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  Life   More Features  25 Apr 2017  Telling tales through taxis

Telling tales through taxis

Published : Apr 25, 2017, 12:14 am IST
Updated : Apr 25, 2017, 12:14 am IST

Mumbai-based Sanket Avlani’s quirky startup, TaxiFabric, is gaining international recognition.

Taxi Fabric’s work in an auto  rickshaw. (Photos: Taxi Fabric/ Instagram)
 Taxi Fabric’s work in an auto rickshaw. (Photos: Taxi Fabric/ Instagram)

Not conforming to conventional norms, always up for experimenting and a great eye for detail — these aspects have definitely made eyeballs turn towards Mumbai-based Sanket Avlani. The 29-year-old, who is the curator at a design startup TaxiFabric, was featured in the Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 recently for exemplary design work.

The quirky startup, which is fast gaining prominence in his hometown, connects young designers with taxi drivers and turns cabs into beautiful and artistic canvasses that are aimed to narrate stories, themes and also to make a cultural impact through illustrations. TaxiFabric is also now trying out the concept in auto rickshaws.

In a freewheeling chat with us, the youngster speaks about how the idea of TaxiFabric was conceived, on what it takes to become a successful designer, his future plans and more.

“I’m a person who has no formal training in almost everything I’ve done — I’m more of a DIY and self-taught person,”  starts Sanket. “But, growing up in a typical middle class upbringing, my parents were worried about me being an artist. So, I had been following the conventional track up until eight years ago — yes I did engineering! (laughs)”

Design in a taxiDesign in a taxi

Speaking about what art and design mean to him, he says, “I have always tried to draw inspiration from people and things around me. Even while I was pursuing engineering, I was the guy who could draw. I was the go-to guy for everyone in our college when it came to art.”  

He also feels, “I strongly believe that it’s good to be someone who’s always trying to experiment and not having to conform. It has also worked for me.”  As the conversation veers towards the highly acclaimed startup TaxiFabric, Sanket reveals the inspiration behind it — “After engineering, I did Crafting and Creative Communications course at MICA, Ahmedabad and that was the place where I had first interactions with like-minded and creative people.”

One thing I learnt was that art and design, as mediums, can definitely make a cultural impact — and that was what I exactly wanted to do. After completing the course, I got a job in London which was a dream for me at that time. While working there, I thought for around two years about Taxi Fabric.”

Sanket continues, “Being a typical Mumbai boy, I have always been a public transport person — and I love taxis! But after my tryst abroad and as a designer, I looked at taxis with a fresh pair of eyes. Every time you take a taxi, you notice that the seat cover is different, but you don’t make a big deal out of that — later, when I observed it, I was stunned! When I documented it, I thought to myself, ‘I can make this even better!’ I was also confident because our team has designers, who have been in this practice for years.  Graphic design and illustration are very sensitive practices and take years to understand and implement.”

After zeroing in on this idea, he then took his project to crowd-funding platform Kickstarter and got an overwhelming response —”When I put up my idea on Kickstarter, the response made me believe in it more. Only then did I start working on it, and built it as a product. When we started out in Mumbai, we had a terrific reception and ours is a product of that response. Even though I left my dream job and given that the startup only has a small set of audience, I am immensly satisfied” says Sanke.

He also makes a valid point that posting ideas on platforms like Kickstarter is very necessary for any aspiring designer. “That is the first thing one must do — in places like Kickstarter, there are people who wish to empower ideas which they think are going to work. Imagine… though the project is based out of India, more than 90 per cent who reached out were from abroad. Apart from this, for budding designers, it’s necessary to have an idea of what success would mean in this field —because it’s often misinterpreted. You should have your own definition for it — it doesn’t necessarily have to be about money or fame. Doing work that impacts the lives of people should be the foremost thing.”

When we query him regarding his plans for the future, Sanket says, “We’re soon coming out with a product line and are planning to release textile designs which auto rickshaw and taxi owners can purchase. Very soon, we will also be  launching Taxi Fabric in Pune.”

Tags: taxi drivers, taxifabric, auto rickshaws