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This Is India’s 1st Tradition-Tech Platform For People Artists & Artisans


“The ability of the digital creator economic system has actually enabled equitability for the primary time. We consider it’s time for that equitability and democratised entry by expertise to work for conventional arts and artisans too,” says Yosha Gupta, a serial entrepreneur who based MeMeraki.

Claiming to be India’s first ‘culture-tech’ platform with on-line artwork and craft masterclasses taught by conventional artists and artisans, MeMeraki allows artists to be ‘digital creators’. The web platform stands on the intersection of the ed-tech and conventional artistic and tradition trade. 

“The pandemic exacerbated marginalisation for artisans however on the buyer aspect, it additionally confirmed how important creativity is to our wellbeing and our very survival and that’s how this enterprise mannequin for masterclasses with conventional artisans was born. Our mission is to finally create a strong voice and presence for artisans on-line utilizing expertise and in doing so create sustainable livelihoods for them as properly,” she provides. 

Yosha Gupta, the Founder of MeMeraki, a culture tech platform which support traditional and folk artists who give masterclasses online.
Yosha Gupta (L), Founding father of MeMeraki, with Apindra Swain, a Pattachitra artist

‘Gucci bag with Madhubani artwork’ 

Yosha doesn’t come from a background that will recommend an intense ardour for the humanities. Till she based MeMeraki in 2017, her skilled journey stood on the intersection of finance, expertise and growth which features a main stint on the World Financial institution. Actually, within the early 2010s, she based her cashback startup when the e-commerce growth in India took off.       

However conventional arts and crafts have at all times been part of her life. Volunteering for organisations just like the Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Tradition Amongst Youth (SPIC MACAY), by faculty, school, enterprise faculty and even throughout her stint in Hong Kong working for the World Financial institution.

She says, “The humanities have existed in my life with out really being my profession.”       

“MeMeraki began in a serendipitous means. Whereas I used to be within the means of shutting down my final enterprise, I used to be getting my purses and garments painted by a standard artist in India whom I met throughout my volunteering stint with SPIC MACAY. It was a Gucci purse that I had obtained hand painted by a Madhubani artist, which led buddies of mine in Hong Kong to ask me whether or not it was a restricted version purse or not. This obtained the dialog began, and folks began asking me whether or not I may get one thing like this achieved for them as properly,” recollects Yosha.  

The perception she generated from this expertise is that these conventional arts are fading away not as a result of folks don’t respect them. It’s as a result of they don’t have any consciousness of it.

“That’s what led me to start out a ardour undertaking the place we launched a set of hand-painted purses. The genesis of MeMeraki was fairly completely different to what we’re right this moment. Though we began on the earth of vogue, the mission has remained the identical. We needed to carry the normal arts on a world platform in a means that individuals haven’t seen earlier than and the medium initially was purses. The story of the model at all times centred on the grasp artist, their craft and the story behind every murals. With each hand-painted purse, we’d give our prospects the story behind the artist making it, the artwork kind and the motif behind it,” she says. 

MeMeraki, a culture tech platform, has a unique approach to preserving some of India's best folk art traditions
Shehzaad Ali Sherani, a Pichwai artist, engaged on a Kishangrah portray: MeMeraki has a novel strategy to preserving people artwork traditions.

Pivoting to a brand new future 

However simply because the enterprise was gaining severe momentum, the world was struck by the COVID pandemic. Their gross sales tanked and the 50-odd artists they had been working with throughout India had been in dire straits financially. Not solely had been they unable to get work from ventures like MeMeraki, however they couldn’t promote their common artworks with bodily exhibitions shutting down and the tourism trade struggling a significant downturn. What’s extra, they weren’t digitally enabled.     

“I might go to the extent of claiming they had been digitally marginalised as a result of that they had no presence within the on-line world. They requested us whether or not we may do something for them to promote their paintings. See, these are proud craftspeople, and so they didn’t like asking for such favours. So, our crew obtained collectively and did some severe brainstorming,” she notes.  

Given their lack of on-line presence, these artists had little alternative however to adapt on-line. Alternatively, to bridge the hole of missing artistic pursuits throughout the lockdown, MeMeraki got here up with the thought of launching stay artwork workshops. 

“We initially organised easy two-hour workshops the place the grasp artisan is educating a selected model or type of artwork and each participant is ending the paintings assigned to them. The primary two workshops included educating Madhubani and Gond artwork. These workshops had been organised within the first week of April 2020. Given the truth that on the finish of those periods, folks had been making one thing and sharing it with different folks of their social networks, which helped unfold the phrase about these stay artwork workshops to a bigger viewers,” she recollects. 

