Guwahati-based start-up taking Assam’s cultural products to the world
Assam is known for its rich cultural heritage and a textile legacy that has been handed down through generations. The intricate weaving patterns and exquisite designs of the Assam handloom have been praised by many over the years. However, the talents of the Assamese artisans have failed to reach the greater masses.
With the aim to commercialize the authentic, indigenous products manufactured by the state’s artisans and make it accessible to people located outside of Assam, 26-year-old Dhruba Jyoti Deka launched Brahmaputra Fables in June 2017.
“There is so much more to the northeastern states about which the rest of the country has no idea. In my endeavors, I hope to shed a better light on our diverse and eclectic culture through these locally handcrafted products,” said Dhruba.
Dhruba started out with his own hometown of Sarthebari, a village located in Barpeta district in Assam which is quite famous for its brass and bell metal handicrafts.
Interestingly, nobody in Dhruba’s family has ever engaged in an entrepreneurial venture. “My late father was a teacher, while my mother is a homemaker who weaves clothes at home and promotes local handicrafts and textiles. Maybe that’s where the appreciation for my culture and traditions took form,” Dhruba recalled, speaking to G Plus about his fondness for the culture of Assam.
Brahmaputra Fables is an online shopping portal entirely run and managed by a small team of people devoted to taking the authentic traditional products from Assam to the world - digitally - and easing the process of shopping for traditional handicrafts.
While Dhruba was pursuing MSc in Chemistry from Pondicherry University, he realized the inquisitive craze for Assam’s culture and tradition outside the state and so began the journey of inception of Brahmaputra Fables.
"I along with my friends used to organize the northeast fest in college where we received tremendous response for our indigenous products. People belonging to other states used to ask us where to buy handicraft items from and that triggered me to promote our culture nationwide in forms of traditional attire and handicrafts,” said Dhruba, speaking exclusively to G Plus.
He further added that just like the mighty Brahmaputra River is the lifeline of Assam and impacts the people of the state, he wishes to impact the lives of artisans of the region through his start-up and hence the name Brahmaputra Fables which literally translates into “tales from the river.”
Brahmaputra Fables, by the end of its first year in business, reached a turnover of Rs 25 lakhs. Dhruba was bestowed with the “Top 10 Under-30 Entrepreneurs Awards 2017” by The Indian Awaz and his startup also made it to the list of top 3,000 startups in India, a recognition given by the IIM Calcutta Innovation Park. The venture has gained massive recognition over the past year for making the indigenous products of Assam available online.
Currently, there are over 3,500 artisans registered on the portal, who get a platform to display and sell their products. From handicraft to handloom and ethnic musical instruments to cuisine, all things traditional are available at this online store.
These products are bought from artisans from across Assam, residing majorly in places like Sualkuchi, Jorhat, Barpeta, Sivasagar and Lakhimpur. What makes the enterprise unique is that it aims at uplifting the artisans rather than profit-making. “If the registered artisans sell products worth below Rs 10,000, Brahmaputra Fables does not keep a single penny of profit and the entire amount goes to the artisan. We start taking a cut only after the artisans cross the Rs 10,000 mark,” Dhruba informed G Plus.
The highest selling product on the website, however, is the gamocha umbrella made by Pathshala resident Akshendra Kalita. This is followed by organic tea and vegetables, bamboo handicraft and Indo-western dresses.
While over 90% of the customer base is located outside Assam, the highest demand for products come from southern parts of the country like Bangaluru and Hyderabad, followed by Maharashtra and Delhi. Brahmaputra Fables also ships worldwide and its products have been delivered to parts of United Arab Emirates, United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia and Italy. So far, the website has over 2,500 registered customers out of which about 50% of the customers have made multiple purchases, stated Dhruba.
The young and talented entrepreneur now wishes to expand his venture by opening offline stores across the country, starting with Hyderabad in March 2019. He’s also working on increasing the export of products.
Dhruba's entrepreneurial journey, like most others, was fraught with challenges. “The most difficult challenge was surveying the market and organizing the initial funds for starting up,” he recollected.
He further stressed on the “yet to evolve startup ecosystem” of the region and said that it’ll take at least 5-10 more years for the people of northeast to adapt to the startup culture and invest in them because he feels that it’s almost impossible to raise funds in Assam.