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Santanu Sutradhar
Santanu Sutradhar
Founder & Proprietor

Master in Export Management

Being the only son of a Judicial officer, my parents always wanted me to establish myself as an administrative Officer, but my destiny has set a different job for me. After doing my course in Export Management I joined an Export Company in Delhi in the year 1997 and worked for 2 years, but I was more interested in the handicrafts of northeast especially the cane baskets which are being produced by the artisans of few clusters in Karimganj, Assam.

I left my job and started working with the artisans of Telikhalerpar, Nolgor, Kamargram cluster, Karimganj. The clusters are home to hundreds of artisans belonging to the Namasudra community who are engaged in the production of exclusive cane baskets. The clusters legacy goes back to the early stages of World War II when the Allied forces were required to air-drop food and other supplies to their troops deployed on the Indo-Burma frontier. The Allied forces selected three villages that mostly comprised of the Namasudra community to make Cane & bamboo baskets for them. Over the years and post Wold War II, with little demand for the products the tradition almost faded away.

Considering the immense potential lying in the International market for these products I started my Enterprise in the year 1999 by the name ‘Barak Cane Udyog’ and started manufacturing cane baskets and supplied them to few Govt Emporiums and Delhi based Exporters.

Gradually I started contacting various foreign embassies for providing the database of importers dealing in cane baskets as at that time there was no internet facilities in our area. I registered my firm with CBI, The Netherlands and through it I got my first buyer in the year 2000. My first buyer Cor.Italliander of Marcon Agencies personally visited our cluster and got impressed by the work. He placed his first order for a full load 20 foot container of Cane baskets as per his customized designs. This was a major breakthrough, as never before any direct Export order was executed by the artisans of the cluster.

I successfully completed the order and shipped through the ICD situated at Amingaon, Guwahati and that again was a record as for the first time anyone shipped cane handicrafts from the facility which was solely operating for the export of tea from Assam.

With the exposure of contemporary designs through various buyers the artisans developed more skills and learnt many finishing techniques. Although the artisans has been producing the crafts but no initiative was taken to identify them , I took the initiative of providing them with Artisan Identity cards and other benefits like Insurance coverage etc.

600 Artisans were provided artisan identity card by 2008 and many artisans were motivated to go for advanced training and participate in many Exhibitions and become self dependent entrepreneurs. Senior master craftsman Dilip Namasudra participated in training programmes at CBTC,Guwahati, NIFT, New Delhi and received many appreciation due to his exclusive skill.

Many master trainers were engaged in various programmes under DC(H), among them two master trainers, namely Krishnakumar Namasudra & Late Rathindra Namasudra has set up workshop in their village and successfully running their business by employing many artisans. Krishnakumar Namasudra has recently started Guru Shishya Parampara scheme in Telikhalerpar, Karimganj.

My constant endeavour has been to empower the artisans by providing maximum exposure to the market and develop contemporary designs so that maximum order flows in the cluster. I got selected as a core member of the EPCH project "Agressive International Marketing for Northeast Products" in 2003 and participated in the IHGF and still continuing till date.

Apart from the above, I participated in the India Festival held at World Trade Centre, Dallas, USA in 2004 & Autumn Fair at Birmingham, U.K in 2006 under the sponsorship of EPCH & Nedfi. This was again a great achievement for me as I could exhibit the exclusive products of our cluster before the foreign buyers, and the various design inputs provided by the EPCH designers was very helpful in developing products as per the market demand. Since the participation in the IHGF, Export orders started to come frequently.

The main countries where we exported our products are Italy, Austria, France, Denmark, The Netherlands, Cyprus, Australia, Canada, Paraguay, and the Middle East.

During my pursuit I faced many difficulties for example the raw material ie; cane came from an unorganised source, but slowly I overcame this hurdle by motivating the cane growers to adopt modern and reliable process so that we get raw cane in a regular manner. Another major problem was the geographical isolation of our cluster from mainland Assam. We have to incur maximum transportation cost for sending our goods to the nearest port ie; Kolkata which affected the competitiveness of our products in comparison to the Southeast Asian countries who produces similar items.

I overcame this by making some value addition in the cane baskets so that it could compete in the international market and this effort showed positive results.

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