This article was first published in ‘White Print’ – a braille magazine for the visually impaired, founded and published by Upasana Makati.
The ‘Kaali peeli’ as the localities refers to the taxi is almost indispensible to the local public transport of Mumbai. The morning hustle bustle in South Mumbai entails finding a cab for the regular office goer, to panicky mothers who have to drop their child off to school and of course the young college student who is hoping to make it in time for his early morning lecture. Just like thousand others, Sanket Avlani grew up in this fun-filled chaos and taxis were his lifeline too.
With an academic qualification of a Software Engineer, Sanket is a self-taught graphic designer who decided to polish his passion with a degree in Art Direction from MICA, Ahmedabad. He worked with ad agencies like Publicis, Creativeland Asia and then moved to London to work with the very prestigious Weiden + Kennedy.
The Birth Of Taxi Fabric
“I was working with one of the top most advertising agencies in London. During my stay, I grew as a person and absorbed a lot from people and experiences. The thought behind my venture, Taxi Fabric also took birth here. We turn taxi upholstery that goes on seats and ceilings into a canvas for young designers to show off their design talent and storytelling skills. I moved back to Mumbai a while ago and decided to give this a concrete shape.”
Funded by Kickstarter, Taxi Fabric was also promoted by Weiden + Kennedy. Sanket has now set up a studio in Mumbai where he takes up commercial design–inspired projects in order to make his venture sustainable. “We are in the process of launching our first commercial product in the market. We will roll out fabrics for anything and everything. Something to suit every requirement. Design is our strength and we wish to capitalize on it”.
When Art Lights Up Conversations
Having revamped over 25 taxis in the city, Sanket derives his motivation from the conversations this project creates between the taxi drivers and the passengers.
He says, “My interaction with taxi drivers in the research phase of the project told me how disappointed they felt. Most of them live away from their families in tough conditions and their income is low too. When we spread the word about our project there was immediate excitement. We started with the taxi drivers I knew thanks to my traveling since childhood. In no time, the news spread in the taxi driver community and now we have a long list of people who want this makeover”. Sanket adds –
“Hearing stories from taxi drivers is what is the most exciting part of the journey. A 60-year-old woman told one of the taxi drivers that she would never forget her drive in the beautiful taxi. It was an experience she would cherish forever. It is these small things that make a difference and put a smile on people’s face”.
Passengers especially children love travelling in taxis that look bright, colourful and quirky. Taking photographs with their ride for the day is not new. In fact taxi drivers themselves look forward to taking their taxi out each day. It gives them a new, refreshed feeling everyday.
Art That Spells Social Messages
Sanket says – “Taxi Fabric began with just free make overs. But we didn’t want to stop here. We wanted to make and spread ‘meaning’ to the whole exercise. I think a lot of these social issues that exist today are due to lack of communication. We decided to use our strength to convey messages of social relevance. Our designs conveyed crucial messages of women’s rights, the Indian sign language, and road safety awareness among others”.
“A friend of mine works for Mann, a center for individuals with special needs. He came to us proposing to let the special kids be a part of one of the makeovers. The idea excited us but we wondered how we could implement the same. A meeting with the teachers at the center made this approachable for our team. She told us how the organization was training these children to fearlessly face the world but the world was not ready to let them be independent.”
“Keeping this in mind, Shruti Thakkar, the illustrator on the project started her work. Her style primarily revolved around a colouring book. The final day arrived and it was filled with so much excitement. The special kids actually coloured the fabric independently and the joy on their faces filled us with immense satisfaction. Surreal. In fact I still get calls from them requesting me to bring another taxi that they could have fun with”.
Bettering Lives In This World
Sanket and his team have been in the process of exploring brand collaborations to keep the project going. They are also looking for sponsors to help them initiate more socially driven campaigns.
The project ‘Taxi Fabric’ has been creating the buzz in the city and has attracted designers to showcase their thoughts through art in the taxi and now the three-wheeler auto rickshaws too. Sanket’s biggest goal for the year is to make Taxi Fabric a sustainable project and expand it in more cities across India. “We want to go all out to colleges and get young students to use the platform to showcase their talent”
“I think if you have an idea which is clear to you but unclear and outlandish to the rest of the world it is an indicator of how you should give it everything to make it happen. Feedback is important but that shouldn’t be the indicator of the success of the idea. You can only judge it by the failure of its implementation. We need to come up with ideas that can impact people’s lives. There is already so much that is being done, ideas now need to be clutter breaking and aid betterment of lives in its own small or big way.”
Sanket concludes with this message for all the artsy people out there- “We want to encourage people to design for more. Art is not only a form of expression but it must now solve the problems of people. If you have the skill set, appreciate it, and set forth to make your own journey”.
Team KYS wishes Sanket Avlani and his team all the success in this colorful and meaningful journey they have set out on. We cannot wait to experience Taxi Fabric!
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