Meet the Maker: Zainab Limbdiwala – Asalkaar

We spoke to Zainab, the extremely passionate and hardworking founder of Asalkaar, whose products are handcrafted by skilled, dedicated, and dexterous artisans around West Bengal.

“AsalKaar is all things handmade. Our products are handcrafted by skilled, dedicated, and dexterous artisans around West Bengal. Located in Kolkata, the products come from artisans across various districts and clusters of rural West Bengal. And we are here to support them.” – Zainab Limbdiwala, Asalkaar

We spoke to Zainab, the extremely passionate and hardworking founder of Asalkaar to understand her vision and work better. You are cordially invited to the conversation. Welcome.

How many (if more than one) members make up your team?

At the moment, it is just me. My parents are my support system – be it troubleshooting ideas for new developments or handling the logistics.

What were you doing before you started doing this?

As a textile science student, I have always possessed great passion for the Indian Handicraft and handloom industry, especially the products of West Bengal. After completing my graduation, I pursued a Masters in Fashion Management from NIFT, Kolkata. After working with a private label for some time, I felt the need to do something substantial and joined a renowned NGO named Sasha in Kolkata. There I got the opportunity to work with several self- help groups and artisans (of Kantha, other textiles and garments).

Why did you choose to do what you do?

It was time now that I took my passion for the craft a step higher, and that’s how AsalKaar was born. It is still at a very, very nascent stage and I wouldn’t even call it a full-fledged running company. Nonetheless, it’s the first step of my initiative to showcase to the rest of the country, what kind of talent lies in our rural communities.

We are fascinated by names. What’s the story behind your brand name?

AsalKaar, the name, is quite self-explanatory. In layman terms you could call it ‘Asli Kaarigari’ or simply, art in its purest forms. The aim of the brand is to bring forward the rustic charm and beauty of the traditional art form into our conventional lifestyles. Every piece is made with utmost care, and it is a conscious effort that the artisans, while gaining an exposure to a large market are also given their fare returns on the great deal of labour and time they contribute in making every piece.

Which are your best selling products?

All of the kantha products – jewellery boxes, folders, tissue boxes, slippads and so on. Our bags that we make using a combination of hand-painted and embossed leather with embroidered and printed fabrics also do very well.

What kind of people do you create your products for?

When we purchase any product, we buy it for its value. Here the value lies in it being created through a series of processes involving skill, time and effort. Each product is created by hand with great attention to detail right from tracing the designs on fabrics to assembling and finishing all the parts together in making the final product. Any person who values and appreciates this creative process would feel proud to own an AsalKaar product. And thanks to such patrons, our brand is being accepted and liked so much in today’s market.

What are the challenges you face in connection with achieving your goals?

All my efforts, be it visiting new groups and artisans, sourcing, new development, photographing, marketing and logistics, are aimed at one thing alone – provide maximum sales to these hardworking artisans.

For e.g, I work with a young couple, Bijoya and Tanmoy who are living in a makeshift one-room kuccha house, which also functions as their workspace. They make beautiful fabric and paper bound journals/ notepads. All they need is a confirmation of an order as small as 50 pcs, to bring a smile on their face and to work day and night to deliver these books.

With the oversaturated online craft market, our products often get hidden and camouflaged. Still, I believe there is a cluster of audience who are still inclined towards hand made products and hold great appreciation for the same. Therefore, reaching the correct audience is important.

It is websites like Engrave that play an awesome role in promoting and exposing the not so run-of-the-mill products that truly deserve all the attention they can get.

Where do you see your brand three years from now?

I hope to continue creating more unique products and that we get a greater/wider audience that loves and appreciates our work.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

I would possibly be doing something that would involve exploring other countries and places. Maybe a travel writer or take up teaching English projects in various places.

Visit the Asalkaar Shop on Engrave.

Avinash Subramaniam

Avinash has been an advertising writer, fiction writer, poetry writer, freelance writer and serial wronger. Other roles he has been in include those of an editor, brand builder, and teacher. His interests include advertising, scrabble, body building, chess, cinema, making money, reading, internet culture, cricket, photography. To hear him air his thoughts, follow him on Twitter @armchairexpert.


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