Posted on by Somdutta Singh

Since the time he can remember, in order to support his large family, Prabhakar, hailing from a small town in Chitradurga District, Karnataka has been working at the local manufacturing factory creating fashion jewelry for women. On the side, Prabhakar had a latent talent several knew nothing about. He was an artist. From basic water colors to creating beautiful modern art, Prabhakar has never let his problems stifle his creativity. He has always believed; he was born to be an artist. It’s been his vocation since he was in high school. Despite a hectic day at work and having to look after his ailing parents, Prabhakar pursues his art with a monastic devotion. Inside his cluttered tattered house, he paints. He has no telephone or computer.

Today, as he tugs the fraying brim of his pencil, he ponders the connection between his life experiences and his art. At work, when he’s done with his regular wholesome lunch of ragi mudde, he draws on pavements and toilet walls. But, janitors don’t appreciate such art and the art doesn’t belong to the artist, one day they’ll just be washed away. This made Prabhakar think, was his passion wilting away with no appreciation from any quarter? His talent was going futile and he desired, it would be brilliant if somebody, anybody could see what his hands were creating and offer him some appreciation.

Little did he know, far away in busy Bangalore, IRA-House of Designers was reinventing fashion and helping the apparel industry evolve via an innovative raging phenomenon called crowdsourcing. Thanks to the internet, the line between the designer, consumer and the brand is blurring by the day.

Let’s first tell you how crowdsourcing is helping designers across the globe find a voice and attain financial independence for their designs. Designers trying to make their way into the marketplace face big barriers and they can be bucketed into two groups: pre-production and post-production. The former involves finding quality factories and suppliers, and having enough capital for a production run. The latter involves visibility and inventory risk by gauging demand pre-production and ensuring that only in-demand items are produced rather than resorting to guesswork. Crowdsourcing is lending a hand to designers who might not otherwise get a break.  

Through a close friend who works in Bangalore, Prabhakar came to know about IRA’s work in crowdsourcing designs for fashion. He immediately got in touch with IRA founder Dr Som Dutta Singh who was more than happy to oblige because she’s constantly on the lookout for such artists who may possess tremendous creative talent, but perish unnoticed by the world.

Prabhakar started sending his art work to IRA who utilised the designs in their apparel. Simultaneously, Prabhakar started earning royalty for the sales. Not only was he getting his salary from his regular job at the factory, the money he made by sending his deigns to IRA provided a massive shove to his passion and rekindled the designer instincts within him. Over the last few months, Prabhakar has been able to take better care of his parents by getting better medical attention to them. Having lived in a dilapidated thatched house all his life, he has finally been able start construction of his own house.

With IRA’s model of minimum cost and high returns, they not only have the potential to become a big name emerging out of the Indian subcontinent, they are also altering the narrative of the Indian startup ecosystem and lives such as Prabhakar’s who otherwise would have been lost in time.