Art transcends all cultural and physical boundaries and Memeraki proves that better than any other brand. Their stunning hand-painted bags have given folk and traditional artists in India visibility all over Asia and America. An independent consultant with organisations like the World Bank Group, CGAP, and the Financial Alliance for Women, Memeraki founder Yosha Gupta has personally scouted artists from remote villages and cities, often spending days with them learning about their craft. Each bag is unique much like its artist and beautifully painted with Madhubani, Gond, Pattachitrra, Kashmiri, Warli, Thanka, Kalamkari, and other art forms. Since they love experimenting with different materials, you can choose to carry a piece of Indian folk art painted on leather, faux leather, fabric, wood, cork, and even a paper mache Memeraki bag. The founder proudly tells us, “We work with over 100 folk and tribal artists across India – the mission of our brand is to revive the dying arts of India and create sustainable livelihoods for these artists and artisans.”
“Awareness and marketing is one big challenge. Not all of them are well aware of digital media and unable to use digital media well so they are not able to reach as many art patrons across the world”, says the founder when asked what some of the challenges are that the artists face today. “Design innovation and product quality is the other challenge were more designers need to work with artists to be able to help them create new products but without changing the essence of their art. Artists don’t have access to the best quality of products that they could paint on their own and here is where brands like ours need to come in and co-create with the artists”.
The brand has gone further than just creating a source of income for India’s folk and tribal artists. Working with multiple non-profit organizations in India, Memeraki ran a crowdfunding campaign in 2017 to raise 15,000 USD to build an art school for girls in the Madhubani district of the country. In 2018, the company also created a collection of bags using cork to raise money for an elephant orphanage in Vietnam.
“As India’s only hand-painted folk art brand creating artisanal high-end handbags”, with the artists as the central heroes, Memeraki has expanded the platform for many of India’s folk artists by organizing art workshops in India and Hong Kong, and online art classes that can be accessed via Zoom from anywhere in the world. These online art classes not only provide the much-needed income for artists who come from very humble backgrounds and are further facing challenges due to the current lockdown but also give people the opportunity to learn from the masters themselves. The world may have adapted to Zoom, but for the artists living in India adapting to the technology has been an incredible accomplishment given the technological and infrastructural difficulties they face. Yosha facilitates each class herself, translating for the artists (since English is not their first language), and explaining the history of the art form being used while they paint. At just Rs.750 per class, learning from the masters in folk art has never been more affordable or accessible. With traditional Indian music playing softly in the background, the classes are truly unique in the experience they provide to the many participants joining from around the world.
Meet some of the Artists
Yosha is the founder of a direct to customer artisanal fashion brand Memeraki (https://www.memeraki.com/ ). Memeraki has been created with the mission to reinvent and revive long lost arts with contemporary fashion, technology, and storytelling. They have been covered across media outlets like Forbes, SCMP, Tatler, Apple Daily and more. Yosha has spent 15 years in the FinTech sector and worked across Asia. She also works as an independent Digital Financial Inclusion Consultant with organisations like CGAP, World Bank Group, and the Financial Alliance for Women where she works on financial inclusion projects across Asia with a special focus on gender. She was also the Founder & CEO of a cashback app with more than 1 million downloads in India. They were backed by 500 Startups and Vectr Ventures and were also a part of Facebook’s FBStart program as well as Cyberport’s Startup program in Hong Kong. Yosha has an MSc in Finance from HKUST and an undergraduate degree in Economics from Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She is also one of the cofounders of Indiatechhk (www.indiatechhk.com). Yosha was appointed to the Diversity List 2018 for Hong Kong, which aims to give ethnic minorities of Hong Kong a voice in decision making and policy, particularly in government advisory bodies. She was awarded ‘Most Influential Payments Professional’ by World BFSI Congress and Awards 2018, India.
Sign up for the online zoom classes directly from the Memeraki website- https://www.memeraki.com/
Written By Shikha S. Lamba With Yosha Gupta (Founder Memeraki)
Memeraki Handbag Pictures by – Sujata Setia (www.butnaturalphotography.com)