#NICEStories – Creating an Artistic Community: Making Art Accessible to All!

Club Artizen is home to handcrafted Indian products and ideas that reflect the art and heritage of India. The brainchild of Anita Hariharan and Meera Rajagopalan, Club Artizen brings you products ranging from home decor items to accessories, from artisans across the country, and a community to help their customers along their sustainable living journey.

Three highlights of this homegrown brand are:

Made in India – Made in India by Indian artisans, crafts are a beacon of Indian heritage and culture.

Women-Led – Launched by two women, Club Artizen was born out of a mission to support artisan livelihoods.

Sustainable – Handicrafts as functional products enabling sustainable living – local, social and natural.

In this article, we focus on the journey of Club Artizen, how it all began, its growth story and future plans.

A germ of an idea:

It all began when Anita Hariharan’s sister was shopping at Hyderabad’s Shilparamam, a unique crafts village in the midst of Hyderabad. Her interactions with the crafts people helped her understand the struggles they faced. She shared her concerns with Anita and this led Anita to start thinking about what could be done to help this situation. Being an artist herself, she felt a distinct empathy. Also, every time she visited India from the USA, she took back little pieces of art or craft as vacation souvenirs for her friends and family. She noticed how these gifts were hugely appreciated for their evolved aesthetics and cultural significance. 

Being an HR and E-commerce professional who had worked with many companies including Amazon, she also noticed that art has been commoditized. 

Anita came up with the thought of doing something for the artisans and also making it easier for customers to find quality and utilitarian art inspired products. Initially, she worked alone. 

Club Artizen was registered during the pandemic. Anita was already in touch with a few artisans with whom she began communicating with. She registered a shop on Etsy besides getting an export license. She did a little bit of digital advertising, started an Instagram account but was not fully focusing on it, and did some advertising on Etsy as well. In the first year, she worked only with 4-5 artisans and sold about 50 units.

It was and still is, completely bootstrapped. “All my inventory was at home, and I tied up with third party logistic partners to get things delivered, across India and abroad,” reminisces Anita. 

Meera pic

Finding the right partner

It was around this time that Anita partnered with her long-time friend Meera Rajagopalan. About bringing onboard a Co-founder, Anita says, “having a co-founder really helps, one cannot do this alone. A co-founder is your sounding board, who has your back and has a contrary opinion.”

Meera is a communications specialist who worked  in  the social sector. While working with NGOs like Satya Spaces for Specially Abled, Meera noticed that people felt pity for the people with disabilities, rather than seeing them as human beings with equal rights. This was the same gap Meera noticed when it came to the recognition that craftsmen were receiving. 

Therefore, the central vision of Club Artizen is to change how people view art, get crafts people their due, make more money, have a different level of appreciation from contemporary audiences, try and make contemporary artifacts that have uses, and bridge the gap between the customers and the artisans thus making art accessible.

Meera helps tell stories, and engage customers through elevated engagement.

How Club Artizen operates:

As the brand name suggests, Club Artizen – eventually wants to create a community of like minded people who believe in a sustainable way of life, share the same values and respect craftsmanship, together.

The main focus as of now is on the local market. They have built their website and have also restarted the Etsy store.  

There is a standard process that is followed at Club Artizen for every product they sell. The first step is to identify the artisan and the craft they wish to take to their customers. This is followed by a brainstorming session on how to customize the product so that it not only reflects the craftsmanship but is also a functional object. 

The broad criteria for choosing a product are – they need to have a story; the product has to be aesthetically beautiful, and they have to be functional.

They work with their network of crafts persons. When they see a certain art form missing, they look out for specialists, often via word of mouth or by visiting various exhibitions and ‘melas’.

Club Artizen also works with other social enterprises (NGO) to bring out some of their products.

Identifying the right artisan is one thing, communicating and getting the desired end product is another. Currently, Meera and Anita use a mix of online and in-person communication. They have intern designers who come up with initial product design. A large part of their work after an initial meeting with the artist is via WhatsApp. The initial sketch is sent to the artisan to understand what is required. The artisans make a sample, show a picture, sometimes they send the sample over, sometimes the approval is instantaneous and sometimes there are several iterations.


Once the products are ready, the artisans send them across, Anita and Meera do the quality check and then place an order for inventory. “We also do a drop ship but only when artisans are really good, l, and we also have a flexible return model. Things have changed for the better in digitized India as the artisans now have access to communication”, says Meera.

Anita added, “We ship out our products in 5 days (unless it is personalized). We communicate to customers very clearly about how many days it would take to ship. We check with artisans before committing to fixed date delivery.”

When it comes to personalization, Anita says, “We do some amount of customization, but mostly people come to us for aesthetic, crafts-based gifts. For corporates and bulk orders, we do basic customization. 

When asked about advertising, she continues, “The Internet is crowded, takes a little bit of time to get the word out there, and we are still nascent. Most of our sales come from physical presence , also B2B. Digital sales is about 20%. We do have a presence on Facebook and Instagram and we will grow eventually. Our best sales happen during festival season, thanks to bulk gifting.”

The whole set-up requires lots of patience as this is a very unstructured industry with people having different motivation levels who may have accrued a lot of inventory. 

Albeit all this, both founders look forward to building the largest customer community that supports sustainable crafts, that keeps coming back to Club Artizen to buy more products and benefits the artisan. Also the trust and positive feedback from customers and artisans makes the effort worth it.

However, there are  “Resource constraints – time is limited and they want to do so many things.  “We have only one other person and are looking at expanding the team and scaling up the business. We are also trying to put processes in place and automate it. But finances is also a concern. Club Artizen will eventually look for funding, but as of now, we continue to be bootstrapped.”

The proof of the pudding is in doing:

Anita says, “To start a business at 40+, we had to remove some blinders … and you can teach an old dog new tricks! There are many resources available today in terms of funding, people are reaching out… it is the right time, a great ecosystem is developing. We are slowly evolving our user experience to a place where we want to stand out from the crowd.We are trying innovative ideas, for example, our initiative to create impact via our Diwali gift boxes. Each reusable gift box has printed artwork by our artisans. For every box sold, the artisan gets a royalty.”

The ultimate aim is to showcase beautiful, functional products that are fairly priced, really rewarding to a customer base of people who appreciate the uniqueness of Club Artizen product.

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