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Refurbished vintage radios by Absynthe Design
Refurbished vintage radios by Absynthe Design

A new online marketplace that supports artisans during the pandemic

The virtual store by Baro, founded by Srila Chatterjee, seeks to continue its engagement with a community of craftspersons and designers

A beautiful refurbished radio by Absynthe Design, done up in floral motifs, shares the virtual store space with quirky coin pendants by the jewellery label Chicory Chai. On another page, one can see fragrant handmade soaps by Kaisori, with the packaging featuring miniature paintings inspired by the Chitrashala in Bundi fort. These are just some of the pieces that form a part of the new curated online marketplace by Baro, a popular furniture and décor store in mid-town Mumbai.

This initiative, which goes live today, has come after much contemplation by the store’s founder, Srila Chatterjee. She has had to shut down the physical space, with some of the furniture pieces having moved to the atrium of The True School of Music, located barely 100 metres away in Sun Mill Compound, Lower Parel. These are available for order till the end of September. “The store couldn’t survive the pandemic. The landlord was not willing to help. And without such a support, a small company like ours, with no deep pockets, can’t survive," says Chatterjee, who used to run the production house, Highlight Films, before starting the store nearly three years ago.

Silaiwali up-cycles waste fabric generated from apparel scraps to create handcrafted decorations by Afghan women refugees in India
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Silaiwali up-cycles waste fabric generated from apparel scraps to create handcrafted decorations by Afghan women refugees in India

However, she didn’t want the shutting of the physical store to signify the end of Baro, the brand. “We have built such a strong community of designers, artisans and craftspersons. It would have been a shame to end that," elaborates Chatterjee.

This online marketplace is unlike anything she has ever done. Chatterjee has always believed in the tactility of things. It has taken a certain amount of reorientation to adapt to the online medium. “It is such an impersonal medium," she says. “But we will try to be as intimate as always." At the moment, the Baro Market features products across a wide gamut of categories, ranging from home decor, apparel, edibles and pet care or just a touch of whimsy, by 58 vendors, including designers, craftspersons and artisans. “Each of these products has been chosen by me. They are unique, have a stamp of authenticity, sensible pricing and a certain sense of joyousness," explains Chatterjee.

She wants to give a wider access to people from other parts of the country to the curation that was earlier available only in Mumbai. The team will take some more time to figure out international shipping. However, with the surge in online delivery, delivery and courier companies have adapted to the situation well, and getting the logistics in place has been far easier than it was a couple of years ago. “We are not saying that we will deliver the next day. But we will deliver within a reasonable amount of time," she adds.

Srila Chatterjee, founder, Baro
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Srila Chatterjee, founder, Baro

The idea is to share stories behind the crafts and design. Take Shillar House, for instance, which is run by Sonal Sarjolta to empower women from the local community. The brand is named after the home that she moved into as a new bride. “It was an exercise to build the potency of the women. The brand started with pure ghee, which each woman made for her household," says Chatterjee. Today, it has moved on to include a range of pickles, white honey and forgotten produce and empowers the women. Then there is Silaiwali, a social enterprise in New Delhi which up-cycles waste fabric generated from apparel scraps to create handcrafted decorations by Afghan women refugees in India.

Handmade soaps by Kaisori
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Handmade soaps by Kaisori

Chatterjee feels change is part of the global journey that countless people are undertaking right now. In the near future, as and when the situation inches towards normalcy, and if enough people are willing to come out to be with others, she would love to host pop-ups. “We would like to have many stores and do community events. But not a single person at the moment can predict what the future holds," she says.

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