Mod­ernising Mithila Paint­ings and Cre­at­ing Liveli­hoods

Mithila Paint­ings, also know as Mad­hubani Paint­ings is among the old­est art forms in the world. How­ever, they are largely in the un­or­gan­ised hands. In this back­drop, a young man­age­ment lady, Ruchi Jha quit her job and started paint­ings works - with a bra

Rural & Marketing - - START-UP TALK -

How did the idea of iMithila evolve ?

I have al­ways taken pride in be­ing a Maithil and we are a proud Bi­hari Com­pany. Dur­ing one of my vis­its to my na­tive place, Mithila, I had the priv­i­lege of meet­ing a few Na­tional and State Awardees for their con­tri­bu­tion in Mithila Paint­ing. The beautiful shades of the paint­ing stuck a chord and gen­er­ated the pas­sion to take it to every corner of the world. And that’s how iMithila Hand­i­crafts and Hand­loom came into ex­is­tence.

Please shed some light on iMithila and its prod­ucts port­fo­lio.

iMithila is the fastest grow­ing brand in Mad­hubani Prod­uct Cat­e­gory. Mad­hubani Paint­ing, also known as Mithila Paint­ing, is among the old­est art forms in the world. We have worked to­wards ex­pand­ing th­ese paint­ing de­signs from tra­di­tional mu­ral form to new more widely used mod­ern prod­ucts like wall clocks in home decor to Sa­rees and Stoles in ap­parel cat­e­gory. To­day, we have the largest col­lec­tion of Eth­nic wear like Hand­pi­anted Sa­rees, Stoles, Du­pat­tas to Home Decor Prod­ucts like Ket­tles, Trays, Coast­ers, Cush­ion Cover and so on.

How has been the growth of the or­gan­i­sa­tion since its in­cep­tion?

The pas­sion­ate team of iMithila has al­ways been geared up for the chal­leng­ing task we had in hand. On prod­uct side, we work on cre­at­ing de­sign forms and end prod­ucts which are mod­ern day con­tem­po­rary in us­age but eth­nic Mad­hubani in de­sign form. Then, we also have to cre­ate the mar­ket for th­ese never seen prod­ucts be­fore. Our cus­tomers wish to stand out from the crowd. After an ini­tal slow re­sponse, to­day we are grow­ing by over 500 per­cent month on month in an e-com­merce mar­ket which has grown by only 5 per­cent last year. For past three months, we have been ship­ping more prod­ucts than any other in­di­vid­ual e-com­merce plat­form or mar­ket­place in Mad­hubani paint­ing prod­ucts cat­e­gory. iMithila also of­fers the largest Mad­hubani paint­ing prod­uct port­fo­lio on­line.

What big chal­lenges did you face while ven­tur­ing into a start-up and how did you over­come them?

The big­gest chal­lenge that we have faced is to work on prod­uct man­age­ment. It is about mak­ing the choice on which prod­uct cat­e­gories to en­ter into and at what price points. Since most of our prod­ucts are in­no­va­tive and out of box de­signs, we also have to make the tough de­ci­sion of which de­signs will be liked by the cus­tomer. We have er­rored in our judge­ment at times but we have also suc­ceeded. This catch 22 situation has been tack­led by our in­ter­nal team and in­dus­try vet­eran busi­ness ad­vi­sors. Be­fore en­ter­ing into any cat­e­gory, we do a thor­ough re­search of the scope and test the prod­ucts in mar­ket. From in­cep­tion to be able to reach the mar­ket in any new cat­e­gory, our time cy­cle is six to nine months. Our strong busi­ness plan helps

us over­come the chal­lenge of un­cer­tainty we face.

What are the chal­lenges you are still fac­ing in prod­uct development to mar­ket them?

The Mithila art form is known for its paint­ings. Its vis­i­bil­ity in other cat­e­gories is not very high. For ex­am­ple, not many peo­ple search for a Mad­hubani Decorative Wall Clock on Google. Hence the big­gest chal­lenge that we are fac­ing to­day is on brand and art form aware­ness across the spec­trum of prod­uct cat­e­gories we have ven­tured into. We are solv­ing this by in­creas­ing brand and cat­e­gory aware­ness through targeted ad­ver­tise­ments.

What was the fund­ing model while ini­ti­at­ing the ven­ture?

