, the furniture which is heavily influenced by the mid-century modern movement is made from only reclaimed, weathered teak and an entirely natural linseed oil and beeswax polish. All the furniture is made locally at their workshop in Mumbai and other pieces are curated by Srila.
Having worked in the film industry and being passionate about Indian art forms, Srila collaborates with several Indian folk artists. BARO attempts to change perceptions of people towards indigenous art from various parts of India by presenting it as cool and contemporary. It showcases several art forms including Gond, Pattachitra scrolls, Kalighat Pictures, Santhal art, Odisha Pattachitra, and Phad.
It also features art from renowned Indian artists like Gond artist Ramesh Takam from Bhopal, Sanjay Chitara who specialises in Mata ni pachedi art, Phad artist and master Kalyan Joshi, and award-winning artist Pranab Narayan Das and others.
She collaborates with artists she knows personally and through NGOs that work with artisans and designers.
In the spirit of collaboration and promoting brands that align with values of BARO, Srila envisioned the BARO Market. It is a collection of brands that make unique and special products and work with integrity and originality, says Srila. It includes local brands that have deep roots in craft and craftsmanship like 145 East, Rangeela, Varnam, and more. It includes clothing, gifting items, toys that start at an affordable price of Rs 25 and go up to Rs 10,000.
Promoting handcrafted furniture and products, Srila believes BARO is a place for those who want the craft displayed at their homes or offices to tell a story and believe in handcrafted uniqueness. She wants people to share their commitment to community, craft, and conscious living.
Currently, BARO products are available at their store and the furniture is also available through an online catalogue that features sofas, chairs, lamps, beds and more. The founders are also developing an online presence for the BARO market.
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan