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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Nidhi Kamath And Keya Vaswani On Making People Realise That Handicrafts Are Not Just “Products”

  • IWB Post
  •  March 13, 2019

When we talk about any initiative aiming to create a social impact, more often than not, the thought of earning profits out of it takes the back seat. We have been conditioned into believing that business and social endeavours don’t go hand in hand. But why shouldn’t a social enterprise be financially lucrative as well? In fact, for all the change that social entrepreneurs impact, they certainly deserve that much. 

Thankfully, a crop of passion-driven entrepreneurs has started to take up centre stage to change this flawed narrative. They are here to pursue their passion, employ it to initiate change, and make big as entrepreneurs as they do it.

The Forbes India W-Power Trailblazers 2019 list has recognised the contributions of such path-breaking women who have carved a niche for themselves and “have bent norms, fought stereotypes and cemented their space in male-dominated fields.”

IWB salutes the spirit of these resilient women. This Women’s History Month, we will be celebrating these women and their contributions to the country by conducting Instagram Live chats with them and documenting their success journeys. The idea is to collect their stories so as to inspire this generation to learn from them and follow their lead.

The March 2019 issue of Forbes India, which is called Forbes India W-Power Trailblazer issue, commemorates women who have redefined the norms, battled cliches and gained foothold in male-dominated domains. Founders of Storyloom Films, Keya Vaswani and Nidhi Kamath whose story too is of creating new normal and breaking of stereotypes, have secured presence in the Forbes India W-Power Trailblazer 2019 list. This is a proud and happy moment for Storyloom Films and the team feels exhilarated to share this recognition and achievement with all the Storyloom Films patrons and well wishers. The article/story will appear in the 15th March, 2019 issue of Forbes India. We are sharing the link to 2019 W-Power Trailblazers list. (Link in the bio). . @forbes @forbesindia @forbeswomen @keya.vaswani @nidhijkamath . #womenfilmmakers #womenfilmmakersofindia #craftsofindia #artisansofindia #textile #textiles #filmmakers #filmmaking #filmmaker #film #watch #artists #instafilm #instafilmmaking #storyloomfilms #forbes #forbesindia #forbesindiapower #ForbesIndiaWPower #womeninbusiness #womenentrepreneurs #womenempowerment #womensupportwomen

157 Likes, 26 Comments – Storyloom Films (@storyloomfilms) on Instagram: “The March 2019 issue of Forbes India, which is called Forbes India W-Power Trailblazer issue,…”

We got in touch with Keya Vaswani and Nidhi Kamath from Storyloom Films for our first Insta chat and despite a plethora of technical glitches and some minor blogger hiccups (I dropped my phone right in the middle of a live chat!) we had a gala time connecting with these fun ladies who helped us trace their journeys and also gave us a few entrepreneurial tips.

“We are on a journey to narrate captivating stories through films crafted with sheer love.
We believe that when passion in filmmaking meets creative thinking, the result is a phenomenon of magical proportions,” share Nidhi and Keya.

At Storyloom Films, the two women have been documenting stories of Indian handicrafts, the artisans involved, and the rich history behind these crafts pieces which, as Keya says, are way more than just “products.”

Ask Keya the feeling of making it to the Forbes list and she shares with an infectious smile, “Honestly, I went to the bathroom and cried.” Her and Nidhi’s alliance goes way back to their college days at Indian Institute of Crafts and Design, Jaipur.

Keya shares, “Initially, Nidhi and I kind of did not like each other. But since we were roommates we eventually started to gel. Then during the graduation project, Nidhi actually came up with the idea of Weaves of Banaras and said, “You know this is the project. Do you want to do it and I was like “Okay we will give it a try” and that’s how it all started.”

