With an aim to create beautiful, utility objects from yesteryear metals, the Pune-based social venture, Studio Coppre, started operations in 2014; producing and marketing handcrafted contemporary wares for copper connoisseurs in India.
Founded by Rashmi Ranade, along with Seemantini Mihir, Chhanda Bihari and Sudakshina Banerjee, the startup attempts to revive heritage crafts with appropriate design and marketing interventions to improve and ensure socio-economic and cultural sustainability of craftspeople and their artisanal heritage.
In its four years of existence, the brand has tried to inculcate the philosophy of ‘quality above anything’ amongst artisans, who were initially reluctant about the brand.
In a conversation with MarkUp, Sudakshina Banerjee, the head of marketing outreach at Coppre, shared details about the brand’s philosophy and what marketing initiatives has helped the brand to flourish.
What was the trigger behind starting Studio Coppre?
Studio Coppre is a social venture working to revive heritage metal crafts. Having understood the gap in the market for high‐quality handcrafted wares and the need to promote and preserve artisanal skills of metal workers, Coppre designs, produces and markets handcrafted contemporary wares.
Our passion for heritage metal crafts is what drove us to start Studio Coppre. We are inspired by creating beautiful things, and look at objects from yesteryear and marvel at the craftsmanship. It never ceases to amaze us how every utilitarian object had an element of ornamentation and vice-versa.
How difficult was it to build confidence among the artisans’ community about the platform? Were they comfortable adhering to the design and manufacturing standards that appeal to a larger audience?
Working with artisans is both a privilege and a rewarding experience. However, there are various challenges in working with the artisans, starting with trust-building. Initially our artisans were reluctant to work with us, as they feared that we were merely fly-by-night designers and that it was a safer bet to work within the comfort of their traditional operating patterns. It took almost four to five years to develop our mutually-beneficial relationship.
The other big challenge was about quality. In the traditional model, speed and delivery had always ruled over quality. We have tried to inculcate the philosophy that quality is but an attitude and habit – once acquired, it becomes second nature. And that quality workmanship would always bring dignity to the artisan and his work. Through our project, we have also tried to instill in the artisans a sense of pride for their own work, worldwide exposure and have also made them a part of the economic mainstream that is an important part of the creating-crafting-marketing cycle.
What role has marketing played in your venture’s growth? What marketing platform has been best to reach out to your target audience?
Over the last three years, we have used a mix of marketing platforms to grow our business and reach out to the right audience, both online and offline.
We used traditional marketing channels to sell our products, like retail /exhibitions/gifting/exports and direct buying from our store. We concurrently went online with an ecommerce site from almost the inception of Studio Coppre which gave us an edge as a maker of handcrafted products. We also have an ecommerce platform for our international clients.
How did you leverage the power of new-age content marketing to build brand awareness?
Coppre capitalized on digital marketing and media to build the brand. Our brand is a narrative-driven brand which is at an intersection of creativity, social impact and sustainable business. Our philosophy of a culture based development model and how it impacted livelihoods and business was communicated to our target audience. New-age content marketing allowed us not only to reach the audience easily, but most importantly through an optimized budget, which is so crucial for a social startup.
What is your take on business blogging? Has it helped Coppre in any way?
Business blogging is definitely a great marketing tool and a great way to get business by increasing visibility to the right audience. Ultimately, business blogging will initiate conversions that drive more business. In the past, we were unable to channel our energies for regular business blogging with our limited bandwidth, but we plan to change that.
Yours is an all-women startup. Is there a reason for that?
In its inception, Coppre was a livelihood development project funded by Forbes Foundation and INTACH, Pune Chapter that spanned over two years. This period brought the core management team together, gave ample time to run a pilot for the entire process of design, QC, production, and marketing. It also laid down the foundational goals of heritage craft preservation and sustainability for a for-profit social venture aimed at sustainability.
Studio Coppre was formed in 2014 by Rashmi Ranade, Chhanda Bihari, Sudakshina Sinha Banerjee and SeemantiniMihir under the leadership and mentorship of late Mr. Adhar Mirchandani.
The four of us are not only committed, but passionate about heritage and sustainability and this is what got us together in the first place. Each of us comes from various educational and professional backgrounds in different areas of expertise like design, production, finance, branding, marketing and sales and with successful stints in the corporate sector, which we bring to the table to manage this innovative social venture.
Where do you see Coppre in the next three years?
The company aims to have a sustainable growth with a focus on product development, exploring new target markets, increasing artisanal footprint and working with more metal craft forms to increase the reach and impact of our work. It has been instrumental in reviving the copper craft of Maharashtra and aims to be a model for sustainable craft-based ventures pan India in the next three years.