Is “real” Indian art known in Japan?
There are Indian traditional art lovers obviously in India for sure and some western countries also do recognize it. However, how much it is known and has traveled east is still not clear. Especially in Japan, whatever Indian art has reached here, is through the propagation of early Buddhism religion to Japan and that too it has traveled through China. Its situation is almost same as with Indian food, which has also traveled to Japan in Meiji era (1868–1912) via British who introduced curry to Japan, hence there is a big difference in food in India and what we get in restaurants in Japan. So there was never a time in history when art has traveled directly to Japan. Some members of the community are trying to bring art in the form of festival-related traditional items but are still less and very sparse.
So, attempts need to be made, if we really want to see Indian art getting “recognized” in Japan. Here is an attempt by an Indian Entrepreneur who is trying to fill this gap directly by introducing Indian rural arts and products to Japan.
Someone amongst us is trying to make that happen!
Apart from how famous is our art here in Japan, there is are risks and challenges involved if someone wants to do something in this direction in a form of a startup. Challenges faced by the people who want to try new ventures are monumental, especially in a world where the cost of failure and stigma attached to failure is high. Lots of people who start their venture with some good purpose in mind, lose their heart at the initial stage of their journey due to this. This is the point where they need most of the encouragement and support. Here we have one budding Entrepreneur, who, in spite of aware of this, has decided to create her own eStore, and also want to support/promote artisans back home. Be with us to hear her story from the IDEA to launch and challenges ahead.
Meet, Shiuli Roy & her eStore “Irakoi”
Based in Edogawa-ku, Tokyo, Shiuli Roy, Founder of Irakoi, recently launched an eStore with a mission for “Celebrating Indian Rural Arts” in Japan. All the products are sourced from real artisans from different parts of India with a vast cultural heritage from Indian states like Kashmir, Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Bengal to name a few along with small-scale industries.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Story of launch of “Irakoi” – an eStore with a mission for “Celebrating Indian Rural Arts” in Japan & the person behind it ![/perfectpullquote]
Ventures like these which bridge the gap between two countries, along with a potential to produce jobs back home, needs encouragement from the community. Her story is a great example of how a Women Entrepreneur can contribute to society both in foreign and homeland.
With this story, we hope that you will discover about Shiuli, as a person briefly, and even more on her journey in making this Store. Sentences in Italic are her own words.
Intro about Shiuli Roy and Irakoi – her eStore!
Shiuli followed her husband to Japan (in 2007) from New Delhi and is the proud mother of two daughters. Before coming to Japan, Shiuli was working with a recruitment firm in NCR(National Capital Region) and she has had no background whatsoever before venturing into the path of an eStore (in 2018) dedicated to arts and culture.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “All the time that I have given to my website is either the morning hours when the kids were at school, and finally when they slept off. My nights would and they still end by 1 – 1:30 am.– Shiuli “[/perfectpullquote]
This is what made us inquisitive to know more about her endeavor and understand right from “What`s the meaning of eStore Irakoi”, “Her work experience before this”, “how the Idea was born”, ” the aim behind it”, “challenges she had” and “how she looks forward to this startup”. Following is her interview in question/answer form and we are sure you will love her journey.
It might be a bit long post, but we are sure you will discover about Shiuli as a person very briefly and more on her journey in making this Store. Sentences in Italic are her own words.
–Interview Starts here—
The journey from India to Japan.
How did you come to Japan?
I came to Japan following my husband, from New Delhi, and live in Tokyo with my family. Am a proud mother of two daughters, who are my biggest accomplishment in my life!
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Am a proud mother of two daughters, who are my biggest accomplishment in my life! – Shiuli “ [/perfectpullquote]
Before coming to Japan?
Before coming to Japan, I was working with a recruitment firm in the (NCR) National Capital Region where I was working as the client interface and was responsible for business development, and handling my team. Nothing in my background has any hint of the website that I have created…it still does surprise me!
Views on Japan & Japanese Language
In my view, I love the peacefulness that Japan offers, along with the beautiful people, their amazing manners, and etiquettes. It is indeed bliss to live in a land where people respect other people, especially children, and women. This I am sure most of us will agree to.
Views on the Japanese Language
I also find the sound of the Japanese language very beautiful. It sounds very graceful, pleasant and nice. I am yet to learn the language thoroughly. I am still at basic levels but I hope and wish I could learn so I could converse and exchange thoughts with the beautiful Japanese people here 🙂
The IraKoi eStore website design is wonderful, the pictures/descriptions are done in a very beautiful way and showcase Indian art in an aesthetic way. Tell us about your website and eStore itself!
What does Irakoi mean?
