Sheela Lunkad – Scaling up Creativity

Sheela Lunkad – Scaling up Creativity – Direct Create Pvt. Ltd.

We, in the world of today, are experiencing unprecedented and random changes largely in the areas of Climate, health, and depleting natural resources. This is forcing the man to relook at his patterns of living and consumption; which in the last century have all been birthed from industrial systems of production.

This is impacting demand patterns amongst the new generation of consumers, who are questioning the dubious trade-off of choices made by industry in the pursuit of growth without looking at the impact this continuous growth has had on the planet and human health. It has led to a growing and gradual rise in the demand for sustainable and local produce, that is also designed and styled for global standards and quality parameters.  

This makes for a very powerful paradigm shift in the evolution of new consumer ecosystems. Markets are looking for newer ways to buy and no longer want to be forced into buying what industries and marketing companies keep dishing out to them. For the majority of our needs, we are now willing to wait for a better quality product that’s custom-made for us and our specific needs. This limits enormous wastage and reduces overstocking considerably since stocking inventory is the core ingredient built into modern industrial supply chain management; designed to induce demand and produce in anticipation.

Consumers are thus turning towards crafted products and smaller batches of making and consuming from handmade producers who can not only tailor the ideas into specific products but also ensure exclusivity and character to the same; thus ensuring relevance in contemporary times. For the consumer; it also means a new experience wherein he/she knows who they are consuming from and that their money is being spent in livelihood generation and a sustainable equitable living for artisans and craftsmen spread across the world.

The single most contributor to this change has been the technological advancements of the last few decades. Technology is famously the application of knowledge to the practical aims of human life or to changing and manipulating the human environment with the use of materials, tools, techniques, and sources of power to make life easier, more pleasant, and productive. The 19th century gave the tools of technology to industrial producers. The 21 st century belongs to the hand producer. Traditionally the hand producer has existed in rural towns and villages spread across geographical boundaries with limited market access and know-how of global contemporary tastes.

The digital age has resolved this gap through various techniques that have helped educate and inform; evolving through systems of collaborative thought and execution. Collaboration is about finding new approaches to ordinary problems, the mixing of experiences, cultures, traditions, and techniques to create something truly remarkable. Technology enables this interdisciplinary exchange of ideas connecting humans across lingual cultural and geographical boundaries.

Direct Create Pvt. Ltd.

The global consumer today is a buyer and a maker or a designer and the artisan is a consumer with his likes and dislikes. What if we put them all together in one plane?

The marriage of technology, design, and craft is what Direct Create has worked towards. With more than 2 decades of experience working with craftsmen in the physical domain; the architect Promoters felt that the future lay in integrating the best of the physical knowledge of the craftsmen and the finest creative processes of the designers through a seamless information gateway on the cloud that would benefit all the stakeholders.

This; Direct Create believes;  is the future of consumption –batches of small and precise production spread across various villages and towns leveraging traditional knowledge and high-quality craftsmanship that meets and collaborates with markets directly.

In short –consumers have the choice of creating their requirement and making it happen with the knowledge available and creative energy deployed through processes and systems. Direct Create at direct create has established an omnichannel custom-built technology platform that enables local artisans to work with a network of designers and buyers to collaborate and co-create a handcrafted life across the world.

The handicraft and handloom sector in India is a 24,300 cr industry and contributes nearly 10,000 cr annually in export earnings. The 12 the Five year Plan had projected it would become the largest non-farm sector in rural India, swelling its workforce by 10 percent, doubling the output, and exporting 18 percent more during 2012-2017

Many aspects of what informs Direct Create’s vision are already in play — creating the base for the age of the individual to flower. Internet paired with the mobile phone has made the world global and individual simultaneously. The rise and abundance of global platforms like Google, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb create the promise of a unified world business environment that’s also highly customizable to the individual’s needs. The next band of evolution for the consumer space comes from optimizing the economy with the power of this connected world and creating new supply chains that harness the potential of this network and offer diversity to the consumers. 

Uber offers the flexibility of switching between a Rider and Driver, or Airbnb provides the ability to be a Traveller or Host. Each one of us today is a creator and consumer, Direct Create can choose to prioritize which persona we want to operate with and switch between them as per our need.

Direct Create takes this to the next level by expanding the persona into three – the Maker, the Designer, the Buyer. Every person can exist across the three personas and change them from time to time. Barring the highly industrial fields like microprocessors or automobiles or hi-tech component manufacturing, most of the products we consume daily are customizable to our needs provided a robust ecosystem is created for this to be enabled. 

As members on the platform –people can seek out their choice of the  Maker or designer from amidst the community. Once they find a producer who fits their personal needs; they can then share their requirements, All makers on the  DC platform are equipped with a  complete backend and front-end integration that supports customization.

