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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Artisans face new challenges during Covid crisis, a Pune start-up steps in

Indic Inspirations, which has raised Rs 2.5 crore in angel funding, focuses on creating artefacts that celebrate India through its mythology, history and scientific achievements.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Pune |
May 4, 2021 11:04:37 am
Their design element extends to the packaging in a way that makes unboxing a product an experience. (File)

Late last month, Sunil Jalihal, the founder-CEO of Indic Inspirations, began to receive calls from artisans whose work had come to a standstill because “there was no oxygen for welding metal”. It was among the several challenges that the Pune-based cultural startup, which was set up in December 2019, had confronted since the lockdown began.

Indic Inspiration retails objects that celebrate India through its mythology, history and scientific achievements as a way of restoring pride among craftspeople of the country. They work with more than 400 artisans in almost 65 crafts, besides design firms. Backing their mission are foreign and Indian investors which assisted the company to raise Rs 2.5 crore in angel funding in March. Previously, it had got money from investors based in California.

“All over the world, handicrafts is a $42 billion market. India accounts for only 5 per cent of this market, though it is home to 60 per cent of the world’s artisans,” said Jalihal. The concept of a cultural startup is recent but, even as the pandemic slows down most businesses except a few such as fintech and edutech, entrepreneurs and investors could be waking up to this vast market. “A lot of people, who have made money in tech, now want to do something in other spaces such as a cultural startup, even with a philanthropic point of view,” Jalihal added.

Sunil Jalihal, founder-CEO, Indic Inspirations.

An organisation, Network of Indian Cultural Enterprises (NICE), which Indic Inspirations is a part of, is working towards creating an ecosystem for venture funding, marketing and nurturing of cultural entrepreneurs. Indic Inspirations is acting as a bridge with its aims to teach traditional artisans new concepts, such as e-commerce, and  other technologies alongside increasing consumer awareness of India’s culture and history.

Jalihal and the company’s Director, Padmaja Jalihal, had set up a trust in 2014 called Heart for Art to improve the lives of artisans. “When we met artisans in Assam, Meghalaya, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, among others, they said they wanted work. We decided to set up an online store to help them with market access,” says Jalihal. Today, Indic Inspirations creates products and increases market opportunities for them while Heart for Art Trust is engaged in helping artisans.

Table lamps inspired by the zero(India’s revolutionary gift to science) ,a large wall frame of the Preamble to the Constitution and a wooden box charkha are few of the unique things they offer. Their design element extends to the packaging in a way that makes unboxing a product an experience.

“When you open the box, there is a story card that you see first. Then you see the product and use it. When you tell the story, people get more interested,” says Jalihal. People interested in India’s culture, NRIs on annual visits home and collectors of interesting souvenirs are among some of their buyers.

The lack of oxygen has stopped a few projects but a range of others are on full steam. “Indian artisans have been working from home naturally for centuries. The challenge is logistical as they are not getting raw material but we are talking to them and finding ways. “The best way to support artisans is to buy from them. It restores their pride and ensures survival of the crafts,” says Jalihal.

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