In 2001, when earthquake flattened many villages along the Indo-Pak border in Gujarat’s Kutch region, Anar Patel organised two handicraft exhibitions in Ahmedabad by artisans living in rehabilitation camps. It was the beginning of Craftroots, a platform that now has 25,000 artisans on board, boasting 45 different art forms.
“We realised that even though these artisans and craftsmen were experts, they didn’t have the inability to market their products,” says Patel. “Since they were unaware about marketing trends, and designs, they would either underprice or overprice their product.”
Delhi is the first Craftroots store outside Ahmedabad . It was recently inaugurated by Patel’s mother — former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel — who is also the mentor of Craftroots. The multi-level store in Meherchand Market stocks a little bit of everything that is typically Gujarati — leheriya saris, stoles, dupattas, mirrored wall hangings, durris and rugs. There are also some rare arts on display, such as Rogan (castor-oil based colours for fabric), Namda (a non-woven felt cloth produced by condensing woollen fibres), Matani Pachhedi (Kalamkari paintings on cloth) and Mashru weaving, now practised by very few.
“Craftroots is very strong with home furnishing and interior products, but our next target would be to specialise in garments and accessories,” says Patel. The store also has a small section dedicated to toiletries and health drinks based on Ayurveda. They will start a retail store in Mumbai later this year, besides also tying up with online retailer Infibeam, under the Craftroots platform.
“We have plans to offer our platform to artisans from the Northeast and Kashmir also, since these two regions have a wealth of traditional products, and will also help them integrate with the rest of India,” she said.
So will they seek government support in realising this? “Until now, we have never taken support from any government. Since my mother was in active politics, I always shied away from political patronage. In the last two years, there have been so many allegations against me of taking undue favour from the government,” she says. “But now that my mother has given up chief ministership, I think there is no political untouchability for me in seeking help, irrespective of who is running the government.”