CFBI-NID: Bamboo for Grassroots Development:
CFBI-NID (Centre for Bamboo Initiatives at NID), Tripura Bamboo Mission initiatives: NID IPRITI IL&FS TBM – bamboo craftsman training initiative at Bangalore.
Prof. M P Ranjan
Image 01: Workshop commences at IPRITI, Bangalore with bamboo craftsmen from Tripura and NID designers with technical inputs from IPRITI scientists.
The National Institute of Design (NID) through its Centre for Bamboo Initiatives at NID (CFBI-NID) and the Infrastructure Leasing and Finance Services (IL&FS) entered into an agreement to develop and deliver a bamboo based small craft industry initiative as part of the overall mission objective of the Tripura Bamboo Mission (TBM) that is spearheaded by the Government of Tripura. The IL&FS has extended their technical, financial planning and manpower expertise in furthering the mission objectives of the TBM and they in turn have cooperated with the CFBI-NID to move the bamboo furniture and product design initiative through a project format that includes product design, craftsman training as well as field training that would help seed and incubate the new micro-enterprises in the State of Tripura.
Image 02: Stackable Café tables and benches, a local to local strategy offered by NID to kick-start local entrepreneurship in the Agartala region.
The NID had entered into a MOU with IPRITI, Bangalore earlier this year to cooperate in new initiatives in bamboo product development with a special focus on laminated bamboo and bamboo mat board applications in a number of fields. In mutual agreement with all the partners we decided to bring the project with the IL&FS to Bangalore since the NID Bangalore campus is located just opposite the IPRITi campus in Penea, just next to the large CMTI campus on the very busy Tumkur road. This proximity and an already agreed platform of cooperation opened a new window for bringing the IL&FS – TBM project to Bangalore campus where the faculty and students of the Design for Retail Experiences (DRE) discipline were keen to explore bamboo as a future material for eco-friendly retail environments.
Image 03: Rubber wood gussets and planks used to upgrade bamboo furniture form another leg of the NID design strategy to leverage the availability of this new material from local production facilities in Agartala.
IL&FS has identified nine master craftsmen from the Agartala region to partake in the CFBI-NID design development and training programme and along with these craftsmen an IL&FS supervisor was deputed to manage the day to day programmes with the NID Bangalore coordinator Divya Darshan and Joint Project Head and NID Faculty, C S Susanth from the NID Bangalore Centre. Prof M P Ranjan as Head of the Project stationed himself at Bangalore from 17th September to 30th September 2008 for the design development and training components of the project that is being handled under the management of the NID Outreach Department located in Ahmedabad while NID Bangalore handled all the local logistics and project support systems through Shashikala Satyamurthy and Centre Head S Goshal.
Image 04: The ubiquitous “Alna”, a local clothes rack, offered in new design configurations using rubber wood gussets to support the “Local to Local” design strategy advocated by NID.
Dr C N Pandey and his team were very supportive and provided the space in their well equipped Bamboo Development Centre for the conduct of the workshop as well as provided some key training inputs in bamboo treatment and finishes that was organized as associated demonstrations and lectures. The NID design team of Prof M P Ranjan and C S Susanth was joined by other members from NID Bangalore including Divya Darshan and Niju Dubey who participated in the design and training activities on a regular basis. Further, three NID students from Furniture design discipline joined the team as experimenters and occasional trainers and they too developed their own understanding of the new material through their association with the workshop, the results of which will be seen in the future, I am sure. Of these students, Garima Agrawal has chosen to take the bamboo project as her major diploma project and she will be taking this initiation and travel to the field to commence her research and study at Agartala in the near future.
Image 05: Exhibit of all new bamboo products developed at the design cum training workshop at IPRITI as shown at the NID Bangalore lawns for the closing function on 30 September 2008.
