Think Bastar, and the images that come to mind are forests, tribals and of course, Maoists. But like many other conflict regions, where violence eclipses everything else about a place, tiny revolutions are slowly taking place deep within the community. Bambooks, a cycle completely made from bamboo happens to be one of them.
A year back, 30-year-old Asif Khan launched his start-up in the region 'Naturescapes' which is all about crafts innovation. While they have already made bamboo cycles and bamboo thermoses, are all set to start with Bamboo utensils production, the past one year has been spent in perfecting the bike.
"There is much more to the project than just commerce. Several students from the region have studied fine arts, but there are not enough employment opportunities. That is where we come in," he says.
The cycle, which was displayed at the recent National Tribal Dance Festival held in Raipur had a long gestation period considering Khan wanted to launch a product that set new benchmark.
"For around four months, we worked with our designers and artisans, but found that the geometry, ride quality and experience was not up to the mark. We contacted the Bamboo Club of Britain, but their consultancy charges and training were, too, expensive. Finally, we got in touch with Mumbai-based Captain Shashishekhar Pathak (maker of ï¿½Bamboochi' bamboo cycles), who stays in Mumbai, and shared prototypes of our bike. He advised us to start from scratch and guided all the way through WhatsApp. Putting the final product to test, we found it could carry a payload of 100 kg."
Considering the fact that the manufacturing cost of the bike comes to nearly Rs 20,000, Khan admits that the product will not really gain much popularity in rural areas, precisely why consumers in metro are being targeted.
"Also, this product is bound to make people take notice of us," says Khan.
Very few people in India have managed to make a usable bamboo cycle. And their cycle is quite different in other respects too -- "All over the world, only bamboo is used to make such a cycle whereas we have used four materials for the same -- Sheeshpal, bamboo, wrought iron and bell metal. We call it 'Dokra art'. We make mud guards of wrought iron which are handcrafted and bell metal is used for wire buttons and pedals," Khan adds.
Excited that the unveiling of the cycle at the festival generated multiple inquiries, Khan says that world over, demand for such bikes is high for multiple reasons -- it is not easy to produce them commercially, and bamboo boasts of a excellent shock absorbing property.
When you ride a normal metal bike, the vibrations from shocks and bumps are directly transferred through the metal body of the bicycle to the rider. Precisely why we witness knee and back problems in almost all cyclists.
Smiling that branding the product was quite easy, just like anything from Kashmir, be it shawls, apples and dry fruits get a premium when tagged 'Kashmiri', he feels that Bastar, too, has a unique brand value.
"We have tourism, tribals, nature, landscape, adventure and archaeological sites etc."