Bangalore’s most popular and much-awaited art and craft market, the Sunday Soul Sante, becomes bigger and better as Junglee.com associates with it as its online sponsor. We spoke to Asha Rao, the founder of Sunday Soul Sante, about her journey into the world of art & design, the association with Junglee.com and her future plans.
How did you develop an inclination for arts and crafts?
Art, craft and design—each person is born with a sensibility for it. I have always loved these things. As a child, I loved going to bazaars and art & craft melas. I am Bengali and have grown up seeing these things during Dasara, Durga Puja, Eid and Christmas. In Kolkata, all festivals are community-driven and everyone comes out to celebrate. Back in my childhood, I remember even a domestic help would demand that the vase is too colourful and it’s not matching the yellow flowers.
Tell us about your journey— of how Sunday Soul Sante came into being.
I started the first market in 1996. And it has been a very long journey with its own ups and downs.
Before I started Sante, I had my studio in Whitefield. There we did a Sattva summer bazaar—a small flea market. Soon, the number of sellers outgrew— initially it was some 40-45 stalls and later increased to about 100. That’s when we moved to the Whitefield Club. Without much publicity, we saw the entire Whitefield community turning up for the event. That’s when it hit me— on a weekend afternoon in Whitefield, I am getting two-three thousand people, what will happen when I take this market in town!
How was the response in Palace grounds?
When I brought my 100 stalls to town in Palace grounds, everyone thought I was daft. They said that even for Pink Floyd we did not get as much crowd, what is she expecting? I did not say anything then. I just thought—nothing ventured, nothing gained. The day came—I went there and looked at the crowd, and the Whitefield people were just a minority. There were people from all parts of Bangalore…. and so many of them!
How is Soul Sante helping artisans and designers?
No one wants to take an expensive retail store—not when you are just starting out. You need to test the waters and when you need to test the waters; you need someone to hold your hand. That’s when you need Soul Sante! You don’t need a stepping stone when you have already arrived.
Also, most creative people know how to make stuff but they don’t know how to market and project themselves. At Sante, we give a platform for those people to go on—to make them believe that what they are doing is wow. That alone gives them the encouragement to pursue their dreams.
You said there’s a particular reason why Soul Sante stalls have no side walls.
During my interaction with the artists, I noticed that all these people are like-minded and should benefit from each other. That’s why—no stalls at Sante have side-walls. Ideas should flow in freely.
Like, imagine a fashion designer seeing a stall across hers, of someone selling crochet items and thinking she can use it as trimmings in her garments. Or a shoe designer sees someone who is painting on fabric, and goes “maybe he can paint my shoes”. I just feel that it’s very important for people to think beyond buying and selling… to have fun.
How have the sellers grown with Soul Sante?
From selling their products in little zip lock packets with stickers to now having beautiful printed packets—many sellers have come a long way. Some sellers have become so big that they have their own standalone stores. Look at Chumbak— they started with us and now have become huge. Hallelujah! Yet, once in a while these brands still come to participate in Soul Sante, just to connect with the customer and for that inspiration.
I just saw you saying no to a seller. Why do you say no to a vendor?
I say no to a vendor who outsources things from abroad but don’t know what it’s made of or who made it. Merchandising is an art but not many people know how to merchandise. They just get stuff from an agent… that’s not Soul Sante. Sante is all about Indian arts, crafts and design. The whole platform is to put you out there—what you do.
Also, I have limited number of stalls. That’s because I would like my shoppers to have a great experience. I don’t want to overwhelm my shoppers. At the end of the evening, they should not feel that they missed out on something good.
What’s the next big thing you want to do?
It’s my dream to take one beautiful market a year to Goa. The kind of exposure you will get there is unprecedented. People don’t just come there from all over the country; they come from all over the world. It can make some designer’s life. But I can’t do that without the support and backing of a sponsor. Because here I charge people for entry but in Goa, all the markets are free.
What are your thoughts on the partnership with Junglee.com?
Sunday Soul Sante has grown phenomenally well in the past five years and the response received from customers is amazing. We now believe that in the IT capital of India, it’s a great idea to make use of technology to make the products available to a larger customer base and throughout the year. We are thankful to Junglee.com for making this partnership possible and helping and encouraging us to fit into the online space. We are really looking forward to this long term relationship.
What are the other reasons to visit Soul Sante on 10th May 2015?
A pet-friendly atmosphere— you can bring in your dogs and cats. We also have a puppy adoption centre where kids can enter the pen and play with puppies. Families can also adopt puppies, if they like.
Apart from this, there’s live music, fun performances and of course mouth-watering delicacies. Basically, Sante is a nice event where everyone can come along with their entire family (free entry for senior citizens and kids under 10 years) and have a good time.
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