Irakoi stands to mean two distinct words. Ira stands for Indian Rural Arts and Koi is the beautiful Japanese garden fish. Ira is also a name in 6 international languages including Sanskrit for peace, love, happiness, prosperity. In the same sense, Koi also resonate the same. In fact, fish is considered peaceful and auspicious in various cultures of India. Together Irakoi aims to build a fusion between two very different yet beautiful worlds and bring out more love and happiness to the world.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Ira stands for Indian Rural Arts and Koi is the beautiful Japanese garden fish.– Shiuli “ [/perfectpullquote]
What are the products in the store?
So far, the products that Irakoi offers are Scarves & Stoles from Kashmir, West Bengal. Natural Perfumes and Incense sticks from down south, Home Décor Products (yet to be launched) and other art forms like Madhubani Paintings, Pattachitra, Indian handmade shoes from Punjab, Puppets of Rajasthan and so on.
What`s in Store for us?
- Incense from Small Scale Industries, Indian fragrances mostly.
- Natural Perfumes.
- Stoles from Small Scale.
- Indian Sandalwood.
- Accessories handmade by women small scale.
- incense holder,
- handmade shoes and
- Madhubani Painting,
- Kutch Embroidery Work,
- Puppet (other forms),
- Saurya Art,
- Pattachitra over palm leaves,
- Madhubani again, and
- Rajasthani glass and beads work over small decorative containers
These products and arts are from various parts of India as you can see. I think one of the benefits of living in Delhi is that you get to see all the different cultures of India there.
The artisans will get their full asked price. I feel honored to work with such great creative minds who are such brilliant creators of art. And, if I am able to help them by bringing an entirely new audience to them, then this is something I would feel very hopeful and happy about.
Who is your target audience?
Being based in Japan, my target, for now, will be everyone who lives here. Eventually, I am hoping to stretch it and put my site to the world to see.
What kind of feedback do you get from customers?
During the India Trend Fair Exhibition that took place in September 2018, (just after a month I started operations) one of the visitors who came to my stall wanted to know more on me. So with my broken Japanese mixed with English, I could relay to her that I am operating an online store to promote Indian arts and support small-scale suppliers, mostly handmade products. She exclaimed, “You are Shacho” ! I could only laugh and sais “No, the real Shacho are the artists in India and the workers”
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] A customer exclaimed, “You are Shacho” ! I could only laugh and said “No, the real Shachos are the artists in India and the workers– Shiuli “[/perfectpullquote]
IDEA behind the IraKoi eStore!
Promotes Rural art and Artisans in India
Irakoi is an online store that will serve two purposes. First and foremost, Irakoi hopes to promote Indian rural arts, and products related to these arts and support the artisans. With the blogs talking about the history of these beautiful arts, their age, and how it has been coming down to us through generations, I think this will help people to learn about these magnificent arts and appreciate them.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”First and foremost, Irakoi hopes to promote Indian rural arts, and products related to these arts and support the artisans. -Shiuli”[/perfectpullquote]
Generates jobs and supports the livelihood of many
Secondly, Irakoi also helps to support small-scale industries that mostly engage in handmade products, and are labor intensive ventures. Generating livelihood to many people through handmade products is going to help many economically challenged families a reason to smile.
For Hope & For Real people involved
Apart from that, Irakoi also has suppliers who are based out of small shops and corner streets, just an endeavor to give the makers of beautiful products a hope, a smile. Irakoi will always try to extend a hand of help for those who are poor, yet sincere, honest and hardworking.
REAL PEOPLE BEHIND THE SCENE
The journey from IDEA to launch of IraKoi eStore !
How did the IDEA come about and how it progressed?
The idea started somewhere in 2015, that I can create a fusion between Indian designs and styles with the Japanese subtle tastes. It is an amazing and beautiful combination. Things started falling in place, with more thoughts, and what I can do with them. The guiding thought was always my love for India, and what I can do to help the people there. Real work actually kicked off somewhere mid of 2017 I think. Then on, there has been no stopping or looking back.
Initial Challenges & work
To begin with, everything was a challenge, a wall. I have no qualifications in textiles or art, software, web designing, content writing, photography, marketing, just take any aspect and I was and still am, totally clueless about each thing. All these are firsts in my life, including this interview J
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”To begin with, everything was a challenge, a wall. -Shiuli”[/perfectpullquote]
Most Challenging work and act of balancing the family
For instance, it took me the longest to take the photographs. After even buying lights, I never used them as I did not have a studio to put them. They are still lying in my house, unused. I used the light of the sun to finally take shots. And to top it all, I have to attend to usual family life, household chores, kids, their school-related works and so much more. It was the exhausting but very satisfying end of the day.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It took me the longest to take the photographs. After even buying lights, I never used them as I did not have a studio to put them. They are still lying in my house, unused. – Shiuli”[/perfectpullquote]
So, yes, everything is the money that I have used here. So, I couldn’t indulge in any fancy web designer or photographer.
