The rich Bangali culture manifests itself in surprising ways, encompassing nearly all forms of art, music and literature. The rickshaw paintings are one such piece of folk culture that peaked during the 80s and 90s – winning the commuters’ hearts with colourful works of art.
Every rickshaw was a canvas, showcasing a painter’s artistic freedom and mastery with paintings of flowers, birds, movie actors, and unique decorative motifs.
These paintings started to fade away as technology made way for putting printed images on almost any surface, but Artgenix – an f-commerce platform dealing in traditional Bangali arts and crafts – is keeping the nostalgia alive.
The e-shop, which started its journey amid the Covid-19 crisis in November 2019, sells clothing, everyday items and showpieces that feature the art style of rickshaw paintings. It has already gained a substantial following in social media for showcasing out of the ordinary products.
Artgenix is the brainchild of Dhaka resident Raisa Maniza Akter, who aspired to do something creative while being confined at home due to the then pandemic restrictions. Though Raisa studied English literature, she loved art ever since picking up a paintbrush in her childhood.
Focusing on folk art, Raisa chose the style of rickshaw paintings and started turning everyday items such as hurricane lamps into merchandise. She began her entrepreneurial journey with only Tk 10,000, and made a turnover of Tk 5 lakh within just two years.
The e-shop sells painted jug-glass sets, glass covers, decorated steel pots, hanging wall frames, kettle-cup sets, betel leaf boxes, tiffin carriers, vases, bamboo pots, jewellery boxes, sunglasses, clay pots, sarees, and wooden, clay and resin ornaments.
Prices of Artgenix merchandise range between Tk 450 to Tk 1,650, while the saree prices depend on design, fabric and other factors.
Raisa turned an idea into a successful business venture through hard work, patience and dedication, and created employment opportunities for many women at the grassroots level. Artgenix now directly employs 20 staff.
Sharing her success story, Raisa told The Business Post, “I have never thought that Artgenix will have such a positive impression on people within such a short period. Though my business is online-based, I have plans for a showroom in the future to give Artgenix a visible identity.
“Around 20 thousand people follow my Facebook page and many have appreciated my merchandise, which makes me very happy.”
Thanking the SME Foundation, Raisa mentioned BB Russel as her inspiration. The fashion icon of Bangladesh visited the Artgenix stall during the SME Product Fair and praised the merchandise on sale.
BB Russel’s visit inspired and motivated Raisa to keep working to revive the lost tradition of rickshaw style paintings, and showcase this Bangladeshi art form across the globe.
The Heritage Handloom Festival – which took place in Dhaka last February – has helped Artgenix rapidly rise in popularity and expand its business. When Raisa saw beautiful models walking the ramp wearing printed sarees of her design, it boosted her confidence greatly.
This event showcasing her merchandise has been a big achievement of Raisa’s entrepreneurial journey.
Sharing her thoughts about such events, Raisa said, “If the government takes more initiative to organise such fairs, then it would help entrepreneurs like us to get in touch with more customers.
“This in turn will pave new ways for such businesses to flourish, and contribute more to the country’s economy.”
Believing that in this day and age, technology is a great way to spread knowledge and develop skills, Raisa teaches rickshaw style paintings in workshops through online platform Zoom.
The duration of her courses is between two to three months, and the registration fee is Tk 850. She teaches her courses free of cost to marginalised and underprivileged women so that they can be self-reliant and support their family.