Biswa Bangla is a five-year-old brand that is aimed to promote West Bengal’s handicraft and handloom sector. It is currently operated by the Department of MSME and Textile, Government of West Bengal.
The brand has nine showrooms across India. Six of them including their airport outlet are in Kolkata. It is actively considering an expansion model and aims to reach out to different Indian cities. Within a short span of operations, the brand has tasted significant commercial success. Their sales amounted to Rs 10 crore in FY 2016 and rose to Rs 17 crore in FY 2018. For FY 2019, the figure was close to Rs 25 crore.
Snehashis Sarkar, COO, Biswa Bangla, told BE, “At Biswa Bangla, we often offer exclusive items produced by only few countable artisans in West Bengal. Therefore, we cannot trade in nominal prices which contradicts the economic philosophy of availability and pricing of the products. Apart from the cost of production, the value of artistic creations is important for us.”
The brand aims to revive traditional artworks of West Bengal. It has taken a key role in re-imagining traditional art forms to suit the present market. The brand has played an important role in the renewed popularity of patachitra by marketing various modern products with patachitra designs.
Taking about the skill development of the artisans, Sarkar said, “We work with highly skilled artists across Bengal. There is always scope for us to learn from their heritage creations, rather than us skilling them. We do not treat the artisans as daily wage labourers but as professionals. We undertake upskilling programmes where we provide contemporary designs to these artisans and ask them to incorporate those. Our artisans are also open to work individually and with other organisations apart from us. We also encourage these artisans to undertake entrepreneurial projects and support them financially. However, we discourage them from replicating our designs for other organisations.”
Sustainable repeat purchase as a business model
Quality control has been the backbone of Biswa Bangla. Sarkar said, “Maintaining feasible quality and ensuring repeat purchases was a challenge. We have worked on quality control and focused on specifications, designs and materials. Enhanced products have increased our repeat customers. We have seen repeat customers even at our airport showrooms which is very rare for a player in our segment. We are receiving positive responses from national and international markets as well.”
Biswa Bangla has also initiated loyalty rewards programmes where customers can redeem reward points. They have also partnered with the ICICI Bank, offering the bank’s card users extra benefits.
The organisation is now looking beyond physical showrooms and considering increasing its presence in the digital retail space. According to Sarkar, the strategy will be to showcase the brand’s popular products in established online retail spaces like Amazon and Flipkart - rather than opening a separate portal for the brand. This is still a subject for approval from the state government. However, if the proposal gets acknowledged, this can lead to increased visibility for the brand’s products in the digital market. Sarkar added, “Handicrafts importers are offering a meagre price to procure items from us, which is not even meeting our production costs. So we are lacking in the export market. The online opportunity can open the international market for us.”