Indianama's latest project in Delhi aims to give a new look to old shops

When was the last time you visited your local kirana store to buy groceries or walked into the shop next door to check out clothes? In the world of supermarkets, multi-brand showrooms and e-retailers that sell practically everything under the sun, small neighbourhood businesses are  fading into the background.

As it celebrates 71 years of India’s independence, Indianama, a platform that curates and showcases the works of artists across disciplines, has decided to revisit these forgotten streets and sights of Delhi. It has teamed up with 71 designers from across India to work on 71 small businesses with the aim to revitalise them and restore their lost charm.

The idea behind the project is to give a unique identity to these local stores. Each designer, along with the shop owner, will create an identity that will allow these small businesses to brand themselves — not to compete with bigger brands but to become important, unforgettable players in Delhi’s street culture.

The concept boards for these 71 small businesses, along with the paraphernalia that will go into redesigning them, will be the subject of Indianama’s exhibition to be held at Bikaner House in Delhi from August 9. Packaging material, merchandise, letterheads and other aspects of the design for each shop will be on display.

The process of choosing the stores for the project was one that involved traversing the streets of Delhi, some familiar, others not so: Karol Bagh, Saket, Daryaganj, and so on. Curator Kunel Gaur and his team wanted to make sure they brought on board a variety of businesses, from simple food and tea stalls to barber shops and leather stores.

Not all store owners that were approached, however, accepted the offer and some even left the project after signing up. But in the end, 71 remained, and now they are waiting to embrace the design that will renew a sense of lost identity. 

Among them is Destiny Telecom, a small, 14-year-old store in Delhi Gate bazaar in Old Delhi, which designer Gaurav Ratra is now working on. The description of the shop on Indianama’s website reads, “This humble mobile recharge shop is one of the few places where you’ll see Airtel and Jio living together in harmony.” For Ratra, this small store is a “doctor for your phone” as it doesn’t sell new phones but maintains the phone you own. From recharge to repairs, Destiny Telecom helps sustain your phone. “Destiny Telecom is an existing business and my job is to give it an identity and structure so that it can work like any other brand and create connections with human beings,” says Ratra.

Also being rebranded is Hakeem Chottey Lal Shree Ram Jain, an Ayurveda and herbal medicine store. This blue coloured store in Jama Masjid, Old Delhi, will have a modernised logo, posters with graphics and simpler font, and a vibrant look once it has been redesigned. The designer, Ajinkya Bane, plans to give a modern touch to the “typical hakeem”.

Says Gaur, who is also the brain behind Indianama, “In India, just as much as our malls and high streets stand out, our markets with their vendors blend themselves in our daily lives to an extent that the two are inseparable.” And yet, design never managed to reach the streets and never became a part of the charming culture that street markets are all about. “So, to truly transform the way India sees design, this year we’re taking design to India’s original showplaces,” Gaur adds. “The idea is to make good design accessible to people who have never known what it can do for them.”

Indianama hopes the project will turn out to be “a distillation of all that is vibrant, divergent, reflective, and humorous about our inner city intersections”, bringing life back to the street hustle.

‘Indianama 2018’ can be viewed at Bikaner House in Delhi from August 9 to August 25