If a start-up created artworks as corporate gifting solutions, it would be just another one. But if it created jobs for rural artisans out of it, it is a plus one. Along with jobs, if it involved in adding social value to its corporate customers, it is a plus two. Also if it promoted rare artworks from across the country, it is a plus three. On top of it, if by doing all the above, it aids in improving the socio-economic status of the country, that is a lot of pluses! Meet Elements, a Jaipur-based startup by 4 IITians –Mahendra Singh Rawat, Aman Goel, Gagandeep Gupta and Krishna Prasad.
The start-up connects mainstream corporates with rural Indian craftsmen. Corporate gifts with a social value add is the area of connect. Born out of a casual discussion, the idea seemed strong when they realised that there is a huge space in the corporate gifting industry. When 2 of the founders, Aman and Gagandeep, were given the responsibility of finding corporate gifts for an international partner visiting their company, they realised that India-specific gifts like Ganesha idols were imported from China due to a huge scarcity of traditional gifts in the market. According to Rawat, when Uday Kotak, MD of Kotak Mahindra Bank, raised a question, “ Why do we need to import Chinese Ganeshas?” it inspired them to move on with the project.
“We had to agree that we knew more about Salsa than Kuchipudi or any other Indian dance form; we would brag more about having Pizzas than we would savour the best of Samosas on Indian streets; there was more of China in our daily consumer lives than our own Indian produce,” Rawat recalls the discussions they had on a casual trip to Rajasthan, that fuelled the idea of formation of Elements.
From across the country
The fact to be appreciated in the working model of Elements is that rural craftsmen from across the country are identified and engaged in working with various corporate requirements. From the Longpi potter of Manipur to the Madhubani painting of Bihar, from wood carving of Kerala to the Meenakari art of Rajasthan, skilled craftsmanship are researched and taken on board. The diversity in art gives way to wider selection in gifts and also is a boost to many of these art forms that are restricted to their native regions.
In Rajasthan alone, since November 2012, they have developed a network of over 150 artisan families specialising in 10 delicate art forms.
“Spreading Smiles” is the vision of Elements who believes the mutual beneficial relationship between the craftsmen and the corporates is what keeps it going. Contemporizing art to meet the existing corporate structure is the main idea for Rawat and his friends. The plan is to engage over 5 million artisans spread across 28 states.
When they got an opportunity to promote a German beer brand in India, by creating gifts depicting fusion of Indo-German cultures, a statue of Bavaria in Rajasthani style was made. The statue representing glory and style, was appreciated for the customization and social value of the product. Yet another example are the leather journals created for the International Organization in Geneva by the traditional Mojari workers of the Udaipuria village. With variety and social value growing, the client list from both India and abroad is growing for Elements: International Trade Centre – Geneva, St. Erhard – Germany, FastBooking, Australian High Commission, IIT Roorkie, Sapient, Ramboll,Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan and more.
Promoting socio-economic growth of the country
The uplifting of rural artisans and improving their living conditions by providing jobs is fostering economic growth of these working classes. The skilled artisans, who are mostly out of the job now, are finding an opportunity to get back to their feet doing what they like. Artisans like Ganesh Kaka believe that “no machine prints can encompass the versatilities of hand block printing.” Mahesh Regger, a leather craftsman, feels that contemporizing art will recreate its demand. For most of them, it is a family or rather cultural business. In a way, an entire art form is being saved and enriched along with many families. The whole family is brought back to standing on their feet and running a business.
The company wants to become a Made in India gifting brand to reckon with. It is also planning to revamp its online sales. Elements, currently does B2B corporate gift selling in Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida region and is expecting to grow PAN-India. By the end of the year the company wants to clock sales of over 40 lakhs.