These 5 brands are reviving Indian handicrafts and crafting a livelihood for rural artisans
In India, every state and region has its own unique art and skills, and these centuries-old knowledge is deeply embedded in our culture.
Seen as the backbone of Indian’s non-farm rural economy, handicrafts account for 15-20 percent of the country’s manufacturing workforce.
Artisans are skilled manual workers engaged in craft production, which range from home decor items to clothes, jewellery, furniture, tools, etc., to earn a livelihood.
While there has been a growing demand for handicraft products both in domestic and international markets, most of the artisans live in rural areas and are unable to cash in on the opportunity. Mass-produced and machine-made products have taken centre stage, leaving little room for skilled artisans and their handmade products.
However, with the Make in India initiative, things are taking a good shape and empowering Indian artisans, weavers, and craftsmen alike. Many Indian brands have also taken a step forward to utilise the creative minds, and providing them with employment opportunities.
SMBStory lists five Indian brands which are helping artisans earn their livelihood and contribute to the growth of the nation.
Born out of love for traditional handicrafts and apparel, and to cater to the global demand for Indian handcrafted products, 36-year-old Mansi Gupta started Tjori in 2013 in New Delhi.
“While I was studying at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, I saw a huge demand for Indian handicrafts abroad. However, I couldn’t find any Indian brand fulfilling that need. There was no brand to drive the Indian audience there. Hence, I thought of starting something in this niche,” Mansi recalls.
Tjori is a multi-category, online-first artisanal ethnic brand that sells apparel, wellness, home, and mother and child products. Over 500 artisans and craftsmen are contributing to Tjori’s collection today.
Tjori began on a small whiteboard with a huge foresight for the brand, an opportunity which was explored due to the lack of knowledge about the traditional Indian handicrafts on a global platform.
The company was started with Rs 10 lakh investment from Mansi’s personal savings, and now clocks an annual turnover of Rs 50 crore. At present, Tjori caters to 195 countries through digital marketing and its website.
Ramnarayan Blue Art Potteries, run by Ramnarayan Prajapat, is a second-generation business, which has spread its wings not only in India but also overseas. The bootstrapped company was started in 1980.
Blue pottery is a traditional craftwork from Jaipur, and Kot Jewar is its production hub. Tourists from across the world visit this village to behold themselves with the beautiful artisan work.
Talking about how his father revived the fading craft of blue pottery and popularised this traditional artisan work across the world, 20-year-old Vimal Prajapat says, “My family was very poor. My grandfather was a farmer but couldn’t help to feed the family, and so my father started this pottery work. He went to Jodhpur to learn about the blue art pottery and took training.”
Today, it has nearly 250 rural artisans producing these items, and has created employment opportunities for women as well. It is also looking to generate employment for the people of Kot Jewar and neighbouring villages and provide them with a source of income. The venture has participated in various MSME training programmes in the recent years.
At present, Ramnarayan Blue Art Potteries exports its products to New York, Canada, California, and recently received order worth Rs 2 crore from the Netherlands.
Lucknow is known for its world-famous Chikan embroidery that dates back to the Mughals. It is no surprise then that there are many businesses that are thriving on this ancient craft-form.
One such business is Triveni Chikan Arts started by Nitesh Agarwal. Hailing from a middle-class family in Lucknow, Nitesh decided to get into the Chikankari business when he was just 19-years-old. He says he studied only till high school and stopped his education because of financial difficulties at home.
The company manufactures and exports hand embroidered Chikankari apparel for both men and women. The business was started with an initial investment of Rs 13,000, and now has an annual turnover of around Rs 3 crore.
The team has 15 people working directly, which includes four of Nitesh’s family members. Other than this, there are around 200 women and a few men indirectly working with them. These artisans do hand-embroidery work, sew handmade laces, stitch buttons, do applique and katia-zaali work, and also specialise in different kinds of embroideries.
Triveni Chikan Arts currently caters to both domestic and international markets. It exports its products to overseas markets like Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Singapore, Indonesia, Burma, the US, the UK, and others.
Rajan Sodhi was working with Dunlop India in 1992 in Rajasthan when he fell for the state’s ethnic craft. Soon, he started collecting antiques, chandeliers, clocks, pocket watches, and artefacts from the havelis of Rajasthan. What began as a hobby eventually turned his side to entrepreneurship.
Rajan launched Ethnic Kraft along with his wife Reena Sodhi, an interior designer, in New Delhi in 1992. The business was bootstrapped with Rs 5 lakh, and has a retail store in New Delhi at present. From sofa and dining sets to beautifully carved jharokhas (windows) and Indian swings, the company manufactures and exports traditional hand-carved teakwood Rajasthani furniture.
“I was always into art and culture, and when I saw such beautiful work in Rajasthan, I couldn’t resist myself and started the business to take this beauty across the world,” says Rajan.
Ethnic Kraft’s furniture range is passionately crafted by skilled artisans who have been involved in recreating the magic in wood for generations. Rajan says, “We either directly or indirectly employ about 80 skilled craftsmen in our operations and provide them with the raw materials required for manufacturing products.”
Ethnic Kraft deals in both the B2B and B2C categories, and gets major sales from its retail store and exports. The company currently exports to countries like the US, the UK, Bulgaria, Australia, Kenya, the Middle East, etc.
Rajasthani handicrafts always mesmerised Rahul Jain, who hails from Jaipur. Be it the fascinating Katputli puppets, the embellished Mochdi footwear, or the colourful bangles, Rajasthan handicrafts are sought after across the world.
But when 31-year-old Rahul stepped in to a mall in Mumbai to pick up a gift for a friend, he was shocked to see the exorbitant prices of these handicrafts.
“I know how much a piece of Rajasthani handicraft costs. The selling price of the item was four times higher than the actual cost, and I was shocked to see there was no pre-defined market rate for these handicrafts,” he says.
This experience spurred Rahul to open his own ecommerce company a year later to collaborate with artisans and craftsmen to sell affordable products by cutting out the middlemen. In 2014, Rahul along with Ankit Agarwal and Pawan Goyal founded eCraftIndia.com with a bootstrapped capital of Rs 20,000.
From home decor to furnishings, furniture, paintings, kitchenware, and gifts, the portal houses over 8,000 unique products.
As the handicrafts industry was very unorganised, they found an opportunity to create a brand that will have all types of handicrafts from different states, ensuring price parity to customers. The company is also bridging the gap between art connoisseurs and artisans, thereby giving impetus to the growth opportunities for trade with affordable artwork.
“Our burning desire is to create a global reach for Indian art and handicrafts as we contribute towards skill development and encourage these craftsmen. Therefore, in a quest to bring to the fore these hidden jewels from rural villages and small towns across the country, we built eCraftIndia,” Rahul says.
eCraftIndia.com is currently clocking Rs 12 crore in turnover.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)