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


“The ability of the digital creator financial system has actually enabled equitability for the primary time. We consider it’s time for that equitability and democratised entry by way of 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 business. 

“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 effectively,” 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. In reality, within the early 2010s, she based her cashback startup when the e-commerce growth in India took off.       

However conventional arts and crafts have all the time 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 way of 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 manner. 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 conventional 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 associates 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 other people began asking me whether or not I may get one thing like this achieved for them as effectively,” 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 recognize them. It’s as a result of they haven’t any consciousness of it.

“That’s what led me to start out a ardour mission the place we launched a group of hand-painted purses. The genesis of MeMeraki was fairly completely different to what we’re right now. Although we began on the planet of vogue, the mission has remained the identical. We wished to convey the standard arts on a world platform in a manner that individuals haven’t seen earlier than and the medium initially was purses. The story of the model all the time centred on the grasp artist, their craft and the story behind every murals. With each hand-painted purse, we’d give our clients 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 critical 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 artistic endeavors with bodily exhibitions shutting down and the tourism business struggling a serious 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 they’d 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 critical brainstorming,” she notes.  

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

“We initially organised easy two-hour workshops the place the grasp artisan is educating a specific type 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 grew to become MeMeraki’s manner of supporting COVID aid work. “We weren’t pocketing any of the income besides to pay for cost gateway and GST prices. The remainder was instantly handed on to the artisans. Whereas folks had preferred our work earlier than, we by no means noticed this degree of group constructing, significantly amongst patrons. Given its scalability, MeMeraki constructed a brand new industrial mannequin round these stay artwork workshops,” she provides.

Learn from some of the best folk artists on MeMeraki
Cheriyal Scroll Portray: Study from a few of the finest 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 up to now comes from listening to its group of patrons. 

“Following the success of our stay workshops, our group of patrons requested us whether or not we may organise extra superior workshops with the grasp artists over 5 – 6 days the place they’ll create extra complicated artwork items. They wished 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 so on. 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 group 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 a long time. They know how you can educate folks like us who may not have achieved any artwork in any respect,” says Priti.

After these superior workshops started gaining traction, their group of patrons requested whether or not they may purchase genuine supplies from the artisans instantly. For instance, for a terracotta workshop, patrons wished 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, growing 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 wish to color however not sketch) paintings from the artists. Thus, we began growing and curating these artwork kits as effectively for our patrons,” she provides.  

Nevertheless, 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 complicated work they’ve achieved. Plenty of these artisans are nationwide and state award winners. 

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

They began coaching artisans on how you can take images of their artworks on their telephones by way of video classes they’d make for them. Memeraki now sends groups to their places to {photograph} their artworks, doc native inventive heritage and likewise have interaction 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 spite of everything, folks need to have interaction on this artistic pursuit throughout their very own time. For the subsequent two years, a serious 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 complicated and intermediate-level paintings together with plenty of documentation across the historical past of the artwork kind, iconography and the color concept defining it, amongst different sides. We’re placing in plenty 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. Although she misplaced each her legs to polio, it doesn’t hinder her means 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 turning 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 without doubt one of the few conventional artwork kinds which is formally learnt in an institute. Usually, these artwork kinds are handed on from one technology to a different. 

“MeMeraki approached me in 2019 by way of social media, and we’ve been related to one another ever since. They initially approached me to make use of the standard artwork I had learnt to color on their picket clutches and purses. Later that 12 months, they invited me to attend the Kalyani Competition 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 at the present time, I take on-line lessons on Thangka portray by way of the MeMeraki platform. In addition to, 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 all the time pays me the worth I set for my work,” she notes.  

“In relation to 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 strong psychological focus. That is an artwork kind I’m deeply captivated with and since 2006-07, I’ve been often making Thangka work,” she notes.        

One other exceptional artist is Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, who does Gond artwork. His gorgeous 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 planet of artwork for the previous 4 a long time. Coaching beneath his uncle, the famed Gond artist late Jangarh Singh Shyam, he has since developed his personal type which visually narrates historical tales of his group and the world right now. His type is steeped in custom, however but so modern. 

There may be 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 circle of relatives.   

“I’ve been by way of a number of struggles. In addition to portray, I handle my children, cook dinner meals for them, and do my each day prayers and different home chores. Solely throughout my free time do I sit and paint. As soon as I create a group, I take these work to promote them out there. I additionally take orders on demand. The benefit of this discipline 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 goals, 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 grow to be part of my each day routine. I can’t even digest my meal until I’ve painted a bit day-after-day. The rasa of my paintings are the intricate particulars by way of line portray type which makes the murals look stunning,” 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 mean obtain 30-35% of the income generated from the workshop. For artworks listed on our web site, we pay them the worth they need and within the masterclasses about 20% will preserve going to them in perpetuity for each transaction. In whole, we now have labored with over 200 artists throughout greater than 70 completely different kinds of Indian artwork and craft now,” claims Yosha.

Though it’s necessary for the artists to get their justifiable share of the pie, what MeMeraki additionally takes delight in helps them get comfy on-line. They organise a number of Zoom calls to coach them and make tutorial movies about how you can 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 appropriate: MeMeraki has been chosen for the primary Google India’s Startups Accelerator Ladies 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 traders.

“Regardless of doing so many stay workshops, they generally 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 effectively,” she notes. 

In spite of everything, they’re entrance and centre of the whole lot MeMeraki does. “From the beginning, we had been very acutely aware about telling their story and placing their identify upfront. It’s additionally in regards to the industrial 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; Characteristic photographs of Thangka artist Krishna Tashi Palmo on the left and Pratima Bharti, a Mithila artist, on the appropriate)

(Go to the MeMeraki web site for extra data. You can even comply with them on Instagram right here.)


Anikka Danger

Anikka Danger is a new journalist and model also from Texas, United States. She is passionate to photography and making video. Anikka Danger has gain a lot of attention on Facebook where she has more than 200k followers. You can follow Anikka Danger also on Instagram or TikTok.

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