Srila Chatterjee founded Baro as a peacock blue-walled store in Mumbai, housing unique handmade regional crafts and a million stories from all over India. When COVID-19 hit, Baro was forced to shutter down and move online as Baro Market. The advertiser-turned-entrepreneur talks to us about her roller-coaster ride and the journey ahead. By Adila Matra
Tell us about the inception and transformation of Baro.
Baro was born in 2017, after my partner, Siddharth Sirohi, and I decided to work in furniture and interior design. We decided to experiment for two years, and by the end of it, Baro was born. Very quickly, it became a place that stood for things we believed were important— design that was original, stories, and contemporary crafts rooted in tradition. We used our space to host bazaars, called Baro Market, where artists, craftspeople, and designers exhibited their products and engaged with clients, telling their stories oneto-one. Later, Baro Market became a permanent feature. With the pandemic, we had to rethink our business model. This is not a world where people are comfortable walking into public spaces without safety measures. So, we decided to shut the store. I was passionate about Baro Market, so I decided to take that forward and tweak it. And thus, the online Baro Market was launched.
What are some of the major homegrown brands that Baro Market hosts?
Parama, a brand from Kolkata, has stories on fabric from the world of art, cinema, and literature; the Bengaluru brand Linenology has quality linen products with hand-drawn prints; from Goa, there is Rangeela, a fashion and lifestyle boutique shop taking inspiration from the sea; Absynthe Design from Delhi is a wonderful brand where everything is handcrafted from the most intricate parts of vintage clocks and watches. The list is very long.
How have your travels influenced the brand?
Travel is the greatest learning experience ever. It has played a huge role in the way I think and in shaping my aesthetic sense. This, in turn, has influenced Baro Market. There is hardly any place that does not inspire in some way or the other, in terms of design and art. Some of the most inspiring places I have come across are Bengal, Rajasthan, Uzbekistan, Mexico, and Japan.
Which is your favourite regional handicraft?
Shola carving from Bengal is one of my favourites.
What is your vision for Baro Market?
I would like us to be the first place anyone thinks of when they are looking for something beautiful, original, and meaningful—whether it’s an outfit, a gift, a toy, or a decor item. I would like us to be led by stories and what we offer. As the world readjusts, I hope we can, once again, have more offline experiences like pop-ups and physical stores.
Tell us about your sustainability initiatives.
The hardest thing we grapple with is the packaging—when you ship something, you need it to be safe, and most packaging that ensures that aspect is terribly wasteful and not eco-friendly. We have decided to reuse as much packaging as we can. And since it may not look fresh and perfect, we put a sticker on each box to let people know what we are doing, hoping it will hit the right spot.