The modern take on tradition

A love for craft and creativity led Srijata Bhatnagar give up her comfortable corporate job and venture into the challenging world of entrepreneurship, last year.

With a rooted passion and strong mind, she started ‘EthnicShack’, which produces fashionable products such as apparels, home-decor items and accessories.

‘Ethnicshack’ mainly comprises of traditional products that are made by craftsman and artisans from the rural areas with brush strokes of modernity by designers who step in and help, from reputed fashion technology institutes. “We produce traditional crafts with a modern touch. We work with natural products such as cotton, cotton silk mix, jute, hemp and environment friendly and organic products. Our apparels include the kids’ collection, saris, unique dupattas and stoles and our home decor items include quails and cushion frames.” 
 
Srijata throws out opportunities to about 30 rural artisans with an aim to empower the underprivileged. “I have always wanted to start a venture to bring up our craftsmanship. I was working with an NGO before but wanted to do something on my own. I have a few employees and consultants who work with us.”

The road to revival of traditional arts is a bumpy one as Srijata conducts extensive research on India’s arts and crafts and goes to various events to spot different artisans. “We also keep ourselves informed on new trends in the market and constantly innovate with our designs to create fresh ones.

If the artiste incorporates a particular design on a sari, we try to see if it works on another material and tweak it. This how we work so that our items are viable and usable.”

Srijata recalls the fusion collection as one of the most memorable products in her company. “The hand-painted dupatta had the Ikkat and Pattachitra designs. It was a confluence of two cultures and one of my favourites.”

She dodges a multitude of potholes in her ride as she says, “The villages don’t have proper infrastructure. So during bad weather conditions artisans cannot work. There is also an issue of a language barrier which poses a threat to communication.

Also, the artisans are not very informed about the markets demands and it takes time for us to tune them to it.” She laughs as she says that she sometimes communicates with the artisans through ‘whatsapp’. “They are very tech-savvy and all of them have smartphones. I sometimes use the English transcription or get someone to translate what I want to say.” 
 
Most of the orders take place online, where they generate ideas and share tips, especially on how to take care of hand-made products. Her next project is their festive collections for Dasara and Diwali. “We plan our collections in advance for different occasions and festivities and we have a couple of designers who come in and help. Most of our orders take place online and we have family and friends and who come in and check out our work.”

She regards her biggest success factors as the love for people itself. “I got to meet various, interesting people through my work. I was in a complete corporate sector before and worked for different online groups but I like the restless nature that is exciting and challenging and hence decided to plunge in directly.” 

A self-sustained startup, her biggest marketing tool was social media and word-of-mouth.
   She sees a positive light with the influx of foreign direct investment on retail as she says that it raises the bar and brings in competition for indigenous artisans. “It brings in more challenges and Indian artisans have the best of brains to take them up.”

She regards her maid and cook as her biggest support system and adds that though entrepreneurship is the task of sailing stormy waters, appropriate skill and mindset can take them through.

When asked about her favourite style of craft, she says, “It is like asking which baby I like better. Each craft has its own beauty and demands a different kind of attention,” she sums up.

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