Design and Development of Website
I did hire a web developer in India to do the framework for me and also align the commercial aspect of it because one needs some technical skills which I do not possess and learning them online was taking forever. It is all thanks to the designer who was instrumental and helped me by showing me how to do many things myself. The designing, the layout is all my thought.
So, I had no option but me. Therefore, I took it on me to accomplish all the aspects of the website. It is now like my baby. Seeing it grow each day, made me stronger.
Managing time for venture without affecting the family chores
All the time that I have given to my website is either the morning hours when the kids were at school, and finally when they slept off. My nights would and they still end by 1 – 1:30 am. So, any long holidays, and I was off the project as I could not focus with kids around, and neither did I want to lose out on such brilliant gifts of life to have children around me always. So I really relished those times with them…still, do, and will always do 🙂
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]So, any long holidays, and I was off the project as I could not focus with kids around, and neither did I want to lose out on such brilliant gifts of life to have children around me always. So I really relished those times with them…still, do, and will always do 🙂 – Shiuli “[/perfectpullquote]
What`s covered as of now? It`s a tip of an iceberg! It`s a beginning and dream to include the majority of arts from India
There is still so much to go into the website. India is so huge, and talking of arts is like unlimited series. A country that dates back its civilization to 30,000 years, it is not surprising that people took up so many interesting forms of arts, and few of them are still alive and living in India. I hope to cover each part of India as much as I can. So far, I have loosely covered Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Kashmir, a bit of Gujarat, and Karnataka.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”India is so huge, and talking of arts is like unlimited series. A country that dates back its civilization to 30,000 years, it is not surprising that people took up so many interesting forms of arts, and few of them are still alive and living in India.-Shiuli”[/perfectpullquote]
I feel guilty of even saying I have covered so many states! It is just a tip of the iceberg, there is still so much more to cover in each state. It is like an endless sea of wealth! The arts that I have written about are the arts that I have seen, and I have spoken to the respective artisans on these arts. I want to experience them first hand, and then go on to write about them.
Any relevant education or experience in the field of Arts/Culture.
You see, I did not do any an art related subjects in life. I had to learn from each artist about its history, how they are made, who makes an so on. This is something I am drawn to, and feel good when I am surrounded by such arts. So all the blogs are styled to be very simple to understand and easy to grasp especially for the non-Indians. I do not wish them to be inundated with micro details and stuff, to keep people from off reading them. I do not know how much I can cover and write but I will try and do as much as I can.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I did not do any an art related subjects in life. I had to learn from each artist about its history, how they are made…-Shiuli”[/perfectpullquote]
Is it soon to talk about money & Profits?
Irakoi is not created to aim to make business and money. I do not have any financial planning or profit and loss sheets with me… I am not in any competition. I am just following a dream, a hope, a passion. Let me see how far I can take this 🙂
As for sourcing, yes I have undertaken all the sourcing myself, selecting the rightful artisans, suppliers etc.
As I mentioned I am not focusing on making profits instead am trying to do justice to the project of promoting the arts, handicrafts and artisans. It is too soon to say if I am making a profit anyway, I just started two months back. However, people have started noticing my work, and appreciating it as well. So that’s a very good thing I would say. People are very supportive here, and some trickle effect is already in.
How do you look ahead & what are Immediate challenges you see?
If you look at Irakoi as a business aspect, I have a lot of challenges. Primarily getting it marketed in Japan is one of the trickiest. Being a novice, and without any alliance here, this is going to be one helluva uphill walk!! Getting the site translated into Japanese in a way that it does not lose its essence is also important.
How do you want the Indian Community in Japan look at this venture and support you?
It would be good if my Indian brothers and sisters here can help me promote the website, by spreading it around amongst friends and colleagues. These arts are indeed wonderful, truly deserve to be acknowledged. The more people are aware and they appreciate them, I think my purpose will start getting solved.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”These arts are indeed wonderful, truly deserve to be acknowledged. The more people are aware and they appreciate them, I think my purpose will start getting solved.– Shiuli “ [/perfectpullquote]
How can the community get in touch with you?
I am mostly working out of my office, which is a corner in Starbucks Café when the kids are at school:- ) And am always open to receiving suggestions and thoughts on how I can better this process. So if any of you have any recommendations or advice, please email me at Shiuli@irakoi.com
–Interview concludes here—
IndoJapanPulse would like to thank Shiuli Roy for sharing her story of venture along with a background for the sake of the community. It`s very important that such sharing of information happens more and more and in a way, we give back to the society, community. Shiuli is doing her own bit, you can do by supporting her store, or taking her story and sharing it with others so that the word about Indian Rural Art goes out and gets a bigger market apart from India. This is one of the prominent reason why want to feature her story in IndoJapanPulse.
Hope you liked the journey of Shiuli from a completely different background to opening an eStore in Japan. Please let us know how you felt about it? Also if you have words of encouragement/feedback, do drop your thoughts here.
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