A ‘chic’ business

A multitude of bamboo blinds dangling from ropes, with rough-and-ready boards carrying contact details of the seller, are sure to grab eyeballs

From the fancy showrooms in shopping malls and private spaces transformed into boutique stations; to the roadside stalls set up in local markets, Delhi is a shopping hub that is conducive to all kinds of emerging businesses. Another fascinating business venture comes up by the roadside – chiks, woven bamboo blinds entwined with colourful threads. To those from small towns and villages they may seem so pedestrian, but in Delhi these kitschy patterns are an easy fit in most Indian households.

A series of thin bamboo canes, laced with threads of different colours, let in just the right amount of sunlight. These flexible, indigenous textiles are displayed at every 100 metres as you drive past the August Kranti Road near Khel Gaon. As you wait for the traffic signal to go green, the peculiar setting of these bamboo blinds — placed next to the contact details of their owners and sometimes a billboard that glorifies a local politician — catches your attention.

Contact details are painted in big bold letters by these ‘chik’ makers. With a handwriting so child-like, it is not an advertisement you see everyday. But it is definitely the kind that makes you want to find out what the person – whose contact number is given – has to offer.

When Patriot contacted one of these roadside exhibitors, someone from Agra took the call, perhaps the business owner. He then redirected the call to Pappu Singh, a relative and co-owner, who we met near their exhibition at August Kranti Road, Khel Gaon.

A lean man in his mid-40s, welcomes us to his setup outside the NSUI building, which is as good as a showroom. He shows us designs of every possible merchandise that he sells. It is the combination of bamboo and threads in different thicknesses and quantities that decide the final usage. From blinds and mats to table ware, Singh describes his product range and how it is priced.

“Many of these complex designs come from Assam,” says Singh, while talking about the craftsmanship that goes into these bamboo curtains and other bamboo-based products. Assam is known for being one of the largest producers of bamboo in India.

Singh, a resident of Sanjay Colony in Okhla Phase II, leaves for Khel Gaon every morning at 7 on his bicycle and stays at this point till sunset; but not if he has to go for some fittings or client meetings. A walk on the August Kranti Road introduces us to many other chik makers, some are taking an afternoon nap. According to Singh, there are around 20-25 chik sellers in that area.

Vasant Kunj and Pari Road in Noida are a few other points where one can easily spot a chik maker, simply for its high demand in these areas. The price ranges from Rs 60 to Rs 250, depending on the design. “The decorated ones are a little expensive,” Singh says.

A craft that was once done with hands has now taken a leap by becoming mechanised in Assam. But there still are facilities in Mayur Vihar and east Delhi that provide handmade blinds. Singh gets in touch with these, if a client demands for such blinds. In this case, the cost is high even for the simpler designs.

Talking about how they manage to set up shops along the roadside, he informs that shopkeepers pay Rs 500 hafta every month to the local police. “We are very old here, so no one bothers us,” adds Singh.

The business was started around 20 years ago by his relative who stays in Agra and Singh joined it around 12 years ago, when he left his job in Okhla as a machine embroiderer. “I realized that I was losing my eyesight. So I decided to move on and join my brother-in-law,” he says. Since then, he has been managing everything here — from taking orders to delivering and fitting it at the client’s premises.

“There was once a woman magistrate who decided to change her mind and not buy the blinds that were custom-made for her. A curtain set of Rs 12,000 is stocked at my place and I don’t know what to do with it. Nobody else will buy it,” shares Singh on how some people have deceived him. Since it happens often, Singh wonders how he can make the transaction more systematic.

Irrespective of that, he comes across as a highly motivated individual and loves the idea of conducting his business through phone calls. The existence of such organic businesses are a thing of amazement in this age, when a person is able to move around the city on a bicycle and run a business he is satisfied with, without the need of marketing on social media. “We also receive a lot of business through word of mouth,” adds Singh.

His clientele consists of urban residents who like subtle décor — the ones who live in houses that receive sunlight in abundance. “We do better business in summer,” says Singh, adding, “Most of my clients choose simple designs because the elaborate ones are a little pricey and are bought by a different class of buyers — more for their beauty rather than the purpose they serve.”

If one is looking for an exquisite buy for their house, these bamboo blinds are an elegant option to brighten up your abode. Not just a decorative piece, it is also high on the utility quotient as it lets in the right amount of light. It is perfect for those who enjoy filtered natural light as they read their favourite piece of fiction.

Singh can be contacted at +91 9205 228226 if anyone would like to use his services.

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