Luck by chance is a term which is often used in a world which finds its basis in alignment and calibrations. However, there are incidences where the factor of randomness seems to be prevalent, this is often assigned to fate.
It all started when Prashant Lingam and Aruna Kappagantula who are the founding partners of Bamboo House India (BHI) went searching for a sofa set.
Their quest for finding the right product turned into a socio-conscious venture which now supports the livelihoods of a number of people, apart from producing well-designed products in bamboo.
BHI is at the forefront of designing socially innovative products using bamboo as the chief material. At BHI, Prashant and Aruna work hand in hand with karigars to produce not only bamboo houses but bamboo furniture and other accessories.
As amateur businessmen the couple had to face numerous hurdles at the beginning of their journey. Sourcing raw materials was one of the hurdles; bamboo as we know grows in high terrain, besides which the forest act makes things more complex. It took almost five years for BHI to map the country starting from the North East to Kerala, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh to get a hold of the right raw material.
Today they source their bamboo from private plantations as well as from the forest departments – depending on the quality, price, logistics and ease of transaction.
Bamboo products are often stereotyped as “uncool”, but BHI strives to change this outlook. A creative testimony which drives home this view is the coffee shop they recently designed in Hyderabad. Apart from designing numerous bamboo houses they also design bamboo furniture which adorn homes in rural and urban landscape alike. Customised versions too are a ready possibility.
BHI works with traditional artisans many of whom are displaced by large scale government or private projects. Several young artisans they work with are school dropouts. Working with artisans who have a traditional background (courtesy the specific tribe they belong to) does have its benefits, but it is quite a task to inject contemporariness in a craft which has aged with time.
For BHI this is akin to constructing a modern citadel of functionality in a terrain where convention runs wild. Communication is a tough part and making them understand the customers needs and the market point of view is a challenge.
Though this sounds a little unorganised the working process at BHI is quite disciplined.
At the designing stage key artisans are involved and all inputs are considered, even if a member is new he is consulted and his opinion is taken. Finally the responsibility of product/project execution is delegated to the members depending on their skill sets and expertise. And if you have any doubts on the skill sets per se we will let the pictures do the talking. BHI has been credited by the US Government for the work they do.
Though it has been tough to source capital infusion from banks and financial institutions for their business model, the couple remain upbeat and optimistic about their operational efficiency. “What we strongly believe is that everyone of us wants to help society in some way or the other. And for younger generations looking towards entrepreneurship as a career option, opting for social entrepreneurship can be a good choice too as they get to serve society in some way or form and at the same time create wealth,” says Aruna
Aruna adds “We have observed through our pages on social networking sites that a lot of people are showing interest in our social business model and keen on doing something similar.”
After designing houses and furniture the couple is now busy with its bamboo cycle. The bamboo cycle is a mixed media work involving bamboo and since it is a hand crafted entity, it is not only eco-friendly but also generates the scope of livelihood for a number of people (unlike factory made cycles where most of the process is mechanised).
After bamboo, Prashant and Aruna are contemplating using discarded tyres. Considering that they have transformed bamboo into functional utilities, it remains to be seen how they up the ante with discarded rubber.
So if you have believed that bamboo is nothing more than a ‘hawaldars’ accomplice in times of trouble, think again, a visit to BHI may just change your outlook.
Text By Vikas Bhadra