6 Creative Companies To Watch In Kolkata - Homegrown

6 Creative Companies To Watch In Kolkata

Kolkata’s entrepreneurs are all about creating opportunities, and this list we’ve put together shows a distinct inclination towards sustainability and a socially conscious lifestyle, that’s pretty incredible to see in up and coming initiatives.

Keeping it organic, and plodding steadily towards their goals — with a few chai breaks, of course — here are creative companies which have been making waves all the way from the eastern coast:

I. Brown Boy: Homegrown. Organic. Alive.

When 26-year-old Prateek Kayan quit his job at J.P. Morgan in New York, he checked out the courses at Parsons School of Design. He realised quickly, though, that ‘everything was really expensive, and one needed a million other qualifications to get in’; and so, he felt like starting his own brand and learning everything on the go was something that he could afford.

“That marked the beginning of 18 months of rigorous work, going around the country visiting farms, factories and workshops where popular brands (that I can’t name) get their products made,” Prateek recalls. “Seeing such abysmal working conditions, I realized how ‘Brown Boy’ could be a step to change the status quo — so we turned towards ethical manufacturing and sustainability.”

‘Brown Boy’ launched after a successful crowdfunding campaign, a global brand that as ‘Made in India’ with a great following overseas; Prateek reflects that their biggest takeaway has been the 90% + positive feedback, which has been hugely encouraging.

On what makes their company special

“The fact that our products are made in an ethical, sustainable and organic way is makes us most special. Also, we are real. The brand is about creating something amazing, and grows out of passion. It is not about selling out. That makes us stand out, as well. Everything is homegrown; the website, photography, manufacturing... It is a projection of who I am, and that’s why it cannot be replicated, and is truly unique. Also, we are India’s only PETA-approved vegan brand!”

The Backdrop

Prakteek studied finance, and then went on to work for J.P. Morgan in New York (where he says he ‘would have waited tables to live’) before realising that number-crunching and not having that much work wasn’t really for him.

“I wanted to go after what I love to do — fashion, design, sustainability and entrepreneurship. I combined all of this, and here we are.”

On other interests

“Travelling, art, photography, writing, and design. Work, and riding, too.”

On the most important lesson he’s learned while running the company

“Be honest, be real, and be good. Jo kaam pyaar se ho sakta hain, you can never do it any other way. If you are real and honest - things will work out.”

On a typical day in the office

“You know, there is no typical day...It’s like a movie set; starts early with writing a blogpost and creating social media posts, doing an Instagram. Then replying to emails, and fulfilling orders for the day. Some days, sampling and designing take priority over everything else. Our new creative studio is underway now, so that has been taking up a lot of our time and attention.”

On everybody’s favourite place to order lunch from

“Presently, it’s home-cooked food. However, we are making a proper kitchen at our studio, where everyone can cook and feast, and just have fun with food. I am planning to cook a lot there!”

On the one unanimously-loved snack in the office

“We try to keep the place very healthy and natural. So it’s mostly channa, carrots, beets and fruits.”

Who / what would your company mascot be?

“Ryan Gosling (in terms of style), Ashton Kutcher (as a startup enthusiast) or Emma Watson (when it comes to style and sustainability).”

[Follow Brown Boy on Facebook & Instagram]

II. Chaitown Creatives: Connecting, Coaching, and Creating

30-year-old Zachary Ray and 26-year-old Josh Pandey started Chaitown Creatives about a year and a half ago, brought together by a drive to provide greater opportunities for artists and musicians. “Kolkata is full of great artists and musicians, and we’ve really enjoyed watching young musicians and artists grow professionally over the last year,” the co-founders share.

While Zac attended Berkelee College of Music and has worked as a vocal teacher and with music therapy programs over the last few years, Josh attended Xavier’s University in Kolkata, and has been working in videography, doing his own work under the name Lagniappe Productions.

On other interests

“Music, photography/videography, and eating whatever our wives make.”

On what makes their company special

“The encouraging and supportive community of artists that has developed through our events.”

On the most important lesson they’ve learned while running the company

“Art, self-expression, or creativity, aren’t the main point; people are. It’s a great thing to take the time to really listen to someone.”

On a typical day in the office

“Brainstorming, events, spending time connecting with venue owners or artists, scheduling. We work a lot on the go!”

On everybody’s favourite place to order lunch from

“8th Day Cafe and Sienna Cafe are some of our favourites.”

On the one unanimously-loved snack in your office

“Coffee and chai, and anything sweet.”

Who / what would your company mascot be?

“Chai cup.”

