Genre Of Impact
Culture, Crafts & Social Innovation

The biggest challenge for artisanal crafts and local arts are not skill, but rather marketability, branding, storytelling and entrepreneurial innovation. India has an unbound wealth of crafts and arts which have been the darlings of the world for centuries. Colonial exploitation, inadequate attention and lack of policy focus have meant that many of these crafts, arts and communities suffered. But, entrepreneurial thinking, inventive social business models, market linkages and design thinking can help such communities and artisans (as also such regions) make their wares and products into marketable, economic brands.


A large hospitality chain was finding it difficult to procure custom ceramic wares and functional wares for its hotels and restaurants and was told by the parent group to go in for “off the shelf” products – which meant they couldn’t be unique / custom pieces, which signature spaces or luxury addresses often demand. The chain’s business was neither ceramics nor running studios.

Secondly, the hospitality chain didn’t have experimental and experiential spaces (other than the usual suspects of restaurants and spas) that could reimagine the guest experience by making them learn a craft, an art and produce something tangible with maestros or produce something artisanal from which it could yield new commerce.


The right experiential space / independent artisanal studio set in the right market could help blend the skills of artisanal makers with modern designers and produce small batch, artisanal pieces that are both functional and decorative. This could also be an experiential studio for the hospitality chain’s luxury customers.

The right opportunity, if it can be created and designed (by converging market, talents, experience, space and collaborations), can help turn this problem into a fantastic opportunity and sustainable commerce through culture. It could also help be a platform to discover master local artisans.


The co-founders of NYUCT Design Labs saw this challenge as a great opportunity to design and build a social business innovation when they were working on a luxury project at Surajkund. They decided to build a live collaborative studio and retail experience called Folk Studio. The produce was small batch, artisanal ceramics.

Here, master local craftsmen and artisans had live on-site collaborations with modern ceramic masters and artists to create a private label of ceramics. These inspired demand from corporate houses and in-house guests as also sister hotels which wanted to buy these pieces for their premises or as corporate gifts. The Folk Studio not only had other luxury hotels within the group as its customers but also brands like Pirelli and Tata Telecom shopping here for their festival gifting. Folk Studio became the centre of earthcraft workshops for the luxury resort and its guests. The centre also collaborated with brands to present unique festivals and residential programs.


Innovation is not always an outcome of big-box technology nor necessarily involves the board room. On the contrary, innovation best happens on the shopfloor and in incremental steps where one can join dots to solve a problem or create a whole new product / experience. Or at times, invent a whole new business model. What is most critical for innovation and impact is a willingness to experiment and break some so-called conventions.

An industry innovation, Folk Studio was a first-of-its-kind model that not only supplanted traditional notions about hospitality spaces but also created monetisable program-innovations and new retail. It opened new opportunities for the master craftsmen and their wares to access new markets and customers.
Folk Studio is equally an example of how spaces and culture can be leveraged to produce highly marketable products and transformative experiences and also preserve a rich community tradition like pottery that constitutes the country’s soft capital.

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