Creating intricate handmade items requires a lot of patience and requires much-needed appreciation. Artisans who work in the background and craft beautiful handmade pieces are often under-appreciated and overlooked by people.
Vidushi Khaitan, the Founder of Flickers and Flame was born and brought up in Assam and spent most of her time studying outside her hometown. She is a lawyer by profession and practiced for around four years in the High court and Supreme court. The offerings at Flickers and Flame include products that the founder has grown up seeing in her household. She wished to bring this traditional art and craft to the urban crowd by giving it an aesthetic spin. So, pairing her will to create a business of her own and wanting to do something to help the artisans, she founded Flickers and Flame and decided to pursue her own venture.
Team Sociobits: How did you ideate ‘Flickers and Flame’?
Vidushi Khaitan: I wanted to venture into the world of entrepreneurship and cater a product that will expose traditional art and fit the taste of the urban population. Another thing that I was focusing on was involving sustainability in our products.
When we first established our brand, our initial offering included bamboo candles. Mass-produced candles are easily available in the market and to give this a twist, we started providing bamboo and coconut candles. Subsequently, we added more home decor products with a sustainability element. Our products have a unique design and are sustainable as well as look aesthetic which gives us an edge.
Team Sociobits: Could you elaborate on how did you choose the specific materials to make your products?
Founder: Our products primarily come from three raw materials; bamboo, cane, and water hyacinth. Water hyacinth is an aquatic plant that is called Pani Meteka in the regional language. With these, we are also researching other products like Moonj and Kauna that we will be incorporating into our brand soon.
Plants like water hyacinth predominantly grow in the North-East and thrive in places like lakes and rivers. People generally cut it down because they inhibit the growth of other plants. Since these plants were not being cultivated for commercial value, we got to thinking and brainstormed ways we can create fruitful products out of them. Eventually, the government also funded certain NGOs for this and we started developing various products out of them.
Essentially, we are not cutting down plants and are simply utilizing what is available in nature. The products that are made out of these materials are beautiful and extremely easy to maintain. With this, we also try to have zero waste production. We always emphasize that these products are handcrafted and no two products can be exactly identical.
Team Sociobits: Could you also tell us who your majority of customers are?
Founder: I would say the urban market. This is because people in the interiors of India have typically grown up seeing these products in their households. Adding a modern touch to the designs make our products more aesthetic and apt for the urban market.
People belonging to urban India are also particular about what is displayed in every nook and corner of their homes, especially the working population and the youth. Hence, the ‘bohemian vibe’ in these products catches their eye.
Team Sociobits: Where do you make these items? And how do you ship them?
Founder: All our products are handmade by artisans in Assam. They are durable and low maintenance. You may find similar products in other parts of the country as well but a certain type of bamboo carving and cane weaving can be done with precision only in Assam. Owing to this reason, we started and based Flickers and Flame in Assam. We ship our products all over India. Furthermore, to ease out shipments, now we also have a small warehouse near Delhi.
Team Sociobits: What problems did ‘Flickers and Flame’ face as a business?
Founder: It is the harsh reality that Assam faces certain geographical challenges. Additionally, these products are handmade and no machinery is used at any stage. So, the turnaround time is comparatively longer.
Furthermore, the past few months have been challenging for our brand as well as the artisans due to prolonged heavy rains whereas handcrafted products need dry and sunny weather. They need an adequate amount of Sun, heat, and light to turn them into the beautiful products that they are.
These were the typical challenges that we faced. But we came up with alternate solutions. We increased our workforce and came up with our own hacks and tactics, for example, we installed bigger fans to make our drying process faster. Basically, “necessity is the mother of invention” would be an appropriate line here.
At Flickers and Flame, along with overcoming these challenges one step at a time, we wanted to create a brand that matches our exquisite offering with the right set of customers or buyers.
Team Sociobits: How do artisans feel when they see their creations being shipped across the country?
Founder: They feel extremely happy when they see their creations are reaching urban India. We see that people are using these handmade products and incorporating them into their daily lives. We work hard and this gives me as well as the artisans meaning and value to what we are doing. It’s a win-win situation for all of us as we take this age-old art to modern India.
Team Sociobits: How has your journey been? And did COVID-19 affect your business?
Founder: I started my venture, brought everything together and COVID-19 hit us from nowhere. It was very tough on us but I feel that when you are working towards something, you have to think about the positives and keep going while reaching small milestones along the way.
But I would say that the journey is definitely a roller coaster ride as there are hard days and amazing days. For us, the primary objective was to become more sustainable every day. At every step, we did something to move towards sustainability.
Along my journey, I also realized that if you want to start something, it’s okay to start small and take it one day at a time. In the beginning, your concern shouldn’t be setting up your own office or hiring people, these are secondary. The primary thing is to find your first customer. This also helps entrepreneurs to understand more about their businesses.
Team Sociobits: Where do you see ‘Flickers and Flame’ five or ten years down the line?
Founder: My aim for the recent future is to focus more on bulk orders. We are now also targeting corporations for gifting. Our mission is to evolve as a classic and sustainable end-to-end home decor brand by reinventing the influential artistry of Indian heritage.
We created our offerings in a way that this type of artistry becomes accessible to everyone and for us, our foremost focus is to make people aware of the importance of using sustainable products as it is the need of the hour.
Through Flickers and Flame, the founder wants to see at least one handcrafted product in every home and increase awareness about switching to sustainable products. She is keeping her roots alive, empowering the artisans in Assam, while also creating a more sustainable world.