How many times have you sat with your bumchums, stared into space and said, ‘yaar chal kuchh apna kartein hain’? Three friends we’re talking about were not very different. At some point, life had them work together and bond well. One loved poetry, the other loved the idea of entrepreneurship and the third loved all things handmade and green. And that is how Kavi – The Poetry-Art Project came to be born. The year was 2012, and four years later, their success story is an inspiration for many.
Co-founded by Amit Singh and Madhuri Balodi who run the green enterprise full-time now and Soumya Mukerji who acts as literary adviser, Kavi at its outset was a concept as fresh as clay. Today, among other things, it uses that material to make eco-friendly home décor and stationery going beyond its personalized poetry-themed gift articles. The team started out with a humble investment of Rs 7,000 from a garage and a small room which would double up as their workshop—the three working away tirelessly and sending away Facebook invitations for poetry to be turned into tangible gifts such as wall art, recycled wine-bottle lamps and earthen gullaks (piggy banks). All of Kavi’s offerings were hand-created, with a bunch of grassroot level artists fuelling their beauty. Soon, market demand propelled them to nosedive into production, and then came a whole wave of recycled firsts that the Indian pop market was yet to see—wine-cork earrings and coasters, Cola and Maggi wrapper clocks, wooden pallet clocks, bottle-crafted lamps, planters, beer mugs and key-hangers, canvas bags with original poetry, mugs inspired by great Indian writers and more. “One thing led to another…once I got that bottle driller in, I wasn’t satisfied just creating lamps—and no, not those Chinese pipe-lit lamps you see everywhere but fully wired, bulbed, electrically tested and safe lamps with acrylic art. The experiments went on we ended up innovating a lot of products not designed before. The beer-bottle keyhanger, for instance, was fun to do with wine cork-stops, and so with the Ganesha earthen lamps and recycled Maggi wrapper clocks that we’ve introduced this year,” says Amit.
Kavi set up its first flagship outlet at the Select CityWalk mall this year after selling with all major online portals and offline stores such as Full Circle & Café Turtle over the years. But what distinguishes them from other startups is that they’ve never let the market make their social and cultural side take a backseat, even with a tiny team and limited resources. In 2015, an impromptu poetry jam organized aboard the Delhi Metro on World Poetry Day (March 21) landed Kavi a spot in the Limca Book of Records 2015 for this creative social entrepreneurship. Regular poetry-art initiatives and pop-ups at DU colleges and cultural hubs such as the National School of Drama are other noteworthy activities. “On World Environment Day last year, we conducted a poetry-cum-tree-planting session with the inmates of the Tihar Jail. We believe everyone needs to do poetry and grow some green. If prisoners can do it, why can’t we who’re free?” says Madhuri.
Every good start up needs struggle and the same goes with this project too. “We all are not from business background and have no idea as how the market will respond to our idea. We just started with our facebook page and invested a little amount from our salaries to start the work from our home. We did everything start from making the product and delivering to the customers and later our hard work pays us all. Now we have a team who look after for all the operations and promotions” added Madhuri.
They have customized poetry lamp for Javed Akhtar, poetry canvas frame for Salmaan Khurshid and poetry bag for Kalki Koechlin last year and planning to expand in the coming years. Talking to these folks makes you believe again in the power of being grounded, the power of handmade art, the power of recycling and the power of literature—an explosive combination if done right. “A kavi is never quite complete…a poet is always seeking, always in the making. So are we,” sums up Soumya.