[Follow Chaitown Creatives on Facebook & Instagram]

III. Bobo Calcutta: Loud. Lavish. Lust-worthy.

27-year-old Ayushman Mitra, known as Bobo to his friends, describes himself as a ‘lover of art, obsession and illusive modern expressionism, history and fashion’. No surprise, then, that Bobo Calcutta preaches art as a way of life.

“This led to the creation of a non-conformist design label that screams loud and unabashed the idea of all things art, love, sexuality, colour and chaos,” he says. “‘Bobo Calcutta’ literally creates breakthrough rebel art, weaved into the quintessential Calcutta chromosome. The trademark prints that feature in every collection is developed from original paintings to create a limited-edition couturier.”

Launching his labour of love, his flagship store, in June, 2016, he admits he fondly addresses it as the ‘chamber of the Goddess of Love’. “A store, where art is available in every form; with which to adorn your skin, and your homes. Art in life, life in art.”

The concept store houses an array of bespoke products in the debut collection; ‘An Acidic Affair’ includes paintings, Bobo’s split-face motifs, psychedelic colour schemes, bold lines and, most noticeably, the floral maze, are trademarks of his work, which reflect the concepts of universal love, sexuality and equality.

When it comes to garments, his brand focuses on making art available to people in the form of wearables, primarily catering to people who appreciate a clearly-conceptualized and playfully-detailed maximal aesthetic sense. Furniture includes new age and playful pieces, with upholstery developed from his paintings and distinct shapes being his USP. Other products include sculptures or fibreglass pieces of art, as a part of which his paintings take a 3-dimensional form to create larger-than-life representations of mystical human and animal species, and accessories by way of leather products and jewellery.

On what makes his company special

“It is an honest stride towards bringing forward the aesthetics of maximal design, and to use it to talk about love, lust and sex openly.”

The Backdrop

Describing himself as a painter, first, and then, a designer, Ayushman had worked on various project before dedicating himself completely to his company, including paintings, installations, music videos, selenography and fashion designing. Some of his projects include working as creative director and costume designer for contemporary pop band Ganesh Talkies, as an installation artist in ground design for the NH7 music festival, 2014, and as guest editor of, and featured in, Platform Magazine, 2014.

His paintings have been exhibited at Jhaal Farezi Thakurdalan, Kolkata (2014), British Museum, London (2012), Seagull Center of Media Resources, Kolkata (2011), and Genesis Art Gallery, Kolkata (2009, 2010).

On other interests

“I love travelling, like most people, and I also find history and mythology very intriguing. I studied cinema for graduation, and hope to go back to making films some day. Also, there is a new interest in ancient Indian architecture, as well as the history of the homosexual uprising.”

On the most important lesson he’s learned while running the company

“I am still learning so much everyday... but yes, I am not worried about failure, as I fail in my own small way, everyday. I just think I have to co-exist with it, and remain positive.”

On a typical day in the office

“I don’t have an office, we work out of our store. That’s our world. Everyday is different, it’s very organic. We are busy with clients some mornings, and others, we are figuring out why we don’t have them. Some days are dedicated to production, when I am generally busy at the workshop, and my staff handles the store. We have a lot of plants at the store, so we also end up taking care of them on days that are not too busy. Decorating and redecorating is also something we spend a lot of time doing.”

On everybody’s favourite place to order lunch from

“My staff always carries their lunch, they like their home-cooked Bong food. But the days we feel adventurous, we order Chinese from next door.”

On the one unanimously-loved snack in your office

“We get the best Calcutta kathi rolls in the area our store is in.”

Who / what would your company mascot be?

“It’s a hybrid — a human-faced tigress, with roses as her ears. I know it sounds crazy, but we have a lifesize sculpture of her at our store.”


[Follow Bobo Calcutta on Facebook & Instagram]

IV. MakersLoft: Build, Explore, Learn

38-year-old Meghna Bhutoria is one of the leaders of the ‘Maker Movement’ in India. She found MakersLoft, which is both a tinkering studio for children, and makerspace for adults.

“When I returned to India in 2015 after a corporate career abroad, I wanted to do something that involved doing things with my hands, and not just managing,” Meghna says. “Having acquired plenty hand and power tools living abroad, I decided to setup a workshop at home for myself. When I discussed the idea with family and friends, they wanted access to my workshop as well.”

Through these conversations, she learned about the ‘maker movement’ where millions of people in the world are getting back to DIY-culture, and making customized local products. It deeply validated what Meghna was feeling internally, and there has been no looking back since. She rented out a 3500-square feet studio in the heart of Kolkata, and opened it up to other people; for a monthly fee, members get access to tools and high-end machines like 3D Printers, laser cutter, textile, robotics and electronics lab facilities. “We conduct training workshops as most of the tools and technologies we use are very new, and people don’t know how to use these,” she explains. “We also conduct events to provide exposure to contemporary trends in design, art, and sustainability, and are constantly helping connect people.”

