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May 17, 2017

India Kala: More Human, Less Machine

Originally published at Eminent Craft Book, 12th April

Three friends, chocolate cravings over coffee and a burning desire to start something that would bring value to a large section of society is what led to the start of India Kala, an extension of the artisan’s atelier. They work directly with artisans across the country and not only source the best handmade products but also collaborate with them to create unique products without diluting the heritage of the craft.

The 3 co-founders- Ankit Dhanuka, Sunny Shah and Jaimini Purohit met at B-School (SIBM) in Pune. Three years later, they met at a coffee shop and bonded over how they were longing to have the famous Ooty chocolates, but couldn’t find them in Mumbai. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and they decided to build on the thought of bringing handmade products from across the country to the homes of people. “It wasn’t until we travelled to Dahanu to visit Warli artisans that we really connected with the world of crafts and decided that there was both a social and economic opportunity here, a win-win. We spent almost a year and a half on the road travelling to artisan homes and understanding their craft, problems and more importantly building a relationship with them. Our website opened its doors on 5th May 2016”, says Jaimini. The team consists of a full time and brilliant photographer – Saurabh Shinde, graphic designer – Shruti Sawant, content writer – Vaishnavi Talawadekar and a few freelance designers.

 Team India Kala

India Kala’s motto is- More Human. Less machine. Their vision is to celebrate the finest products that are born out of the imagination and creativity of human hands. They source products from Manipur, Assam, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Pondicherry and work with close to 40 craft forms and over 400 artisans! While each of these artisans have left a long lasting impression on their minds and hearts, Jamini recalls an inspiring story about one of the first artisans they ever met- “Mr. Wadu is master Warli art painter who could not complete his schooling, yet through keen observation of his aunt’s painting skills he learnt the craft and today not only has he published a book on the craft that is translated in 10 languages but has also taught over 300 children the art of Warli painting. He also speaks some German, something he taught himself to converse with the many Germans who are admirers of his paintings.”

Warli Artisan - Madhukar Wadu

Working with a plethora of crafts, we coaxed the team to tell us some fascinating facts about the same. “I think one of the most interesting stories we came across was with the craft of Kutch Metal Bells. The craft dates back to over a thousand years and involves making bells completely by hand, thus giving each bell a very distinct and melodious sound. We were told that the bell was primarily used by herders (which is still the case today) and since each bell had a unique sound, the farmers of the village would be able to identify each of their cows by the sound and locate them, almost like a modern day GPS!”, says Jaimini.

Kutch Metal Bells Chimes

“In India we grow up in homes where we are surrounded by some form of craft, be it the warli painting hanging in the living room, the hand embroidered cushion covers or just the pure handloom saree worn by our mothers or grandmothers. However, with changing preferences in customer tastes and the surplus of imported products (read China) available, the demand for hand crafted Indian products is in rough waters. Having said that we believe with the right collaborations with artisans, the relevance of handmade products in the Indian home can be brought back. This is already happening though at a less than desired pace”, says Jaimini, of the future of handcrafted products in India.