Q. Tell us about Direct Create. How does it work?
A. Direct Create is a unique online and offline community that allows makers, designers and buyers to connect, collaborate and co-create handcrafted products. It is a collaboration-based community platform, built to rapidly scale the handmade sector. We are redefining the business process environment for the internet generation, that’s seeking a more sustainable and emotionally connected consumer ecosystem. Our platform facilitates the customised path, by bringing the makers and curated crafts-persons of every guise onto the technology platform and creating a space where they can collaborate along with designers or with buyers directly to produce crafted merchandise with emphasis on local materials and traditional manufacturing methods. On our platform one can access products carefully crafted by artisans tailored to their specifications, using indigenous techniques and conventional materials that are best suited to the environment we live in.
Q. When did you come up with this idea?
A. After a lot of research, I though how come there is no such option available to the handicraft producers? After a lot of research, conversations and workshops to explore this gap we realised that no other country has developed such a solution because it’s not their problem! It was a shocking realisation. India has the world’s largest community of hand producers and if anyone in the world was to develop a solution for the handmade sector it had to be India. In our meet-ups in Cairo to Indonesia, we realised most countries don›t even have the necessary infrastructure to help the artisans communities. At least not at the scale we are endowed with in India. So that gave us a booster of energy and motivation to go ahead and build Direct Create: it’s a truly integrated product for the handmade consumer ecosystem, made to maximise the opportunity for the community members.
Q. Why do you think a project like Direct Create is required in today’s lifestyle market?
A. Direct Create tries to create direct opportunities for the buyers, makers, designers so that they can come up with their work in the best possible way. It is much needed in the lifestyle market as one need products according to their lifestyle and they are never satisfied with the range of products available in the markets so with direct create they can customise as per the demand; they can innovate, make a better product and solve a real problem at speed that’s just not possible under the industrial innovation processes and that fits to their personalities and need.
Q. Could you tell us which part of India these weavers are from?
A. We are working with artisans from all the states in India. However, our major focus for the next two-three months is Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. India has the largest chunk of skilled craftsmen who do not enjoy direct access to market or connectivity with designers. Direct Create is working towards making an impact in this area and change the dynamics for the small and medium producers.
While Rajasthan and UP are highly celebrated and visible in the crafts domain there is an enormous layer of skilled craftsmen whose work needs to be brought forward. Madhya Pradesh, on the other hand, is yet underdeveloped, and under-represented compared to the real artisanal skills lying latent in the state from the Tribal painters to metal casters there is an enormous opportunity that DC can unlock for the makers of Madhya Pradesh and they can showcase their work on a good platform.
“While the talented pool of Indian artisans is capable of crafting beautiful pieces, they lack the right path to sell what they create.”
Q. What kind of products do you sell here?
A. From exquisitely crafted textiles and apparel to wooden furniture or hand printed toys, we sell products falling under the category of Lifestyle including tableware, décor, bath linen, kitchen ware, both women and men accessories, furniture, lights, paintings etc. Direct Create connects Makers and Designers to build India’s first online community of creators who can seamlessly work online and offline and make innovative designs and products.
Our platform also allows customers to place customize orders. One can request for customized product as per his liking. The requirement is then shared with a suitable craftsmen.
Q. According to you, what is the current status, in terms of market value, of Indian artisans?
A. While the talented pool of Indian artisans is capable of crafting beautiful pieces, they lack the right path to sell what they create. Unaware of the marketing trend in the urban area, they somewhere get hidden along with their fabulous work.
Q. So even after having worked with leading designers, many of these artisans have hardly benefited?
A. If artisans get the right platform to showcase what they create, we think they would definitely benefit. We have managed to retain an enormous talent pool of highly evolved IP while most of the world has just lost it to the industrial revolution. We must have done something really well.
For any craft or craftsmen to continue evolving his art / craft he needs a steady flow of customers and also patronage. While the markets have got highly concentrated in the urban areas, the producers are distributed across the country—in the hinterland and villages. This divide has been the biggest barrier in the growth of the crafts sector—something really changed in the last three years—with the Android smartphone—suddenly reaching a technology tipping point. Internet on mobile has now reached the last mile and 70% of India is now connected. This offers us an unprecedented opportunity to once again build the broken bridge between the consumers, designers and the makers.
Now it’s possible for a maker in Mushirabad to publish is latest saree for sale same day he makes it and a grandmother chatting with her daughter on Facebook can buy and gift it to her niece next day. Not only that, while making this purchase the grandmother would also be aware that she is buying this saree from Bilal Khan in Mushirabad, and the unique feature of this saree is the ‘refined’ weaving technique unused to create “mal fabric” that’s unique to Mushirabad weavers since the Mughal era. This kind of connectivity was unprecedented in the past, especially of the scale its possible now. This create an emotional connect between the consumer and the maker, something that the marketers would spend crores through camping to breathe life into a brand.