Fostering a community of 15,000 handpicked artisans and designers, the idea took shape in 2015.
In an effort to move in sync with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of creating Atmanirbhar Bharat, Delhi-based architects – Sheela Lunkad and Rajeev Lunkad – have created a one-of-its-kind startup platform, Direct Create launched a campaign, Shilp Se Swavlamban (empowerment through craft) where makers, designers and buyers can collaborate online through cell phones or laptops. The platform has given a marketing tool to craftsmen to create virtual online studios of their own from where they can directly sell their products. The Morning Standard spoke with the Lunkads to know more:
Tell us more about Direct Create.
Direct Create is an omni-channel envisaged as a tool to enable the tri-party ecosystem of makers, designers and buyers to collaborate and co-create or for economic benefit. It connects local artisans to the network of designers and buyers. At present, we have access to 726 Indian crafts and a pan- India maker network. Fostering a community of 15,000 handpicked artisans and designers, the idea took shape in 2015.
How does Direct Create work?
Our platform has given craftsmen the marketing tool to create their own virtual online studios. We have created individual virtual studios of each of the 2,600 craftsmen on our platform where they get to showcase their products. The craftsmen send us their crafts’ photos (with expected price range) through their mobiles and we update these on to their respective virtual studios which are open for buyers and designers to explore.
How did you touch base with weavers, artisans and craftsmen during Covid-19 and how receptive have they been to this idea?
Business has definitely suffered due to Covid-19. We are hoping it revives in the coming festival season. During COVID times, we launched a competition for designers in association with ‘Hand for Handmade’ through social media and received an overwhelming response from the design community. They chose to float it to 200 of the best design schools via our digital platform. Convincing craftsmen to onboard our platform has always been easy as they are waiting for someone to help them sell their products and here is our platform which besides giving them business, helps them market seamlessly across all digital and social spaces.
What challenges did you face?
The key challenge was to deal with the fixated mindset of Indian buyers towards Indian handicraft. Primarily, as Indians, we expect handicraft to be cheaper as it seems to be available everywhere. Only on closer inspection do we realise that quality products are not available to the common consumer while cheap machine-made copies, passed off as handmade ones, are in abundance. The most disheartening factor is that we are not proud of our cultural craft heritage. Luckily, post-Galwan debacle, the so-called ‘craft’ imports from China have gone down. This has resulted in Indian corporates showing interest in Indian craft. But real revolution would come when the families across social strata would start considering Indian handicraft as a thing of aspirational value. India is the only country with more than a million people engaged in hand skills so it’s time to encourage and promote them at a global level.
How do you ensure only weavers, artisans and craftsmen sell their products and there are no middlemen or retailers involved?
We have worked with most craftsmen on a project so we know them either personally or professionally. Many-a-times (in pre-COVID era), we visited towns and villages in search of the right artisan. New makers are introduced to us by fellow craftsmen. We also have an experienced team who gets to know the craftsman, the craft form, the technique and places he/ she is supplying to and other things. Only genuine makers can provide satisfactory answers to our scrutiny. The middleman’s conversation is mostly around business part of the system while craftsman’s passion and love towards the art form is always visible.
In a nutshell
The campaign Shilp Se Swavlamban where makers, designers and buyers can collaborate online through cell phones or laptops. The platform has given a marketing tool to 2,600 craftsmen to create virtual online studios of their own from where they can directly sell their products. Craftsmen click photos of their products and send it to the online studio
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