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Astha Bhatnagar and Deepti Duggal were only seven years old when they first met in Grade 3 at the school in Delhi. But they drifted apart when the former changed schools two years later. However, fate had other plans. Thirty-three years later, they jointly run a company called Rang Sang, which sells hand-painted home decor and utensils such as wall plates, trays, coasters, pillowcases, stoles, tote bags, pouches, pen holders, boxes and terracotta jewelry, clay pictures, fridge magnets and more.
“Technology came to our rescue. We connected via Facebook and decided to meet for a cup of coffee on the Select City Walk in Saket. During the conversation we discovered our shared love for art and art forms, and it only took us two hours to start Rang Sang – the love for colors (Rang) that brought us both together (Sang), ”shares Bhatnagar, a self-taught teacher Painter and art director who has worked for many advertising agencies.
On December 12th, they started Rang Sang. “The first order we placed was for an exporter in February 2020. Our home decor wall panels have been exported to London, Dubai and the USA,” says Duggal, formerly a merchandiser in a department store, now an artist and entrepreneur. The Quadrangarians are very familiar with the traditional Indian art forms such as Madhubani, Kalamkari, Warli, Phad, Pichwai, Gond as well as with various modern genres such as contemporary, retro, kitschy, pop, abstract, tribal etc.
Says Bhatnagar, “We share a common admiration for all types of art, so we are continuously trying to improve our skills to meet the aesthetic demands of our customers.” The duo source raw materials, especially terracotta, from local artisans in Uttar Pradesh. Each product is customized, taking into account the customer’s interest in design and color preferences, says Bhatnagar, who lives in Gurugram.
When Covid struck shortly after launch, the business went completely online, which in some ways prevented them from connecting with existing and potential customers. “It was a challenge just to explore possibilities and avenues online. That is why we have organized online workshops to teach and connect with children and adults from the comfort of their own home. The online route helped us connect with a lot of like-minded people in the industry, ”adds Duggal, a resident of Sheikh Sarai.
In lockdown, when many housemaids lost their jobs, the duo decided to create employment opportunities for them. “Today we see them happily qualified, earn and grow with us. They help us prepare the plates by painting the base coat and are trained to paint and package the products properly, ”adds Duggal. “Now we’re an all-eight female team – the two or five house maids we’ve trained to help us with bulk orders and one new member who’s our social media manager,” she adds.
While Deepti is in charge of communications and marketing for Rang Sang, Astha takes care of finances and logistics. Astha also has an understanding of graphic design which she uses to the best of her ability for all social media collateral. But every company faces its own challenges. Says Bhatnagar, “We encounter customers who compare our products to ready-made and printed products, but we always emphasize the charm of handmade items as they are unique. We believe that the performance of a machine cannot be compared to that of an experienced hand. “
The lockdowns that followed have made it difficult to manage bulk orders from customers and deliveries from craftsmen. “However, we still hope to survive these times and deliver products to the best of our ability. Right now we work from home in pairs to get the maximum work done, ”adds Duggal. With the plans to expand, Rang Sang aims to reach qualified women and empower them to become self-employed.
Upcoming art workshops
Rang Sang is organizing a series of workshops to raise funds for Mask India, an initiative by Nanhe Khwab. Garima Chandel will hold an art journaling workshop on May 15th, Pari Luthra will attend an acrylic painting workshop on May 16th, Duggal will teach Madhubani on May 22nd, and Bhatnagar will be teaching Pop Art on May 23rd.