These brothers started their design studio in Auroville to work with local artisans, clocked Rs 60 lakh turnover in a year

In just a year, Art Brute has delivered customised planters, coffee table, bathroom tools, chairs, and more to its clients. Its client list includes hotels and cafes, and it has made deliveries in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Chennai.
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Auroville, a synonym for ‘universal unity’, is known as a city of dreams. An experimental township located in Viluppuram district near Puducherry, Auroville is a place where people live in harmony without any discrimination of country or religion. 

And when Abhishek Ghosh Choudhury (36) and Aniket Ghosh Choudhury (32) decided to quit their jobs to start their creative design studio; they couldn’t think of any place other than Auroville.

Abhishek Ghosh Choudhury and Aniket Ghosh Choudhury, Co-founders, Art Brute

We wanted to create a design studio that would deliver products with unique design and ultra-unique customisations. After seeing the culture and ambience of Auroville, we couldn’t find any other suitable place to bring out that creativity,” Abhishek, Co-founder, tells SMBStory.

Abhishek has cinema studies and film direction background while Aniket is an ex-Flipkart and Xiaomi employee. The brothers started their design studio Art Brute in 2018 in Auroville with an investment of Rs 20 lakh from their savings. 

In an interaction with SMBStory, both co-founders reveal the concept behind their design studio and how they are helping local artisans in Auroville. 

Edited excerpts of the interview: 

SMBStory: What is Art Brute? How was it started?

Abhishek: Art Brute is a multidisciplinary design lab with an experimental approach to spatial decor, product design, concept art, video production, and graphic design. We explore mixed media designs in concrete, metal, wood, clay, hemp, and found objects. We cater to extensive customisation requirements from clients, handcrafting products with care and perfection. 

Before the studio was set up, we started working with skilled local artisans in and around Auroville who have experience in making customised concrete planters. We collaborated with them on a few test projects to explore the possibilities of concrete as a material for developing more functional products suited for interior and exterior decor. 

Concrete and metal seater with wheels (left) and bar stool made of concrete and metal (right)

As requirements expanded along with a diverse client base we decided to structure it as a business and built a studio space where we could further our research on materials ( in addition to concrete) and manufacture bespoke products for in-situ display and sale.

Our studio also doubles up as a concept store where we sell our products and an intimate event space to host workshops and performances.

In just one year, we have been able to reach five and seven-star hotels across India along with various other clients, including Poppy's Hotel, Coimbatore; Jiji's Resort – Courtrallam; Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts & Research, Auroville; Purple Turtles, Bengaluru; Doordarshan, Puducherry; Union - the Urban café; Chennai, and many more. 

SMBS: What is the market size of your sector and how are you differentiating from the competition? 

Aniket: The interior designing industry of India is expected to grow at a CAGR of around eight percent from $837 million in 2017 to $1,138 million in 2021. The natural derivative of this growth is a surge in demand for decor and furniture products. This can be fulfilled by supply of locally made products in India as costs are low, which can benefit designers and architects who end up earning greater profit margins in this process, thus helping provide fair compensation to local artisans too in some cases. 

Art Brute design studio

With the right places to manufacture these products and the right channels to sell them, even a small share of the market can sustain a business involved with these kinds of products. 

We, at Art Brute, differentiate ourselves from the competition by making limited edition products only, working with a wide range of industrial and natural materials for myriad design possibilities, and constantly fine-tuning our working methodologies and design processes to keep up with evolving demands. As there have been raising concerns for the use of cement and sand, we try to make maximum utilisation of recycled materials. 

In a year, Art Brute has been able to deliver its clients’ customised planters, coffee table, bathroom tools, chairs, and more. We source materials from nearby areas around Auroville. 

Art Brute has generated a turnover of approximately Rs 60 lakh in 2018 and has delivered products to various cities in India, including Raipur, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Chennai. 

SMBS: What were your challenges in terms of sustaining and growing the business? 

Abhishek: Due to language and cultural barriers, it sometimes gets difficult to communicate and train the artisans in a particular workplace environment. However, we consider the shift in mentality is a time-taking process and we implement such methods so as to train them to the required levels, which results in client satisfaction and appreciation of the work. This, in turn, motivates the team. 

Being a brick-and-mortar space in a non-metro town (Auroville), which has seasonal movement and tourist footfalls, it is challenging to get business on a daily basis as prospective clients or customers usually visit Auroville from metro towns during weekends or holidays. 

Concrete face planters

SMBS: What do you think about your future prospects? 

Aniket: As our work requires constant innovation with design, we will come up with more unique designs in fusion with different kinds of materials. Further, we will focus on logistics in the coming years as we want to deal with clients pan-India. 

We aim to work with local artisans and are planning to scale up in the coming years. This will generate more orders, which will employ more local artisans.