Homegrown gifts and a Punya Box

Dastkar goes virtual. Plus, a platform for products created by NGOs

Updated - September 18, 2020 03:03 pm IST

Published - September 18, 2020 02:40 pm IST


With bustling venues and platforms for the country’s crafts going silent during the pandemic, Dastkar’s Instagram handle has been eagerly tracked for updates on its new e-store: handsondastkar. When it finally did go live last weekend, the selection of handloom saris (woven, printed, embroidered, painted), fabric masks, Madhubani, Gond and other folk art, bags and home decor generated interest.

In three days, the platform had 2,155 virtual visitors and billed orders worth ₹41,146, though founder Laila Tyabji promises “this is just the beginning”. In the past, they had decided against going virtual as ‘touch’ is integral to buying craft. “There was the question of how Dastkar, without resources or a warehouse, could undertake such a vast venture. So we concentrated on selling craft through bazaars, exhibitions and other platforms, including other e-portals. Some worked, others didn’t. The pandemic and ensuing lockdown made it clear that it was necessary for us to have our own marketing platform,” says Tyabji, who made the site’s first sale: a Madhubani sari.

A snapshot of handsondastkar.com

A snapshot of handsondastkar.com

To the artisans, the online platform comes just in time. “It is interesting that folk art, which doesn’t necessarily sell very well at bazaars [difficult to display], does very well online as it photographs well,” says Tyabji, adding, “It is the exact opposite of a [offline] bazaar! There, people love to pick up little knick knacks and gift items, and only go for the more pricey things like saris later. Online, they feel it is not worth going through the hassle for smaller items.”

As for the initial glitches, buyers will need to be forgiving. After all, the site was developed in-house, and sourcing clean-cut, e-commerce-ready images from craftspeople during a pandemic can’t be easy. For an outfit that has organised bazaars for 40 years, this is a whole new game. With the craftspeople’s stories going live, Tyabji hopes we understand that “craft is more than just a product and that handsondastkar.com will be more than just a marketing device”.

₹550 - ₹41,000 at handsondastkar.com

Up next: More variety, with masks, Madhubani paintings, woven bed covers, kantha embroidered stoles, etc.


We’ve had the fast fashion virtual sales, luxury closets going online and support initiatives for India’s weaving communities. Now, homegrown initiatives by NGOs across the country are in the limelight with Rohan Garg and Anant Kapoor’s new e-store, Punya. Unlike platforms like iTokri (handmade artisanal products) and Shunya (recyclable stationery, tableware) that are limited to a particular genre, Punya features everything from masalas to handwoven stoles.

What sets the platform apart from others is that all the products have been crafted by their NGO partners (who receive 95.5% of the sales proceeds), including Kilmora that supports makers in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region, GranMade, that employs elderly women who are out-of-work, and Naz Foundation that works on HIV/AIDS and sexual health.

(clockwise from top left) products retailed at Punya and co-founders Anant Kapoor and Rohan Garg

(clockwise from top left) products retailed at Punya and co-founders Anant Kapoor and Rohan Garg

Launched in July, the neatly categorised e-store also features organic body and home care products, and edibles like Himalayan jams. Don’t miss the stationery section, with gold-plated bookmarks and notebooks with bright Madhubani covers.

Garg, 23, explains how it started when they noticed people gift each other kilos of sweets (which eventually went to waste) every Diwali. Their Punya Box, launched in 2019, had sweets ideal for a family of four. “We partnered with six NGOs, and the money saved went to a charity of the donor’s choice,” says Lucknow-based Garg. Realising how professional marketing and after-sales support could help NGO-made products, they decided on an exclusive marketplace.

From ₹45 to ₹1,200.

Up next: New partnerships and, in a few months, hyperlocal virtual markets that will tie up with local NGOs in your city.

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