Shoot of Kamdaani Craft or Lucknow. #kamdaani #luknow #badlaa #mukaish #storyloomfilms #storyloom #storyloomers

54 Likes, 0 Comments – Storyloom Films (@storyloomfilms) on Instagram: “Shoot of Kamdaani Craft or Lucknow. #kamdaani #luknow #badlaa #mukaish #storyloomfilms #storyloom…”

In fact, Weaves of Banaras became the first breakthrough project for the duo and there was no looking back after that. Enamoured by the crafts of India and rich fabric of history behind them, they went on making one film after another including Upada-Jamdani of Andhra, Pehchan-The Story of Kansa, Muqaish-Metallic Embroidery etc.

Winning the National award for their short film Weaves of Maheshwar in 2016 proved to be a huge milestone for the duo as it brought them wide recognition and attention.

“Ayush Kasliwal, a known lifestyle product designer from Jaipur, gave us the opportunity to make films professionally. This is how Nidhi and I started working together.” Along with Storyloom Films, Nidhi and Keya’s bond has also grown over time. “We are literally like husband and wife now (laughs).”

The duo believes that the potential of storytelling as a vehicle of social change is huge. “It definitely makes a big impact. Nidhi and I have observed this in the last five years that a lot of films and products that we were working on, nobody was aware of them prior to it,” says Keya.

“When we started making films on these artisans, we showed them to our parents and others around us and they were amazed. They reacted by saying things like, “Oh all of this takes this much of effort.” They had no idea that it could take up to nine months in the creation of a saree. So the moment they saw how much hard work goes into these handicrafts, and how many people are actually putting it all together for you and how their emotions and feelings are invested in the process, they understood the importance as well as the beauty of it. And the biggest change we have seen is that they don’t bargain with these artisans anymore.”

Team of Happy women :)

46 Likes, 0 Comments – Storyloom Films (@storyloomfilms) on Instagram: “Team of Happy women :)”

She adds, “We are able to change the perspective of the people about craft, where it is being made, and how it is being made and helping people realise that these handicrafts are not just products. And I am sure that in these five years, winning a national award and then making it to Forbes list definitely is a testimony of the change that we have made.”

The duo also learned some important lessons themselves. Nidhi shares, “It is very important to respect these people for their craft and for their time that they spare to share their stories. If need be, they should be paid for the time that we take up. It is integral to respect them and their space if you aim to make any real impact.”

The biggest question here is the entire pursuit of financial gains while one chases a social cause, to make it big as an entrepreneur while initiating a social impact. The duo shares candidly that it is something that they took their own sweet time to learn.

Keya shares, “Initially, when we started Storyloom Films, what we used to do was divide whatever money we earned into half. That is when my husband and Nidhi’s mom suggested that we need to make our company a separate entity and start taking a salary from it if we want it to grow.”

She adds, “So what happens generally is that filmmakers don’t really have a constant flow of money but we need to survive, right? This was one of the learnings that taught has to sustain our company in five years and also helped us increase our salary.”

Day 1 at Tripura village #craftingfutures #craftsofindia #craftsoftripura #textilesofnortheastindia #britishcouncilindia #storyloomfilms

30 Likes, 1 Comments – Storyloom Films (@storyloomfilms) on Instagram: “Day 1 at Tripura village #craftingfutures #craftsofindia #craftsoftripura #textilesofnortheastindia…”

Another big challenge with making documentary films is to attract a substantial number of audience. However, the duo has been brainstorming to make it work in their favour as well.  “Fortunately online portals like Netflix and Amazon Prime have changed the way people watch documentaries. One of the documentaries “Wild Wild country” has gone viral. People love it even when it is a documentary so our plan now is to approach platforms like Netflix.”

Keya and Nidhi also have some important advice for those who seek to become social entrepreneurs. Keya says, “Yes money is a concern but don’t make it your focus. Just focus on the kind of opportunities that you are getting. There were financial hiccups, then there are times when you lose projects. But if it is what you really want to do because this was what we wanted to do, keep up the pursuit no matter what. Just stick to your path and gradually learn from your mistakes.”

Nidhi seconds the notion as she says, “Nothing is going to work until and unless you put in all you have in your dream. Work hard and stay focused.”


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