Nurturing the incredible Madhubani paintings, the crusaders of this art are on a mission to empower the underprivileged and preserve the age-old beauty of Mithila. To provide a distinguished and premier platform to the artisans of Mithilanchal, Ankit Jha started eMithilaHaat. With relentless efforts, Jha believes in empowering the lives and transforming communities.
In an exclusive conversation with Trendinn, Jha speaks at length about the inspiration behind eMithilaHaat, expansion plans and much more…
What was the inspiration behind starting eMithilaHaat?
I am from Mithilanchal from where this art originated. I have seen people putting in their soul and heart into these paintings. I was working with an IT firm in Bangalore after completing my engineering. I used to talk to my parents, sisters, friends and cousins after lunch to keep myself awake. As a routine fashion, I was talking to one of my cousins who was then in Madhubani. I asked him casually about Sulekha aunty (name changed) who was very fond of making Mithila Paintings. We as kids used to hover around her all the time when she used to paint in the aangan(open place in homes). This used to happen during our summer vacation. I loved summer vacation for this reason a lot. She would give us sweets and we would ask her to teach us to paint and she always said that it is not taught son! She used to say, “You observe me painting. Take that paper, paintbrush and paint and start following your heart.”
We put our imagination and heart both in these paintings. Just follow your heart. Close your eyes for few seconds. And see, you will create magic.
It got me thinking what my cousin told me about her. She had left painting which she loved the most because she was not able to sell those paintings. And so was the story of other artisans also. I knew very less about Mithila Painting so I started researching. I came to know that there were 4 Padmashree and lot of other prestigious awards in their names. So how can this amazing art be in such a condition? It just took a few more days of research for opening a company, legalities, investments etc.
I am very much active on social media. And Linkedin happens to be one of the most important weapons of my arsenal. The hunt began for finding investors and they were ready to support. I had put my resignation in excitement. This amazed the Vice President of my company. He asked me if I had any other better offer in hand. I said no. He then asked that what makes you so excited to resign your secure job. I told that I have some business plan and I want to take a chance for it. This was a second bouncer to him. He was curious to know about my business plan. I told him my plan and then it was my turn to be amazed. He offered his partnership and investments too. This idea was really good because no one invests until they see a growth. So I was pretty sure that I was on the right track.
How has the journey been so far?
I have seen days like not-a-single-ball-in-my-court to all-balls-in-my-court. Altogether it has been an enormous learning. And I think my learning curve has grown exponentially because of this. I have started learning marketing and sales skills. I look into legalities and finances too. You can call me the jack of all trades and master of none. Once you are running a business you have to take ownership and you need to look into each and every matter. I still remember my father’s reaction when I told him that I have resigned my job and want to start something of my own. He was not aware of the e-commerce business model. But we worked out everything once I visited him after resigning my job. He became excited about my project and assured me to help in every manner he could and has been true to his words till date. He stands by me even if I doubt myself.
What kind of artisans are there on board?
We are mostly working with artists who have won awards and are recognized for their art work. I do not say that we only work with artists who have won awards and are recognized. We do find new artists by arranging competitions and then we get them on board too. We believe in originality of the art form. So, we work with the artists from Mithilanchal by living there which gives an essence of originality.
What is the profile of buyers on eMithilaHaat?
We have our customers from all walks of life. From aged art lovers to young and passionate art lovers, students and professionals also. But larger chunk of our customers are corporates.
What are the most popular categories on the platform?
Most popular categories and best selling on our platform are Line painting style (http://eMithilaHaat.com/product-category/line-painting/) and Colour painting style (http://eMithilaHaat.com/product-category/colour-painting/). We have seen huge interest of people in Tantrik style (http://eMithilaHaat.com/product-category/tantrik-painting/) and Tattoo style(http://eMithilaHaat.com/product-category/tattoo-painting/) too.
How are you different from other competitors in this space?
We feel sorry to find a lot of imitators in this space who copy the style and don’t follow the guidelines which this art is known for. Our artists do not use any kind of scale or compass to make straight lines and circles. This is one of the most important features of this art which differentiates us from others. Colours used are the natural colours which are extracted from plant leaves, roots, fruits and so on. We bring the paintings literally from the root of the culture.
What is your expansion plan to scale up the business?
We have plans of adding apparel and home decors with this art. There are lots of other stuffs of Mithila which we are going to add in coming days. Keep checking our website (http://www.eMithilaHaat.com/) to get updates when we are rolling out these things to the ground.
What is your advice to the young entrepreneurs?
Life is too short. Don’t waste it living someone else’s dream. Find your love; the purpose of your life. And then go for it. Don’t wait for a favorable time. Time is never favorable. I would like to recommend my fellow friends to watch Steve Job’s speech at Stanford University. It is very extremely inspiring.