In the strife-ridden Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, where the echoes of Maoist conflict have silenced the vibrant tribal arts, two youngsters, Abhinav Satpathy and Ankesh Banjare, embarked on a mission to revive the fading glory of this ancient culture. Their vision was to uplift the social and economic aspects of tribal arts and reintroduce them to the world.
In 2018, the duo began their extensive research and launched their venture. They chose to focus on the Dhokra art form to start with, an exquisite craft practiced by the metalsmiths of Bastar who work with bronze and copper-based alloys. Dhokra, a primitive technique dating back to the Indus Valley civilization, was gradually disappearing due to the ongoing conflicts.
Their efforts bore fruit within just six months. In April 2019, they sold tribal arts worth Rs 10 lakhs through e-commerce websites, breathing new life into the vanishing art form. Today, Coshal Art, their company dedicated to not only Dhokra art and other artforms of central india, employs nearly 50 tribal families from the Bastar district, transforming their lives and giving them a platform to showcase their talent.
Ankesh, an alumnus of the National Institute of Technology-Raipur, and Abhinav, from the International Institute of Information Technology-Bengaluru, met during a fellowship program on entrepreneurship. Inspired to break free from the constraints of conventional education and employment, they envisioned creating opportunities for untapped artistic potential.
Ankesh Banjare Abhinav Satpathi
Through Coshal Art, they offer a diverse range of tribal / traditional artifacts, including decor, utility, and jewelry items. Their products, ranging from affordable pieces to high-end works, have garnered appreciation from art enthusiasts, who now seek to adorn their homes with the splendor of bell metal artwork.
One of the key factors that set Coshal Art apart is its direct connection with customers. By leveraging e-commerce platforms like Amazon Karigar, Flipkart, Etsy, and their own website, the duo has eliminated middlemen, ensuring that artisans receive 75-80% of the selling price. This empowerment has contributed to increased profits and transformed the lives of the craftsmen.
Overcoming initial skepticism from the locals, Ankesh and Abhinav persevered in building trust within the community. Today, more families are eager to join their initiative, inspired by the success stories of artisans who have witnessed their income triple.
Operating in a region dominated by armed conflict presents its own challenges. Despite government claims of progress, the ground reality remains complex. Nevertheless, Ankesh and Abhinav are determined to expand their reach beyond Bastar and collaborate with artisans across India. They aim to breathe new life into various fading art forms and engage young minds in the preservation of traditional craftsmanship.
Coshal's journey exemplifies the transformative power of entrepreneurship and social impact. By reviving tribal arts and bringing them to the mainstream market, they have not only uplifted the lives of artisans but also ignited a newfound appreciation for cultural heritage. With each artifact sold, Coshal Art weaves a thread connecting the past, present, and future, enriching the lives of all involved.