Handlooms are symbols of the country’s rich and varied cultural heritage. They are an important source of livelihood to many in rural and semi-rural parts of the country. Empowering the country’s artists is a unique platform called iTokri.
What is iTokri?
iTokri is an online store for handicrafts, handlooms, fabrics, jewellery, paintings, and other artworks is India’s only crafts and loom retailer with a hundred per cent inventory of handmade artisanal products. Ranging from Punjab’s phulkari dupattas and Gujarat’s bandhani sarees to Andhra’s ikkat handloom fabrics, and Odisha’s pattachitra paintings. It sources products, including jewellery, dress materials, and household items from nearly 10,000 artisans across India, making it the largest curated portal for art and handicraft products with over 100,000 listings.
The founders of the brand, Jia and Nitin Pamnani, believe in taking away the burden of sale from artisans and allowing them to focus on what they are best at – their craft, while ensuring that the artisan gets due credit for their craft by selling products under the creators/artisan’s name on the platform. For over a decade iTokri has been working relentlessly to save the highly fragmented non-standardized handicrafts and handloom industry from diminishing under the pressure of fast fashion by building a community of artisans from across India. The brand aspires to become a sustainable lifestyle brand by bringing the essence of India back to its people. It believes in celebrating creativity and conversation from villages, small towns, from metros online and nurturing, giving space, light, and love to the emerging and ancient vibrantly creative spirit of India.
Speaking about the origins of the brand, Nitin Pamnani, Co-Founder, iTokri said in an exclusive conversation with The CSR Journal, “Coming from Gwalior to Delhi to pursue documentary filmmaking was something which did not give me enough fulfilment and satisfaction. So in 2010, along with my family, I decided to shift to Gwalior and start my own business finally. During our initial years, we noticed that e-commerce was steadily gaining momentum and that assuredly clicked for us. Coincidentally, we knew numerous people who traded in handcrafted goods and through them, we connected to a lot of artisans and started our brand- iTokri.
Our brand was obviously not built in a day. Initially, we started off with 10 employees and now the organization has grown to currently include a massive network of 150 artisans and 200 team members (mostly women and only 10 men). The organization encourages and fosters creativity among its artisans, supports them financially, and promotes their work abroad. Numerous artists have been able to secure stable jobs because of our platform and for us, that’s the biggest achievement”.
Jia Pamnani, Co-Founder iTokri said, “Our interest in handcrafted was the first step in allowing us to start our business. We both knew our interests and wanted to promote the organic/real establishment of handloom products. So we wanted to connect with a community that can be a part of this journey and is willing to help us preserve our craftwork culture from fading. Through the support of our family and friends, we were able to build a community of artisans and launched an online e-commerce platform in tier 2 cities where only a few brands were dealing with the online business. This encouraged us even more which furthermore successfully resulted in iTokri which started in 2012!
The mission of iTokri has always been to preserve artisanal products and make them available to patrons who appreciate the beauty of arts and crafts. The main goal of this platform is to create a seamless and efficient art for customers who value craft. The platform’s reach crosses borders, products, as well as their packaging, are sustainable and eco-friendly, and the organization demonstrates direct employment. From home decors, sarees, textiles, dupattas, stoles, and non-textile to items such as wooden/metallic jewellery, paintings, and home décor, iTokri has it all and has excelled to be a one-stop platform for its customers across the globe. iTokri has become a platform for recurring customers to experience the warmth of personal letters, handloom crafts, and goods. It is a place where they can call home and to me that is the biggest accomplishment we could avail!”
Furthermore, as a fair-trade organisation, iTokri assures product genuineness and price guarantee on all their products. A handwritten note on a piece of recycled paper and a handmade trinket is what one receives with every order, neatly wrapped in eco-friendly packaging from Gwalior-based iTokri, making it one of the most loved e-commerce portals to a discerning domestic and global audience who are enthusiastic about Indian handicraft and handloom products.
Employing over 200 plus women directly and another 1000 indirectly, the organisation is a beacon of gender equality and women empowerment. Its employees comprise over 95% of women who come from financially disadvantaged sections of society. Over the decade, the brand has been built on the foundation of transparency, authenticity, love, and commitment, becoming the voice of the handloom and handicrafts community, offering an unparallel shopping experience to its customers.
In the 10-year-long journey, the platform has given the artisans and weavers a place to call their home! Throughout these years, the artisans have been getting direct support to maintain their livelihood in terms of their salary. Even in uncertain times during the pandemic, they were remunerated on time and there was a proud addition of 150 new artisans to our community.
iTokri is a zero-waste company. It uses recyclable packaging from old newspapers and boxes made with recycled paper pulp. This has not only helped the brand conserve money but has also helped the brand be more environment-friendly. Thus, the idea of sustainability is not only helping artisans but also helping the customers in maintaining the health of the environment.