The primary 5 months of those artwork workshops had de facto turned MeMeraki’s means of supporting COVID aid work. “We weren’t pocketing any of the income besides to pay for cost gateway and GST prices. The remaining was instantly handed on to the artisans. Whereas folks had appreciated our work earlier than, we by no means noticed this stage of neighborhood constructing, significantly amongst patrons. Given its scalability, MeMeraki constructed a brand new business mannequin round these stay artwork workshops,” she provides.

Learn from some of the best folk artists on MeMeraki
Cheriyal Scroll Portray: Be taught from a few of the greatest people artists on MeMeraki.

Evolution of MeMeraki 

Since these had been two-hour workshops, they needed to preserve them easy for the viewers. However the whole lot MeMeraki has constructed to this point comes from listening to its neighborhood of patrons. 

“Following the success of our stay workshops, our neighborhood of patrons requested us whether or not we may organise extra superior workshops with the grasp artists over 5 – 6 days the place they will create extra advanced artwork items. They needed to be taught extra in regards to the historical past of the artwork kind, how conventional colors are used, what are the motifs, the story behind each motif, and many others. Then we began researching and placing it collectively as a course curriculum,” she says. 

So, they began creating these superior workshops and this helped their rising neighborhood to return again for extra. A few of them have attended over 50-60 workshops.

MeMeraki is a remarkable platform for folk artists in India
Priti Desai, a patron, has attended greater than 50 workshops: “All of the grasp artists internet hosting these workshops are very affected person. They’ve been practising their respective kinds for a number of many years. They know the way to train folks like us who won’t have achieved any artwork in any respect,” says Priti.

After these superior workshops started gaining traction, their neighborhood of patrons requested whether or not they may purchase genuine supplies from the artisans instantly. For instance, for a terracotta workshop, patrons needed to make use of the terracotta utilized in Molela village in Rajasthan, which is legendary for its manufacturing of brightly painted terracotta plaques and collectible figurines. 

“We began getting terracotta instantly from artisans like Dinesh Molela, creating artwork kits out of it and commenced sending them to our patrons who would use them in these superior workshops. The identical factor occurred for a lot of of our different superior workshops,” she notes. 

“For our Pichwai artwork workshop, we began sourcing the pure colors and pre-sketched (as a result of some folks prefer to color however not sketch) paintings from the artists. Thus, we began creating and curating these artwork kits as properly for our patrons,” she provides.  

Nonetheless, for a lot of of their patrons, the ‘wow’ second would arrive when after the workshop they’d present the viewers their studio, how they work, their different completed artworks and the advanced work they’ve achieved. Loads of these artisans are nationwide and state award winners. 

However since a lot of them didn’t promote on-line, MeMeraki wanted to create a market and listing all these work for these artists as properly as a result of it’s very robust for artists to do it on their very own. 

They began coaching artisans on the way to take photographs of their artworks on their telephones by video classes they’d make for them. Memeraki now sends groups to their areas to {photograph} their artworks, doc native inventive heritage and likewise interact with the households or micro-communities that may allow this artwork kind additional.

The subsequent perception from the stay workshops was that some folks began shopping for recordings of their previous workshops. In any case, folks wish to interact on this artistic pursuit throughout their very own time. For the following two years, a significant level of focus goes to be creating a listing of pre-recorded masterclasses the place MeMeraki groups go to the location the place these artists reside, spend six to seven days alongside a videographer, and create a visually-rich masterclass. 

“One masterclass has six to seven periods proper from the introduction of the artist, the artwork kind and what supplies are used. That is adopted by an indication of three artworks starting from a beginner-level to a extra advanced and intermediate-level paintings together with loads of documentation across the historical past of the artwork kind, iconography and the color principle defining it, amongst different aspects. We’re placing in loads of work and analysis into it,” says Yosha. 

They’ve launched seven masterclasses and are engaged on launching 50 within the subsequent 12 months. India has over 3,000 conventional arts and crafts. Their mission is to digitise every of those conventional arts and crafts and create a masterclass for all of them. 

The artists 

Central to the whole lot MeMeraki does are the artists. Take the instance of Krishna Tashi Palmo, an artist from Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, who does Thangka portray. Though she misplaced each her legs to polio, it doesn’t hinder her potential to make beautiful murals.

She learnt Thangka portray on the TCV conventional artwork faculty in Patlikuhl, Kullu district, over 5 years from 2006 to 2012. Her dream of changing into an artist as a younger youngster pushed her to be taught Thangka portray regardless that it’s an artwork kind which isn’t historically taught to girls. Additionally, Thangka portray is likely one of the few conventional artwork types which is formally learnt in an institute. Sometimes, these artwork types are handed on from one era to a different. 

