By M.T. Yogesh Kumar
India is a country with creativity as reflected in its arts, culture and exquisite handicrafts which one can see across the length and breadth of the geography. However, as technology takes over, skilled hands are disappearing with the most creative handicrafts created by skilled craftsmen becoming a thing of the past. In spite of this grim scenario, there are a few brave souls who continue to struggle to preserve traditional arts. One such craftsman has migrated from Kerala and has made Mysuru his home and turned into an entrepreneur by reviving traditional handicrafts. He sells specially made handicrafts to eke out a living and at the same time promoting the dying art.
Meet Balamurugan, who hails from Thiruvananthapuram and who has found his calling in selling handicrafts and decorative items. Realising that people were attracted to various handicraft items from Kerala, he brought a few of them to Mysuru about 15 years ago to display them on a small table at the Dasara Exhibition premises. Seeing the encouragement he received from customers, he decided to settle down here. And he never looked back.
Later he started participating in various exhibitions, fairs, ‘Bahuroopi’ Theatre Festival and handicraft exhibitions. An array of decorative items available in his stall include clay lamps, floating lamps, door hangings, Rangoli and items for Puja rooms. There are also fancy articles for drawing rooms, clay bowl to keep in front of the house filled with water, decorative items used during Gowri, Ganesha festivals and Swastika symbol to hang them on door entrances.
Journey from table to stall
Balamurugan began his journey by bringing items worth just Rs.1,500 from Kerala 15 years ago and set it up on a small table at the Dasara Exhibition premises. He paid a rent of Rs.100 a day for the space. Visitors to the exhibition were attracted by the fancy, attractive items that were quite unique and started buying them. Encouraged, he brought more and more fancy items from Kerala and started stocking them in a small godown he hired. As demand grew, he began setting up stalls at different places in Mysuru.
Sourcing to manufacturing
Balamurugan, who was sourcing items from Kerala and selling them in Mysuru, gradually realised that if he took to manufacturing handicrafts himself, he can not only produce those varieties as desired by his customers but also have a control on quality. Earlier, he depended on other artisans and was forced to buy whatever material that were given by them. He started manufacturing decorative items in a small way with the support of his wife M. Deepa.
Initially, they manufactured Puja and decorative items. In the beginning only two of them were involved in making the items and as demand grew, they invested lakhs of rupees and also hired five people to assist them in designing and manufacturing handicrafts.
This year, the demand during Bahuroopi Theatre Festival was very good and with the support they received from the public, they have also set up a stall in Shravanabelagola for the ongoing 88th Mahamastakabhisheka.
“I came to Mysuru 15 years ago to eke out a living selling decorative items. People of the city embraced me by buying the items which I would bring from Kerala. Gradually I developed confidence and started my own manufacturing unit. I started manufacturing fancy, decorative items by using German steel and white metal sheets. I supply materials to about 15 business outlets now,” he says.
Balamurugan is one of the shining examples of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Skill India programme and thus has become a model to other young entrepreneurs.