Starting off with professionals, start-ups and hobbyists in mind, the organisation is now working to introduce a DIY culture at an early age, with school children.

On what makes her company special

“We are unique in what we do, not just in Kolkata, but in India as well. We provide a nurturing environment for hands-on learning, and experiencing the joy of making. We provide access to high-end tools and equipment, like 3D printers and laser cutters which people would not otherwise have access to.”

The Backdrop

Prior to this, Meghna managed a multi-million dollar product portfolio for a Swiss agri-biotech company. A seasoned businesswoman with 15 years of experience working in India, USA and Switzerland in FMCG, semiconductor, agri-chemicals and biotech industries, she holds an MBA from INSEAD, France.

On other interests

“Sudoku, watching foreign language films, yoga, cooking, and nature trips.”

On the most important lesson she’s learned while running the company

“Change is not easy to bring about. Never underestimate the power of habit, and deeply-embedded cultural values and practices.”

On a typical day in the office

“It ranges from planning upcoming events and workshops to running STEM (Science, Technology Engineering & Maths) classes for middle-school students. On the same day, we could be working on a design project from building a 5ft big Laser Cut model airplane to 3D printing a prototype for the Indian railways, to designing, to doing packaging design for a local business. Variety and innovation is the name of the game at MakersLoft. Every day is different and exciting.”

On everybody’s favourite place to order lunch from

“We prefer to eat wholesome homemade food. My elder sister who has set up her textile lab at MakersLoft gets home-cooked meals. Once in a while, I bake a cake or make chocolate balls and bring the treats to office, which everyone savours.”

On the one unanimously-loved snack in your office

“Chumchum (bengali sweet) or samosa.”

Who / what would your company mascot be?

“Probably a Lego robot.”

[Follow MakersLoft here, and on Facebook & Instagram]

V. Elemental: Simple, clean, personal

Elemental, comprising of 27-year-old Dipti Ganeriwala and 26-year-old Vishal Bhan, was born of a ‘mildly inebriated’ discussion the two shared when they met at a party one night. “I started to open up about how I felt that the city needed a push in terms of design,” Dipti shares. “Vishal, too, is a self-taught front-end developer, and that impressed me a lot. He showed me some of the websites he had been working on, and I knew that he was definitely someone I wanted to work with.”

While the duo didn’t really have a business plan or a list of clients when they started out, they knew what they wanted to do: bring good design to Calcutta.

“From then to now we’ve grown as people, as a company, and we’ve done some work that we’re really kicked about. We obviously have a long way to go, but when someone comes and tells us how they like something we made, that really makes everything worth it.”
Elemental also collaborates with people based on the projects they receive, and the organisation turns two this May.

On what makes their company special

“I think it is about doing good, honest work, at the end of the day. And we like to make things that are easily understood, innovative, and beautiful.”

The Backdrop

Dipti, the creative director, majored in Commerce in college, but went on to take up a job as a graphic designer at a Delhi-based studio, where she worked for three years, learning everything about the industry. Following this, she decided to travel for a year, post which she met Vishal.

Vishal is a self-taught developer. He spent way too much time on the internet and that’s how he learnt how to code; one year and a thousand cups of coffee later, he had done it. He then went on to becoming a DJ, and claims to balance his life out with the help of Blue Tokai.

On other interests

Dipti’s interests include travel, music, art and fitness, while Vishal enjoys music, the www, coffee, and lots of it.

On the most important lesson they’ve learned while running the company

“Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time, and always be open to change.”

On a typical day in the office

“Firing up the iMac, dosing ourselves with caffeine, wasting a lot of time on Pinterest and Dribbble, writing and rewriting lines of code/aligning and realigning things, occasionally having an existential crisis, celebrating with beer/wine on successful days.”

On everybody’s favourite place to order lunch from

“Sushi Oke.”

On the one unanimously-loved snack in your office

“I’m vegetarian, and Vishal is non-vegetarian, so this answer has been widely-debated.”

Who / what would your company mascot be?

“Pied Piper? Because Silicon Valley (the TV show) is how we began our week when we started, and so it will always be special to us.”


[Follow Elemental on Facebook]

VI. The Burlap People: Earthy, Brave, Bespoke

30-year-old Samriddh Burman’s time at Luther College emphasized environment sustainability and a conscious lifestyle, was drawn to what his family had been doing for two generations: manufacturing and exporting eco-friendly and sustainable jute bags. There was, however, a gap between what they were doing and what he wanted to do with the business. “Theirs was a numbers game, and for me, the end product felt disconnected from our craftsman, and even the client,” Samriddh shares. “Also, they were supplying to an audience that saw jute bags as a cheap, mass-produced commodity with little or no aesthetic appeal. I wanted to take the idea of sustainability and conscious living one step further while giving this beautiful and diverse fibre an aesthetic upgrade.”

