A professional with more than 17 years of senior marketing management experience at companies like Virgin, Ericsson and Reliance, Anshuman Singh has vast experience in the Lifestyle, Fashion and Retail industries. His venture, Paul Adams is a 100% Indian endeavour that supports India art and artists and truly stands for #vocalforlocal from its very inception.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others? – Martin Luther King, Jr
From ancient petroglyphs that date back to almost 7000 BC to the bustling contemporary art scene, India has a rich and vibrant history when it comes to art. Spanning several centuries and influenced by a plethora of cultures and religions, the art forms in India are diverse and are symbolic of our culture, customs and ideologies passed from generations. Indian art which is quite unlike any other is an intrinsic part of our rich heritage and is a legacy that needs to be preserved.
Artisans: Custodians of our Heritage
It is often said that a work of art is a world in itself and reflects the senses and emotions of the artist. It is key to note that artisans are the backbone of India’s non-agricultural rural economy. However, they belong to the unorganized and informal sector and many of them work out of home. As per a report there are about 7 million artisans engaged in the craft industry with unofficial estimates pegging this number much higher.
It is significant to note that with time the number of people engaged in art and craft for a living is fast dwindling due to a variety of reasons including loss of markets, poor margins, increased costs and declining skills. Poor working conditions, lack of encouragement and limited access to financial aid and working capital has resulted in artisans actively pursuing other professions for a living. Most of the times the next generation is not interested to continue the legacy of their father or grandfather resulting in a steep reduction in the number of artists. According to a report by the UN, the number of artists in the last 30 years has decreased by as much as 30%.
In the light of this situation, the creation of an ecosystem where art and artisans thrive is of outmost importance. Investing in efforts that recognize the skills of the artists and enhance their income levels will not only provide them with decent livelihoods but will also help encourage other artists to invest their time and effort in the craft. Providing these opportunities augurs well for the bigger picture which is ensuring the preservation of Indian art while making it relevant for the generation of the present and the future.
Business and Society: a symbiotic relationship
Business and society have been interdependent on each other since time immemorial. Business activities have a significant impact on certain sections of the society and the actions of the societal system in turn have a deep influence on businesses and their future. Hence, they are strongly interrelated and it is based on this premise that businesses are also socially responsible institutions. While corporate social responsibility was initially viewed as a philanthropic activity, India was the first country in the world to make corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandatory, following an amendment to the Companies Act, 2013 in April 2014. In fact, Schedule VII of The Companies Act provides for corporate patronage of art and culture to be included in CSR. Hence, corporates are stepping in today more than ever before to contribute to the development of art and upliftment of artisans.
Luxury brands have been exploring unconventional ways to support local artists and have been using their work creatively on their products like handbags, backpacks, accessories and the like. This gives the product not only a unique, handcrafted touch but also provides the artists a respectable platform to showcase their work at a global level. It instils a sense of pride, privilege and is a morale booster for the talented artists who put in their heart and soul into the creation of every product.
Most of these artists are from rural and moderate backgrounds and often struggle to receive a decent compensation for their work. Companies like these have managed to create a formal ecosystem wherein they have a dedicated pool of artists who are able to “sell their work” to corporates and make art accessible to all. The pandemic has only accelerated the need to support the livelihood of such artisans and the work done by such organizations has become more significant and meaningful than ever before.
These actions are also in line with the mantra of “vocal for local” that is being given impetus ever since the coronavirus pandemic. This philosophy helps develop an appreciation for indigenous art and encourages artisans to do better work. The entire exercise helps them become self-reliant and gives them an opportunity to elevate their art work from being local products to globally acclaimed brands. Such endeavours go a long way in recognizing and promoting Indian art, fostering a culture of appreciating our native culture and in uplifting artisan livelihoods through systematic empowerment. A win-win indeed for both corporates and the community!