“Capturing the essence of what India has to offer, and utilise the country’s unique production capability, to create something special, is what we want to do”, says Archana Yadav.
The Director of the e-commerce platform ‘Rustic Realities‘ wishes to bring forth to her consumers a unique range of products – all made by artisans from remote parts of the country.
India is multicultural and multilingual. All communities have their specific set of skills, passed down through the generations.
Combining that with expert craftsmanship and abundant knowledge, these communities have ensured that India remains globally coveted for unique and varied crafts.
One aspect of our indigenous goods is that their production is limited to small parts of India. Another aspect is their design.
Now, as quirky as these products are, their design does not have global appeal. ‘Rustic Realities’ is trying to change that, via clever product design, thus creating products that are aligned with a global lifestyle.
“There’s a huge demand, and a corresponding lack of supply, in the handicrafts segment”, observes Archana, adding “artisans live in remote parts of the country, while the consumers are concentrated mostly in urban areas.”
The lack of innovation and the lack of a supply chain is what gave birth to the idea of ‘Rustic Realities’. Unlike run-of-the-mill marketing channels, which merely take products from artisans and sells them on a portal, ‘Rustic Realities’ is actively involved in helping those artisans in more ways than one.
‘Rustic Realities’ gave the artisans designs, raw materials, education and training to make their products market-centric.
The Planning Commission, according to Archana, has identified nine million high-skilled workers in this segment. The handicraft segment usually runs on a peculiar train of thought.
All products are usually accompanied by the photo of a poor artisan. This usually is intended to induce pity in the hearts of people, tempting them to buy the products.
Well, ‘Rustic Realities’ does not depend on the above method. Instead, they help artisans through manufacturing and education to uplift them sustainably. By giving these artisans designs to work with, the platform makes sure their products are market-ready.
“India has a lot of unrecognised talent”, says Archana, referring to the sheer multitude of skilled workers in remote parts of the country.
This is why she moved beyond just providing a marketing channel and decided to offer full-fledged support.
The efforts have borne fruit. ‘Rustic Realities‘ is self-sustainable today, with high demand coming in from consumers. In fact, 25% of the products offered are reproduced in batches.
“A big challenge was convincing artisans to change their designs, to align them with the market’s demands”, according to Archana.
She explains that these people have been doing this for years, and are nervous about making a change.
They don’t fully understand the elements of market mechanics, etc. They know their art. That art, however high it might be, needs to be made relevant to cater to a particular market.
To tackle this roadblock Archana and her team worked with the cream of the crop. Artisans who had worked with established Indian fashion designers and those who knew the impact design changes have on the demand of a product.
The numbers speak for themselves. Once these artisans saw the revenue-potential, they slowly started agreeing with Archana.
According to Archana, over the last three or four years, they haven’t even covered 33% of what India has to offer. She attributes that to a trial and error method of finding out what works and what does not – the usual course of action when a new initiative is getting established.
Archana didn’t have a mentor, nor any designers giving inputs, at the beginning, which is why progress was sure but slow.
As for the artisans, they’re delighted. Earlier, income for these people was seasonal – 2-3 months of work would be followed by a lull. Now revenue flows in all year long.
The humble artisan now can live a sustainable lifestyle. There isn’t a need to travel to fairs to showcase products to increase sales. Now, they can spend more time manufacturing and hone their craft.
“Till now, we were taking it as it comes”, says Archana, adding that different options were being experimented with, to see what worked.
The next phase of the project will see ‘Rustic Realities’ add more designers and artisans under their fold.
“Being an established brand, and focusing on India’s amazing production capability is a goal,” says Archana.
All images courtesy: Rustic Realities.