We are a boot­strapped com­pany and will pre­fer to re­main that ways. iMithila is about lot of re­search, pa­tience and long term in­vest­ment. It is dif­fi­cult to find in­vestors who will un­der­stand our motto of do­ing busi­ness and share sim­i­lar pas­sion with long term vi­sion.

Do the Govt pro­vides sup­port to such ini­tia­tives?

We are a so­cially re­spon­si­ble com­mer­cial com­pany and will not like work on aids and char­ity. Both Bi­har gov­ern­ment through Startup Bi­har and Cen­tral gov­ern­ment through Start-up In­dia have the in­tent to sup­port. The ex­e­cu­tion of the in­tent can be made sim­pler. As a start-up, we work on mea­gre man­power resources and spend­ing that re­source in get­ting gov­ern­ment sup­port may not be a pru­dent de­ci­sion at times.

Mithila paint­ings?

We have ex­panded the reach of the Mithila Paint­ings. Long ago th­ese paint­ings were done only on Home Walls ( Mu­ral Paint­ing ) for dec­o­rat­ing homes in Mithila. Then it ex­panded to Hand­made pa­per. We have cur­rently more than 12 prod­uct cat­e­gories on which th­ese paint­ing de­sign forms are hand­painted and sold. We are work­ing on an­other three prod­uct cat­e­gories. Thus we are ex­pand­ing the scope of Mithila Paint­ing as an art de­sign form. The de­sign on a Serv­ing Tray will be dif­fer­ent from Sa­ree or a Wall Paint­ing. This also helps us to reach to new set of cus­tomers who may not be an art lover. We are tak­ing Mithila Art form to a dif­fer­ent level.

How has the as­so­ci­a­tion with iMithila in­creased ar­ti­sans' in­comes and liveli­hoods?

We work with more than 100 ar­ti­sans. All our prod­ucts are man­u­fac­tured in Bi­har. The nec­es­sary skill development train­ing is im­parted to our busi­ness as­so­ciates and at times we also sup­port them fi­nan­cially for run­ning their busi­ness. For ex­am­ple, our Clutches are all Made in Mithila and not im­ported. By be­ing able to gen­er­ate sales, we are able to con­tin­u­ously gen­er­ate job work for our artists. We are a so­cially re­spon­si­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion and our founders firmly be­lieve that a prof­itable busi­ness will cre­ate mul­ti­ple job op­por­tu­ni­ties and in­crease liveli­hood. We have zero at­tri­tion in the or­gan­i­sa­tion of our artists and we con­tin­u­ously work to­wards bring­ing the smiles on faces of in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal stake­hold­ers. Our ar­ti­sans are a part of our in­ter­nal team.

What model do you ap­ply for reach­ing to the con­sumers?

We have our own on­line store as well as sell through ma­jor mar­ket places. We also plan to ex­pand into Ex­clu­sive and Multi brand out­lets in near fu­ture. We do run ad­ver­tise­ments on so­cial me­dia for bring­ing traf­fic to our web­site and in­crease brand aware­ness.

What are your fu­ture plans?

We are likely to launch iMithila Ex­clu­sive Brand out­lets by end of this year. We have also started ex­port­ing our prod­ucts now. Un­der ‘Mad­hubani for You’ ini­tia­tive, we sell prod­ucts to var­i­ous multi brand out­lets In­dia who re­tail them. Our cus­tomers es­pe­cially global ones, will soon pre­view our ex­cit­ing iMithila Mad­hubani Hand­painted Col­lec­tion in Western Wear. Th­ese ini­tia­tives will fur­ther ce­ment iMithila's po­si­tion as the mar­ket leader in Mad­hubani Prod­uct Cat­e­gory.

What are other ar­eas where one can fo­cus on ven­tur­ing start-ups in Bi­har?

Bi­har is a vir­gin ter­ri­tory in busi­ness. To­day, there is a huge gap in Bi­har's con­sump­tion in any cat­e­gory ver­sus its own pro­duc­tion. For ex­am­ple, how many gar­ments ( of all types) are sold in a Bi­har in a day and how much of that is made in the state? It is less than 0.05 per­cent. Hence, there is no in­dus­try and ven­ture which does not have scope in the state. We need thor­ough plan­ning, busi­ness re­search and a busi­ness plan for a suc­cess­ful ven­ture. Bi­har has been climbing the growth lad­der and is cur­rently In­dia's 12th largest state in terms of GDP. So the scope is great and fu­ture is bright.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.