2017-04-18 05:35:31 | 0

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As I boarded the 4 A.M train from Howrah to Bankura, I was prepared, thinking what possible stories I can indulge in, meeting artisans around the town. Being surrounded by people who walk and talk the business language, the most challenging part is to understand the dynamics of business from artists.

If you have a raised brow now, read further!

Lakshmi Kanta Layek in his shop

Soon enough, I found myself among the community of conch shell artisans. Meet Lakhmi Kanta Layek, the man who in his 50’s is still putting in enormous efforts to sustain his traditional business of making the products out of shell. They sell bangles, idols and of course the ‘Conches’.

Intricate designs on a conch

Married Indian women, by custom, wears shell bangles as a mark of being married. The shell artisans cater mainly to the local market demands. The condition is not very starry and they are struggling to meet the demands of the newer generation.

They import the raw materials from the Southern part of India, also the nearest city; Kolkata provides them with the opportunity of raw material procurement. These communities are aided by government bodies, which take them to handicraft fairs annually and provide them with exposure to NGOs and individuals extending their support to create awareness.

Adhir and Biswajit Chand

Ever set your eyes on the beautifully crafted wooden artifacts? Well, I exactly landed up in one of such communities who, generation after generation, have been carving out the beauties.

The famous ‘Bankura Horse’

Alon with a dingy lane, crossing hand pumps and curious glances I reached, Adhir and Biswajit Chand, the family is most known in the wood craft business for generations now. It is their open courtyard that doubles up as a workstation. Every member of the family is an integral part of the work, looking at them you will gape in wonder how much deeply connected they are to their struggle of keeping a family business breathing.

 

Revenue, the most important question met with the similar answer, across almost all the communities I had visited. There was always a shortage of funds, they are almost alien to technology and it’s born in scaling up businesses. The funds that the government provides can barely help them sustain. So, what’s there that keep them going?

They export across far and wide shores. While I was scurrying around I had the opportunity to meet an NGO who was right with them understanding the products. There is another shade to these organizations and we will talk about them soon.

The Dokra artifacts on display

Talking about handicrafts, one of the most famous tribal art form is the ‘Dokra Art’ . It is a process of non-ferrous metal casting using earthenware and wax. The community which dates back to 500 years resides in Bankura.

I met Buddhadeb Karmakar and his family who showed me around the place. They receive funds from the government for the upkeep and exhibitions. ‘Biswa Bangla’ a famous initiative by

Buddhadeb Karmakar, his wife joined us for the photo

the government of West Bengal had provided them with opportunities to showcase their art in various platforms. The ‘Khadi Board’ has also waived off interest on their business to help complete their orders.

 

 

Today, when we talk of scaling up businesses, one major problem these communities face is the lack of technological knowledge. An NGO has come forward to help them understand the use of computers. It is still in a nascent stage. Another prominent issue that won’t miss your eyes is that these people are gullible to people trying to take advantage. Many people have approached them and bought their products at a minimal amount, selling those off at huge margins to the international market.

The exhibition base for the Dokra Community

We look forward to taking initiatives and helping these settlements grow to their complete potential. It will not only benefit the communities struggling to sustain but also give the world amazing products to be happy about.

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