They can process many orders at the same time. For unusual or individual demands where the customer is not able to clearly define what they need, they can contact a designer from the platform; the Designer can create the product design and specification for them and also recommend makers who can make it for them. The customer then shares that with the makers and the Maker creates a custom product for them.

Direct Create is an Omni-channel that connects local artisans to a network of designers and buyers to collaborate and co-create a handcrafted life across the world. Today Direct Create has access to 726 crafts of India and a pan-India maker network. Fostering a community of 15,000 handpicked artisans and designers, we are working towards creating an organic connection between makers, designers, and buyers.

The Journey to Prominence

Direct Create got launched 4 years ago as a technology platform to create a community of makers, designers, and customers. Over the years, the platform has evolved considerably; now they also provide in-house curation to match their client’s ideas with quality craftsmanship. Direct Create now operates out of New Delhi and Amsterdam. 

Direct Create operates in three service areas to connect makers, designers, and buyers and makes handmade crafts accessible to a wider market.

•    Project Management: They work with buyers and retailers to elevate their product offering by planning and developing a unique portfolio of handcrafted goods

•    Design Collaboration: They take a collaborative approach to design innovation, creating connections between interdisciplinary creatives to develop design solutions that range from premium products to experiential spaces and large-scale projects       

•    Production: They orchestrate the end-to-end development of project life cycles with a specialization in design, manufacturing processes, and project execution from concept to delivery

An unmatched leadership

Direct Create is led by Sheela Lunkad and Rajeev Lunkad, trained architects and crafts enthusiasts. Together, they bring decades of professional expertise in working with exemplary craftspeople, designers, and consumers.

Rajeev has worked on wide-ranging culture-linked design projects, both at the micro and macro scales. He is one of the primary designers and the Project Director of the JalMahal Project that helped restore the JalMahal Monument and revive the ecology of Man Sagar Lake in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

In terms of international engagements, Rajeev has considerable experience. He worked as a Principal Architect with the Asian Heritage Foundation, which won the award for Scenography of the Plaza at the Universal Forum of Cultures 2004 held in Barcelona – an event jointly organized by the Spanish and Catalan government with the city of Barcelona, the United Nations as co-partners. Mr. Lunkad was also a part of the Silk Road Festival as the technical head of the project.

The Silk Road festival, held in the national mall in Washington D.C was produced in coordination with the Smithsonian Folklife Institution, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project Inc, the Aga Khan Trust, and the Asian Heritage Foundation. In 2014, he also became part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program [IVLP] on the theme of Managing Cross Border Water Resources.

Sheela has more than two decades of experience in the area of design and sustainable practices in areas ranging from craft revival, textiles, handcrafted design space, architecture, and eco-sustainable hospitality. She has headed the home & lifestyle Strategic Business Unit of FabIndia Retail for over a year. Sheela was also the CEO of DAH Jaipur, one of the subsidiary companies of Fabindia Overseas (India’s largest handicraft chain), working with craftsmen and vendors in the state of Rajasthan, India. DAH Jaipur, a part of a Harvard Case Study, is owned by several stakeholders including the artisans and the employees. Direct Create grew almost 300% during the 2.5 years’ tenure.

She was responsible for designing, sourcing, coordination, and production of some of the architectural and textile components of the Smithsonian folklife festival, which was held in the national mall in Washington D.C was produced in coordination with the Smithsonian Folklife Institution, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project Inc, the Aga Khan Trust, and the Asian Heritage Foundation.

With an in-depth knowledge flow of artisanal communities, Sheela has helped craft 360-degree design solutions, building ecosystems for self-reliance, innovation, and growth within these communities. All of these are interwoven with the core idea of expanding and celebrating cultural heritage and making it relevant to today and the future.

Some of their successful projects

•    Swadesh bazaar for Reliance Foundation: Direct Create curated the best of Indian arts and crafts and presented the audience with an immersive retail experience. Direct Create curated a theme-based and utility-oriented stall. An example would be a ‘Dining room’ pavilion which consisted of utilitarian handicrafts belonging to 25 craft-clusters from all over India, in place of the usual craft or region-specific presentation generally associated with crafts

•    SBU Management of Fab India: Direct Create managed the Home and Lifestyle SBU of Fab India, India’s largest handicraft-based retail company. We developed a range of unique collections across various product and design categories. One such collection was called the JalMahal Collection, inspired by the JalMahal, a palace in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in the state of Rajasthan, India. This was carried out by a digital collaboration with an international designer, based out of the UK

•    Souvenir Store at Red Fort: Direct Create is developing its first retail rollout, the store will be located at the Red Fort, Delhi. Red Fort is one of the most visited monuments of India’s monument-based merchandise project. With the Red Fort Monument as a point-of-inspiration, we are developing a range of products for a souvenir shop. For this, we conducted background study and research and drew inspiration from the age-old materials and skills of Red Fort. Based on this, we are developing select merchandise products with upgraded and new-age designs which attract urban buyers

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