After he returned to Kolkata was when he could start something combining the ideals that had been instilled in college, as well as through his family business.

Karuna aka Firefly come on board first, and Samriddh admits she was the one who gave him the confidence to truly believe in this idea of a conscious ‘brand’ (a word they hate). She is now the voice of TBP, managing all their content and PR activities. A few months down the line from this point, his best friend from college, Rewant a.k.a our Gray Wolf joined the organisation, and he is the one who really got the team organized, and helped take TBP to the next level.

Starting out in one tiny room, with one craftsmen and bunch of scribbles and printouts of bag designs he had worked on, the journey has been an interesting one. Today, they have a small office, a team of craftsmen and a proper workshop, while the soul and attitude of the initiative remain the same.

“Instagram, which is our primary and only marketing platform helps us keep it that way. What started out as an experiment, has turned out to be a delightfully unique and engaging marketing tool. We started out a year ago with a few images and only close friends as followers. Some 200 odd posts later we have a strong family of 6000 plus followers...without a single paid or sponsored post!

“We are quite proud to have created something that encourages and supports people to be conscious about the environment, and be socially responsible.”

On what makes his company special

“It is our personal interaction with each and every person who reaches out to us for some Burlap.”

The Backdrop

After graduating from college in 2011, Samriddh came back to India to help his father and uncle with the family business of manufacturing of value-added jute bags. “I worked with them for three years doing marketing and design development. In these three years, I learnt a lot about jute and its potential, and also had a chance to travel and gain a ‘global’ perspective.”

To gain some experience outside the family business, he then spent 8 months working for a ‘Sports Travel’ startup, working in sales and business development, which gave him the chance to interact on a personal level with a lot of people, and also get a sense of the startup environment in India; it also made him realize, though, that he was not really cut out to work for someone else, and also that I need to be a part of something that was having a more positive impact on our society, something more meaningful.

That’s when he quit and returned to Kolkata to start The Burlap People.

On other interests

“I used to play a lot of competitive tennis growing up, until I graduated. It has been difficult to find much time to play ever since, but I plan to get back to it this year; playing the sport competitively gave me the opportunity to travel quite extensively, I guess that’s where my interest for travel stems from.

“I love to travel and explore new places, meet strangers and try different kinds of food. Quite obsessed with food actually — both eating and cooking. Cooking is like meditation for me. This last year, I also had the opportunity to do my first proper trek. It was an incredible life experience. There’s going to be a lot of that on the cards this year.

“I am also a diehard fan of FC Barcelona and spend a lot of time watching current and old matches! I love catching live acoustic gigs whenever I get a chance, too.”

On the most important lesson he’s learned while running the company

“Nothing great can ever be accomplished without passion. Our entire team is extremely passionate about what we do here at TBP. At the start, I had nothing but a dream and the goodwill, and solid opinions of a few helpful friends and family. I know that I couldn’t have made it this far without us being this passionate about that dream, and loyal to it. It takes passion to give up a well-paying job and start something of your own, to ask friends to come on board and believe in you, and to stick to that, day after day. I would honestly ask anyone looking to begin their own project — are you passionate about it? Make sure you are.”

On a typical day in the office

“Our office is located at my Grandmother’s farmhouse (Bagan Bari). So a typical day starts with greeting her, after which we desperately look for some coffee (we have a collection of some amazing beans from different parts of the world). We then go meet our mastercraftsman, Nurudin and plan for the day.
“At some point, our rescued cat Felix comes to find us (if he’s in the mood!). A lot of our work is then answering the mails and inquiries that have come in overnight. We begin conversations with people, continue pending ones, check on bags ready to leave the workshop and put new ones on the cutting table. Occasionally, we’re looking at new fabric, new dyes/colours, and taking photos of our products as they come off the sewing table. A lot of our work is going through Instagram, because it’s essentially our shop space. There we check out comments, mails, queries and keep track of trends. There’s a lot of laughter and banter, a great deal of creative conversation, often music, and coffee in the evening. We bounce between our desks and the workshop all day long, and all our decision-making is democratic.”

On everybody’s favourite place to order lunch from

“We are lucky that our workshop is a hop, skip and jump away from my grandmother’s kitchen, and she provides us with some amazing lunch everyday!”

On the one unanimously-loved snack in your office

“We survive on coffee, green tea and the occasional bowl of Suji ka Halwa.”

Who / what would your company mascot be?

“Felix, our feline furball.”

[Follow The Burlap People on Instagram or Facebook]


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