Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
A graduate in computer application, Astha Bhatnagar did a diploma in Applied Arts & Multimedia because of the sheer love she had for art, crafts and painting. But the learning in art that she did more than two decades back came handy last year when she was pondering over how to help the many house maids who had lost their jobs to the pandemic. She wanted to add colours to the lives of not just these hapless women but people in general as everyone was facing the gloomy times. That’s when it struck her that she could train these women in hand-painting and turn out vibrant colourful items which perhaps would enliven the interiors of the homes we all were spending time 24×7.
An initiative that began as a gesture to help the needy soon turned into a business – Rang Sang, which today sells hand-painted home decor items like wall plates, clay murals, fridge magnets and utility items like coasters, lamp shades, utility boxes etc.
“In Hindi, Rang means colour while Sang means togetherness. The philosophy behind setting it up is that colors and creativity has the ability to unite us all,” says Bhatnagar, adding that her two decades of experience with a digital advertising agency as a creative director and graphic designer had prepared her well enough for the huge leap she was taking into the world of art business.
Currently, Bhatnagar has five women, former house maids, working with her. “They help me in prepping up the plates for bulk orders by doing the base coat of paint. But they have also been trained to varnish and package the products so they take up these jobs as and when the need arises,” she says, adding that she wants more women to come forward, learn the skills and be financially independent.
Bhatnagar is fully involved in each of her creations, right from the conceptualisation of design till its execution, wherein she applies her knowledge of branding and graphic design to turn out a masterpiece. This she would rather not leave on anyone else, she says.
Well-versed with traditional Indian art forms like Madhubani, Kalamkari, Warli, Pichwai, Gond, Triibal as well as modern forms of art such as Contemporary, Retro, Kitsch, Pop, Abstract, she uses the elements from these art forms abundantly in her creations.
Rising to the challenges
As it happened with other businesses, covid turned Rang Sang as well to purely online form. It restricted her to hold personal meetings with existing as well as potential clients, but it also challenged her to explore more online opportunities and avenues, which resulted in online workshops.
“During the lockdown, we organised many online workshops to educate and engage with both kids and adults and boost their creativity, which they were happy to do from the comfort of their homes,” she says, adding that the online route also helped her associate with many like-minded people from the industry.
While Bhatnagar is fairly a novice in the business world, she has a strong belief in self and eyes set on the global stage. “With consistent effort I will be able to take my art to global platforms. I want to propagate Indian art overseas as it will not only provide me with an opportunity to keep traditional Indian art alive and relevant in modern spaces but also help increase the revenue share of the women associated with me,” says this avid lover of design, colours, forms and all things ‘aesthetic’, with a smile.