Social entrepreneur and designer, Subrata Pandey has a vision to create a better life for marginalized communities by guiding them to use their creative skills
What led to your passion for Indian tribal culture and crafts?
SP: I grew up in Rourkela, a small city in the western belt of Odisha, an area that was predominantly tribal but lacked traditional craft practices other than bamboo and pottery. My dad is a state government doctor and I often spent time with his tribal patients. I was drawn to the local farmers’ markets. In time, I began watching cultural shows on television such as the popular Surbhi, which played a vital role in shaping my interest in Indian craft. I was lucky to have complete freedom as a child to do whatever I wanted in my personal space of madness but I was equally drawn to learning and had a thirst for knowledge. I believe my own quest, my environment, and great parenting fuelled my passion for art and craft.
After completing my graduation in crafts design from Indian Institute of Crafts and Design (IICD), Jaipur, I went on pursue post graduation in liberal arts from Ashoka University in Sonepat. I believe when you embark on a journey of self-learning, no readymade knowledge will help you. It is through your own discovery and failures that great learnings will come to you. My recent experience at the Harvard Business Executive Leadership program for managing non-profits has been the most rewarding experience of my life.
What is the story behind Punarnawa Crafts?
SP: It is a bootstrapped model that accidently and rather quickly started with a skill training workshop in January 2011. Today I am founder and managing director! I was a recent graduate from IICD and had returned to Rourkela after having acquired some work experience from various places in India. Khamir (Kutch), where I did my final design diploma project, was instrumental in shaping my journey. In December 2010, I was asked by an Art of Living devotee to give a workshop to juvenile kids; the experience moved me from within. I was then asked by Rourkela Steel Plant to map the potential of the villages near Rourkela city as part of their CSR activity. My then business partner and I went ahead and organized a training program with 65 women on 28 January 2011. Most of them were handling needles for the first time! They were trained in appliqué work and the result was marvelous. I didn’t have the heart to leave them after that. I believe all this happened due to the train line blockage by the Gurjars in Rajasthan in January 2011 – I had to keep postponing my journey to take up a new job, and had enough time to carry out this social experiment as a result. Sometimes delay is good for an unplanned destiny.
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