“MeMeraki approached me in 2019 by social media, and we’ve been related to one another ever since. They initially approached me to make use of the normal artwork I had learnt to color on their wood clutches and purses. Later that 12 months, they invited me to attend the Kalyani Pageant in Hong Kong, which celebrates the contribution of ladies to Indian visible and performing arts. I put up my paintings in a 10-day exhibition, in addition to doing demonstrations of Thangka portray,” recollects Krishna.  

As soon as the lockdown was enforced in March-April 2020, they invited her to take on-line lessons on Thangka portray. “Even to today, I take on-line lessons on Thangka portray by way of the MeMeraki platform. Moreover, I promote my work on the web site they created for us, which has helped me attain a wider viewers. I don’t obtain common orders for my work however once I do obtain them they’re sizable due to the rich patrons. MeMeraki at all times pays me the value I set for my work,” she notes.  

“In the case of Thangka work, there are agency guidelines given its affiliation with the Buddhist religion. It’s a deeply religious and meditative artwork kind which requires disciplined and devoted observe and studying. Akin to meditation, which has some strict floor guidelines, Thangka portray additionally requires sturdy psychological focus. That is an artwork kind I’m deeply enthusiastic about and since 2006-07, I’ve been frequently making Thangka work,” she notes.        

One other exceptional artist is Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, who does Gond artwork. His beautiful works have created a brand new visible id for Gond artwork.

Born right into a Gond Pardhan household in Sejora village of Madhya Pradesh, Venkat has entrenched himself on the earth of artwork for the previous 4 many years. Coaching underneath his uncle, the famed Gond artist late Jangarh Singh Shyam, he has since developed his personal model which visually narrates historical tales of his neighborhood and the world right this moment. His model is steeped in custom, however but so modern. 

There’s additionally Pratima Bharti from Darbhanga, Bihar, who makes Madhubani Mithila work. A state benefit awardee felicitated by the Delhi authorities, she remembers portray since she was a toddler given how she was surrounded by artists in her family.   

“I’ve been by a number of struggles. Moreover portray, I care for my youngsters, cook dinner meals for them, and do my day by day prayers and different home chores. Solely throughout my free time do I sit and paint. As soon as I create a set, I take these work to promote them available in the market. I additionally take orders on demand. The benefit of this subject is that there is no such thing as a discrimination between a female and male artists. Women and men get an equal alternative to show their work. My first introduction to Delhi got here in 2001 once I took my work to Dilli Haat,” says Pratima. 

What she wishes most is recognition for her paintings.

“I’ve many desires, which I haven’t fulfilled but. However I dream of the day once I obtain a State award, Nationwide Award and a Padma Shri too. Portray has develop into part of my day by day routine. I can’t even digest my meal until I’ve painted a bit daily. The rasa of my paintings are the intricate particulars by line portray model which makes the murals look lovely,” she provides. 

‘Fair proportion for the artist’

“Our gross margins throughout all enterprise classes are on common about 35% if we calculate it on a profitability foundation. The opposite 65% goes into prices and to the artists. For stay workshops, artists on a median obtain 30-35% of the income generated from the workshop. For artworks listed on our web site, we pay them the value they need and within the masterclasses about 20% will preserve going to them in perpetuity for each transaction. In complete, we’ve labored with over 200 artists throughout greater than 70 completely different kinds of Indian artwork and craft now,” claims Yosha.

Though it’s essential for the artists to get their fair proportion of the pie, what MeMeraki additionally takes satisfaction in helps them get snug on-line. They organise a number of Zoom calls to coach them and make tutorial movies about the way to take on-line lessons and current their work. From distant coaching to classes in fundamental pictures and public talking, they put together artists to have interaction with a world viewers.

Helping folk artists in India reach a global audience through MeMeraki.
Yosha Gupta on the fitting: MeMeraki has been chosen for the primary Google India’s Startups Accelerator Girls Founders Programme (20 chosen out of 400 candidates). They’ve additionally raised a small angel/pre-seed spherical from CIIE (Startup Oasis), Phanindra Sama and some different buyers.

“Regardless of doing so many stay workshops, they often nonetheless battle with it and must retrain them. Even tender expertise like how they narrate the story of their artwork kind, and their life story and provides suggestions to folks throughout the workshop are defined to those artists by our crew. In different phrases, we provide expertise and tender expertise coaching for these artists as properly,” she notes. 

In any case, they’re entrance and centre of the whole lot MeMeraki does. “From the beginning, we had been very aware about telling their story and placing their identify upfront. It’s additionally in regards to the business and financial alternatives we will create. We respect the truth that this isn’t about us, it’s about them. That is what helped us set up our credibility of their eyes,” she provides. 

(Edited by Yoshita Rao; Function photographs of Thangka artist Krishna Tashi Palmo on the left and Pratima Bharti, a Mithila artist, on the fitting)

(Go to the MeMeraki web site for extra info. You can even observe them on Instagram right here.)


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