Mumbai’s abundance of visual stimulation influenced founder and CEO, Arjun Charanjiva through movie posters, album covers, comic books and advertising posters
Kulture Shop’s founder and CEO, Arjun Charanjiva, and co-founders Kunal Anand and Jas Charanjiva decided to go into business in 2014, making Indian art accessible for their audience. Prior to setting up Kulture Shop, Charanjiva was working in Hyderabad, in the corporate world for Mars Inc., whilst his wife was a graphic artist looking to monetize her work. According to Charanjiva, his decision to set up Kulture Shop was taken in order to «support and bring together talented artists» and to provide a solution to «the difficulty in sourcing artwork and home decor that is not expensive, in India». The ability to address these two concerns was a purpose that «I would find it satisfying as I left Mars and the corporate world » and the rationale for «why I started this business», says Charanjiva.
Charanjiva states that the purpose of the store was to promote, curate and create art that was relevant to the culture. «The name came from that». As a brand «we wanted to promote alternative and progressive art instead of the commercial and systemic art and using the letter ‘K’ was a way to do that». In a competitive online space, «to be able to own a word with an alternative brand name was captivating». Charanjiva’s passion for graphic art originated through a combination of personal and professional experiences. Charanjiva grew up in Mumbai in the Eighties. «It is a city that pulsates and there was an abundance of visual stimulation», which influenced him through movie posters, album covers, comic books and advertising posters. He developed his passion for art when he was in the United States, living in New York between 1993 and 2007, where he became aware and engaged in subcultures, which in cases were «emerging through my eyes». When Charanjiva was working in the marketing world at Mars, he had a desire to support artists and had friends in New York City who were graphic designers and artists. Kulture Shop has remained committed to the goal of connecting artists to customers. In order to achieve this, they «started with a store and an online presence, which they stick to and live by». Since Kulture Shop’s inception, its curation has experienced a change «considering the transformation in access to technology within India», says Charanjiva. This has led to a focus on evolving and expanding the Indian graphic art catalogue: when Kulture Shop opened, they had ten Indian artists. Today they showcase one-hundred-and-twenty. «Curating and helping these artists and encouraging them to evolve their style and identity is what we are focused on». As part of the change in the curation process, Kulture Shop has introduced decorative prints at the low-end and limited-edition prints on the high end.
The change that has occurred is that brands have started approaching Kulture Shop to commission customer illustration and design solutions. Charanjiva states that «brands who have been working with their agencies haven’t been satisfied with their specialized skills and have come directly to us». Kunal Anand heads their Design Services, working with brands like Audi, ICC, Amazon, Netflix and Colgate. This enables Kulture Shop’s consumer business to thrive and its artists have an opportunity to work with brands. There has been a synergy between their consumer and services businesses, Kulture Shop’s consumer business works as a marketing front for our services business, which has a knock-on effect in promoting Kulture Shop’s exposure. Kulture Shop tends to curate graphic and digital artists, along with muralists and street artists who are considered to be artists of the future. «Our curation process is at an artist level and at an art level, we work with artists to curate and to figure out what we should be showing. Originality is of value. We stay away from fan art and commercial art». Digital creation is exploding due to technology such as Procreate, and the iPad and pencil, as a result there has been an increase in «originality in artists» emerging on the scene. Since Kulture Shop’s inception they have had requests from five-thousand artists, but showcase one-hundred-and-twenty.Technology is at the heart of Kulture Shop’s business, «our business would not be possible without it», art creation and digital printing technology. They acquire the licenses for curated art and procures the digital files which enables them to print, present and to fulfil orders. Technology is at a place where it is starting to have an impact in businesses like theirs. Charanjiva says, «in addition to bringing technology to the store, we plan to offer tools online which leverage artificial intelligence for art discovery, augmented reality for visualization and virtual reality for experience. We are hoping to build upon them». They havetwo stores in Mumbai. Plans to add locations to their roster have been placed on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Charanjiva emphasizes looking for creative and tourist areas, away from the hustle and bustle, in order to give «our customers a hassle-free environment in which to shop». Charanjiva describes the interior design of the stores as a «mixture of a boutique and an art gallery: we design our material internally. We have concrete flooring and white walls to let the art shine. Our fixtures blind the periphery of our stores and are minimal, and color coded white. This is complemented by maple wood finish on our furniture which we use for storage». The store in Bandra has a patio with an umbrella and chairs which is used for exhibits.
The layout of the store is similar to that of the website, where they have product categories in sections demarcated with signage. Charanjiva acknowledges that it can be overwhelming entering a store surrounded by art, «we strived to showcase that which has been appreciated by our customers». Kulture Shop has an art discovery table where one can browse through a catalogue which has one of each of the art works. Charanjiva further describes the interior by highlighting the use of an iPad where «our art consultants advise our customers in terms of trying to find art. We use the walls and columns in the store to communicate the concept of having an art store and retail». Kulture Shop’s customer profile is progressive, international, expats who live in India, tourists, and older than people expect, on average, between twenty-five and forty-five years old. Charanjiva looks at merchandise as a segue into buying art. «Our staff are advisors, given the number of people that come through our stores, we help our customers, informing them where to go around the city, providing them with a list of art galleries and shops to visit that reflect India in its updated avatar». Kulture Shop hosts events, «because we have the space, the objective is to promote visual-culture and our products. We have exhibits, group shows where we launch collections, we give our space to practitioners across design, music, film for group work and discussions», says Charanjiva. When it comes to promoting awareness of issues associated with climate change, Charanjiva underlines that, «Kulture Shop represents artists and artists are the ones that respond to the issues of the times. Cartoonists put this depiction in place through their illustrations. Whether the artists are on our platform or not, what we do is, highlight the work they create. We do not sell it on Kulture shop because it is not commercially viable, but as part of our visual initiatives we highlight it on our social media platforms and have conversations about it».
Charanjiva acknowledges the need for content in events and festivals and to continue championing graphic art to extend their global outreach. He plans to open stores in cities across the globe, such as London, Toronto and Berlin. He attributes the potential store locations to an indication of his customer base and where the Indian diaspora is significant. Another goal is to create an affordable-art market in India and to change the perception of India through an Indian art shop, «we are sitting on something which is going to have an impact on Indian society. We would like to see our art enter the discourse of contemporary-art».IMAGE GALLERY
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