The design strategy outlined by the team this time looked at the building of products and systems that had a “Local to Local” character since the craftsmen while being very skilled at bamboo work were still to learn about being entrepreneurs and learn to manage a business enterprise on their own. The IL&FS and the NID design team are providing handholding and mentoring supports as part of the next stages of this project and in this the making of local products would bring a degree of self confidence to the crafts entrepreneurs since they could learn from direct experience and use their local knowledge to build their business experience. The major product category chosen for this strategy was the local “Alna” an ubiquitous clothes rack usually made in wood and found in every home in the Eastern Region of India as well as all over the Northeast of India. We therefore designed a wide range of “Alna” type products to demonstrate product diversification and the possibility of customization of a basic idea to generate variety. The other products included benches and tables that could be used in domestic situations as well as in local café’s across Agartala region, which by the way is a huge local market that is attracting many furniture makers from New Delhi and Mumbai. These are local opportunities that the Tripura craftsmen can learn to address in their process of learning a trade which they could then sharpen and refine to address more sophisticated markets in other cities in India as well as in the export sector, once their level of confidence has grown to manage these with comfort and quality.
Image 06: The closing function attended by Director IPRITI, Il&FS Managers, Coordinator Tripura Bamboo Mission, Centre Head NID Bangalore and Head, Centre for Bamboo Initiatives at NID and the design and craftsmen teams.
Another major design decision was the use of rubber wood in combination with bamboo for several of the products. In an earlier collection we had designed all bamboo furniture as part of our “Katlamara Chalo” strategy where the joints were made using round holes drilled with a flat-bottomed drill bit and secured with bamboo dowels and bamboo counter pins. This joint was used once again for all the bamboo pole joints and all bamboo components were kept straight without the use of any bending that is commonly associated with bamboo furniture. The rubber wood components were of two types, plates for surfaces and shaped gusset members for particular joints between bamboo frames. This way the bamboo craftsmen could obtain the rubber wood components from the new and growing rubber wood industry in Tripura and offer value to their customers with the added functionality of smooth surfaces and precise gusset joints that are also visually modern. This strategy had us seeking the help of Sandeep Mukherjee for the precise manufacture of the gusset components, drawings for which were prepared on cad software by Niju Dubey. Several ranges of “Alna” were developed using these special gussets and as we go forward we anticipate an enlargement of the range with the addition of new components as dictated by the design scheme and the functionality required. The Tripura craft scene is now sufficiently sophisticated to accommodate this shift to outsourced components as they develop their marketing strategy in the days ahead and this would also help them fetch a better price in the market and provide value to the customer who is being exposed to many imported products of high quality.
Image 07: The new “Alna” and other products at the lawn exhibit at NID Bangalore for the closing function.
The training programme culminated in the production of several new designs that aligned to the product strategy proposed by the NID team and at a concluding function at NID Bangalore on 30 September 2008 we conducted an exhibition of all the products at NID Bangalore which was visited by George Jenner, Chief Coordinator of the Tripura Bamboo Mission, Sharmishta Mohapatra, Senior Manager and Advisor – Trade Facilitation, IL&FS, New Delhi, Dr C N Pande, Director IPRITI, Dr S Goshal, Centre Head, NID, Bangalore and all the crtafts trainees and the NID design team with the students of the NID Bangalore and they were hosted by Prof M P Ranjan, Head, Centre for Bamboo Initiatives at NID. At the concluding function the dignitaries spoke to the audience about bamboo and its role in the future as well as the strategies of the Tripura Bamboo Mission and the plans and activities in the coming years. These provided new opportunities for all partners to use their skills and knowledge for the development of the bamboo sector in Tripura and in the process bring overall development to Tripura State, particularly in the rural areas that have been deprived of industrial development over the years. Plans and now afoot to send our teams to Tripura for the next phase of the project that includes the setting up of micro production units with the use of an appropriate set of hand held power tools and the hand-holding supports from the IL&FS teams in finance and marketing support in the field. NID designers will work closely with these craftsmen to realize the objective of getting these new products to market and in the process establish the confidence levels of the crafts entrepreneur as well as help maintain quality of production with the use of simple manufacturing strategies that are embedded in the design programme.
Prof. M P Ranjan