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What’s Special About India’s First Patented Bamboo Chair & Who’s The Professor Behind It?

Ankit Kumar Changawala from Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, recently patented a chair crafted from Bambusa bamboo, a locally abundant variety of South Gujarat, to promote the use of bamboo in furniture making.

What’s Special About India’s First Patented Bamboo Chair & Who’s The Professor Behind It?

In the rich tapestry of South Gujarat, bamboo stands out as one of the region’s prides. The area is renowned for its production of Bambusa Bamboo, a native species valued for its strength and durability. The tribals of the region take great pride in their bamboo produce.

This variety of bamboo is sturdy and ideal for converting into furniture. However, not many have fully harnessed the material’s potential.

Speaking about the plant with The Better India, Professor Ankit Kumar Changawala states, “Bamboo is the future.” 

Ankit is one of the few individuals who have made efforts to utilise the material to its fullest extent, recently obtaining a patent for a bamboo chair.

“The chair is sturdy, strong, and can last up to 20 years. It is the first bamboo chair to be patented in India,” he informs.

Sustainability meets design

Raised in Surat, Ankit had always wanted to pursue design, but he lacked direction.

“I was pursuing a diploma in civil engineering, thinking it might help me in designing things. However, during the course, I realised it was not something I wanted to pursue. It was my professor’s brother, an interior designer, whose work inspired me and made me realise my true passion,” says Ankit.

Confused about how to pursue his interest, he decided to enrol in an interior design course at Veer Narmad South Gujarat University (VNSGU).

Currently, he serves as an assistant professor at the same university. “Teaching made me realise how much I enjoy it. I found my true calling in both designing and educating students about it,” he says.

The first patented bamboo chair made by Professor Ankit Kumar Changawala
The first patented bamboo chair was made by Professor Ankit Kumar Changawala

When asked about his introduction to bamboo and his idea of a bamboo chair, he recalls, “I was given the opportunity to attend a workshop in 2019 in Manipur. The World Bamboo Workshop was the first symposium in India focused on bamboo and its uses.”

The symposium profoundly changed Ankit’s perception of bamboo. Previously, there was merely abundant vegetation in the region. “I could see its untapped potential and how it was being wasted. Additionally, I discovered a community of bamboo artisans whose craft was fading,” he explains.

“The Kotwaliyas in the region are renowned for their skill, but unfortunately, their art was being neglected and dying,” he adds.

Ankit also began educating his students about the benefits of using Bambusa bamboo.

“While I was in the process of educating more people and reaching out to craftsmen, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, disrupting everything,” he says.

During this period, Ankit encountered craftsmen suffering due to the decline in tourism. “I learned that the younger generations of these craftsmen were reluctant to continue the tradition as they saw no future in bamboo,” he shares.

For Ankit, demonstrating the immense potential of bamboo became crucial. “I didn’t want them to abandon their craft and migrate to cities in search of jobs. So, I decided to create daily-use furniture with modern designs to appeal to urban consumers,” he explains.

In 2021, Ankit, along with a few students and four local craftsmen, embarked on creating sustainable yet modern designs.

Sturdy, Sustainable and Modern

The first step for Ankit was to understand the bamboo. “As designers, we work with measurements but these traditional craftsmen have their own way of working. We realised how the wood in bamboo towards the lower end was stronger and thicker than the upper end,” he says.

It took almost two years for Ankit to design and built the chair.
It took almost two years for Ankit to design and build the chair.

To make the craftsmen comfortable and win their confidence, Ankit took his designs to their workshops. “I wanted to make them feel comfortable and work as a team. They were at their best form when they were using their own traditional machines and materials. I used to visit their workshops in order to work on the chair,” he says.

Talking about Bambusa bamboo, he says, “I chose Bambusa because it has a great load-bearing capacity. It is long-lasting and sturdy enough to be used for a long time. The knots in the variety are very close making it very strong.”

Additionally, the variety is also abundantly available in the area. “There are many companies making furniture from bamboo imported from different countries. If you go online and try to find a simple piece of furniture made out of bamboo, it will be quite expensive. The reason is simple — because they are not using Indian bamboo,” he says.

Ankit adds that he used a native variety because he wanted to keep the cost of the chair affordable and cheap.

“There is no point in making a product that the masses can’t afford. It defeats the entire sustainability angle behind the product,” he says. “Gujarat government has also released a lot of schemes for the farmers to encourage them to grow the plant,” he says.

As for the cost of funding the project, he says, “I did it out of my own pocket. I knew if I had gone out looking for funding then this would not have happened. Investors would lack confidence in the idea since it was new back then,” he says.

It took Ankit nearly two years to complete the design and make the chair.

“In 2023, I decided to go ahead and get the chair patented. The main reason behind it was to showcase the potential of native bamboo species to the world. Once my design got patented, it generated a conversation among people about the potential of bamboo,” he says.

The chair can endure 150 kgs of weight and can last more than 20 years.
The chair can endure 150 kg of weight and can last more than 20 years.

Speaking about the chair, Ankit explains, “The polish on the chair is done using natural oils. It can endure weights of more than 150 kg, and the furniture has also been treated to protect against any kind of insects. The life of the chair is up to 20 years,” he says.

Ankit does not want to commercialise the chair. “I’ve received numerous inquiries about whether I am selling these chairs. However, my goal is not profit or loss. My aim is to raise awareness and provide training,” he says. 

“Currently, I’m working on a proposal to present to my university to initiate a program where individuals can come and learn how to make chairs and collaborate with me to create more furniture. This approach will allow me to train craftsmen in producing sustainable yet modern furniture,” he explains.

To view Ankit’s patent, visit this link.

If you wish to get in touch with Ankit, You can reach him at 9879262737.

(Edited by Padmashree Pande; All pictures credit: Ankit)

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