In 2016, after working within the company subject for greater than 20 years, buddies and colleagues Meera Ramakrishnan (47) and Archish Mathe Madhavan (38) determined to give up their jobs. They needed to begin a enterprise of their very own, however had been uncertain what it will be. Regardless, they knew it will pertain to something that was sustainable, helpful to each family, and may benefit rural artisans.
This led them to launch Zishta, an organisation that revives conventional kitchenware and cutlery from their locations of origin. The duo began by promoting three sorts of utensils reminiscent of forged iron skillets, iron dosa pans, and tin cooking bowls sourced from villages in Tamil Nadu.
Right this moment, with a buyer base of 90,000, they’ve a spread of 300 totally different utensils made by 450 artisans throughout 14 states in India.
“To seek out these utensils and their makers, we spent six months going door-to-door in each village that’s well-known because the utensil’s fatherland. For instance, to supply genuine espresso filters and davarahs (espresso tumblers), we went to Kumbakonam. Nonetheless, we observed that these crafts, which had been as soon as thriving, had been now virtually out of date attributable to lack of demand and advertising and marketing,” Meera tells The Higher India.
A highway journey for revival
In January 2016, Archish and his cousin Varishta Sampath (27), the third co-founder, travelled from Bengaluru to varied villages in Tamil Nadu. Their purpose was to search out artisans who had been making conventional kitchenware by hand, and request them to make just a few for them to promote.
Being south Indians and sharing a mutual love for filter espresso, the duo made their first cease at Kumbakonam, which is well-known for its espresso and the brass vessels used to make and serve the decoction.
“To our shock, we heard from the locals that the artwork type had died a decade in the past. Now, the brass vessels offered in Kumbakonam and different elements of the state are sourced from producers in Uttar Pradesh. These usually are not genuine as they’re machine-made,” Archish notes.
In lots of locations they visited, they may solely meet one or two households who had been practising the standard craft.
A village named Sengottai in Tamil Nadu is legendary for making iron dosa pans. Right here they had been fortunate to satisfy a household practising the craft and witness the method of creating it.
Meera remembers that it took greater than 5 hours for them to make the pan — from heating the iron to flattening it with a hammer, and at last seasoning it with hay and gingelly oil.
“Aside from having a singular course of, these vessels even have well being advantages. Based mostly on scientific analysis, consuming meals cooked on pure iron skillets permits the ions of the steel to mix with meal. This provides to the iron content material within the physique,” says Meera, including that such advantages exist in all conventional kitchenware together with soapstone, copper, clay utensils and extra.
Whereas the trio managed to find artisans nonetheless engaged in his craft, they had been unable to persuade them to provide in bulk for them to resell. Artisans had been reluctant as a result of making these vessels was time and resource-consuming. Furthermore, they had been apprehensive their efforts would go to waste if the merchandise weren’t offered.
“As an alternative of convincing them by mere phrases, we bought just a few utensils from every village that we visited and determined to resell them. We needed to show that there’s a marketplace for their craft,” says Meera, including that the artisans weren’t even keen to courier the vessels to their residence.
So, they loaded the automobile with heavy utensils and returned to Bengaluru.
Delicate launch of the enterprise
Earlier than placing the cookware up on the market, the workforce performed just a few checks. The utensils had been despatched to a NABL-accredited laboratory in Bengaluru to conduct RoHS (Restriction of sure Hazardous Substances) checks. This determines whether or not there are dangerous chemical compounds reminiscent of mercury within the utensils.
“We didn’t need to promote any product which we might not use to cook dinner for our households. Even now, solely the merchandise which go the RoHS checks and adjust to the rules are listed on our web site,” says Meera.
In July 2016, the three formally launched their enterprise, Zishta, and arrange their workplace in a storage lent to them by a member of the family. Right here, they stocked the merchandise and packaged them.
With a optimistic response from the checks, three gadgets – forged iron skillets, iron dosa pans, and eeya sombu (tin vessel used to make rasam)- had been taken to an occasion to be marketed.
“To our shock, the inventory we had for the three-day occasion offered out on the primary day. We didn’t have any extra to inventory as we must go to the villages once more and get extra,” says Meera.
Increasing their enterprise
Aside from visiting villages in Tamil Nadu, the trio travelled to 14 different states together with Gujarat, Telangana and Manipur to supply conventional kitchenware.
“Since conventional davarahs and low filters usually are not made in Kumbakonam, we bought them handmade in pure brass with the assistance of artisans in Maharashtra. These artisans are from the lineage of a household who made armours and weapons for King Shivaji and his military,” says Meera.
Quickly, their buyer base began to broaden, and so they even obtained orders from different international locations together with the USA, UAE, and Canada.
Seeing the demand and receiving a gradual revenue for his or her craft made the artisans extra immediate with making utensils. In addition they agreed to ship the merchandise to Bengaluru through courier or native logistics companions.
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Edited by Divya Sethu