Textile towns of Jaipur famous for their sanganeri block print, have left an indelible impression on Lal10’s co-founder, Sanchit Govil. Every time he watches the perennial favourite come alive in their in-house designs, his enthusiasm finds new dimensions.
Efforts carved out Lal10’s first order; got replicated across the blocks of rolling calendars, dipped and dyed in traditional skills for a contemporary use — finally meeting the fabric of creative expression as Lal10. Story of Lal10 just like the tale of handblock printing is narrated in it’s two lead characters : fabric and design. In its process, resonates the journey of Lal10, a one stop shop for handmade products. So goes their odyssey…
‘It all starts with sourcing and collecting the right fabric…’ Lantern was a common sight the co-founders Maneet Gohil and Sanchit Govil spotted hanging all through their field trips. Beginning with the artisan communities of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan their search soon expanded to more states. After Albin Jose joined them, they collectively decided Lal10 will grow in the interiors of India, adeptly handmade. Their tagline ‘Take India home’ flaunts the hidden diversity of skill and handicrafts that rural India nurtures in these clusters. They want the world to remember them in this vision — of a handcrafted brand.
Fabric is dyed, and then left to dry for the colours to penetrate. Innovating with a palette of handmade products, their team relentlessly supports the artisans with design and material inputs. In-house teams are always on their toes with new concepts and designs, matching up to the shades of changing market trends. Intervention happens over training where older designs find appearance in newer weaves. Over time, this process mounts the artistic adaptability of these communities. Showcasing their work in Lal10’s outlet, gives their skill a rightful platform while their experiments contribute to the traditional repository.
Designing begins as a pattern on paper, only to be replicated on wood by chiseling out the unwanted and finely carving out the final blocks. Newer designs are partnered with newer dyes and materials, replicating its earlier impact. Printing the unfettered imagination together, has not just built a business but also trust. It’s a trust that had got the word spreading to other villages in the beginning, and now speaks for the kept promises of sale. Initially beginning with merely 7–10 artisans, Lal10 today has more than 15oo artisans spread across 9 states. Going forward they prefer to go deeper, working with more such communities. Winning their recent funding in Marh 2020, they see a mobile app going live, and the established artisan-community relationship growing stronger.
These wooden blocks are then dipped in the chosen colours. Different designs find expression in different shades. Ruminating over the first order in their colorful journey, Sanchit mentions the wooden souvenirs, 100 in number, they had handcrafted for MICA. From the inaccessible days in the interiors of Orissa to the present where their consistent payment cycle and on-time deliveries has earned Lal10 a global reputation, our conversation moves past large corridors of time. Over years, their work has found support in two motivating clientele : bigger brands and smaller retailers. The yearly bulk orders happen with the first, while the second demands frequently, filling for the expected monthly targets. Such order summaries, Sanchit feels, has evolved their choices; while a choice for Cluster Champions has evolved them. Pooled in from among the locals, he takes comfort in them being a corresponding link between the in-house team and the expanding clusters.
Thus the two, fabric and design, finally meet in the skill and creativity of the artisan. Sanchit’s hunger to learn and the discipline to keep it going textures most of his responses. So I am bound to ask. Between polite chuckles, he says it’s a shared one. Even when he and Maneet were just graduates dining together for weekends with common friends, they both had an appetite to start something of their own, a flavour they borrowed from their families.
Once removed, the blocks are stamped persistently. Deft hands patiently place them without missing even an inch, while the spaces aptly remain. Understanding business is just one thing, and raising that understanding to a pilot stage is another. He urges to be fearless, for the falls will bring learning. ‘On-ground understanding acts as one of the catalysts to pull you through the difficult times as an entrepreneur.’Summing up he calls an innovator’s spirit — the persistent passionate who chooses to work patiently. One that leads to milestones, as for them, it led to the winning the 2015 Eureka Awards by IIT Bombay. He offers ‘just dream big’ to my ‘how’. I hear his truth beneath the chuckles when he continues, ‘Have a certain dream set in mind, your passion will drive you towards it while your patience lends a help, over the unexpected and expected time.’
Patterns are repeated; the imprinting continues to complete the fabric. If jitters rush in before a pitch or scores of people — his pep talk with himself, reassures him to get going. Regardless of time, for Sanchit the satisfaction to create something of his own will remain unchanged. He puts his belief in consistency, and very staunchly. Just like Mangi the mountain, his founding journey finds a visual fit in the person trying to demolish the mountain single handedly. Repeated blows, repeated efforts. What suffices this effort is a realisation of trying, and trying well.
At times the hand leaves behind treasured irregularities, emblematic of this type of printing. Speaking for the founding team Sanchit believes ’Getting to understand each other’s strength and weakness gives direction to the company.’ When co-founders are transparent, roles run smoothly. Mornings for him at Lal10, begin in daily to-do lists and extend to planning ahead for unforeseen challenges. Sanchit takes care of the sales and finance; Maneet handles investment, sourcing and production, while Albin takes responsibility of, leading the product team and technological needs. Back home, Sanchit’s bedside has ‘Power of Subconscious’ for reading nights.
‘To see that in process…is amazing’
His appreciation for handblock printing conveniently lends itself as a motivation for any entrepreneur, and the reason behind Lal10. Sanchit sees his father as a constant pillar of strength and his life as a motivation: one that braved cancer and fulfilled welfare work. Communities feature in Sanchit’s idea of art too, ‘For me art has something which has a design and feasibility angle in terms of its creative outlet — it has to come to life, create utilisation for itself, and help the community.’ In the many he has had as a co-founder, I ask if he can recount one funny experience for me. The photoshoot for ‘Forbes India: 30 under 30’ rushes back to him. Left at the mercy and mood of the photographer, he remembers the jumps he made, the chase around the other co-founders, playful poses with props and their infamous balcony scenes — and the same spurts of laughter I hear while he shares this with me.
Based on our interviews: By Shrishti Abrol
About the Startup: The young team of artists, designers, poets, photographers, engineers and social workers at Lal10 are passionate about reviving the traditional creative art forms of India.
Lal10 merges the artistic skills and talents of artisans with modern marketing techniques — thus making these valuable crafts accessible to all. More importantly, sourcing products directly from the artisans, skipping the middleman who pockets huge margins for himself.
Lal10 hopes to give these talented artisans and creators the respect and rewards that they rightfully deserve and bring light into the lives of artisans across the country.