ANTS: A miraculous revolution! Store and Cafe
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
Be it like the ants working industriously as a cohesive team to achieve what they aspire to, ANTS Store and Café is one such beautiful marvel.
It was a sunny wintery afternoon when I just about arrived past noon at this lovely store away from the bustling 100 feet road, Indiranagar. As I rushed in, my eyes caught a glimpse of the colorful displayed apparels, intricate accessories and unique pottery pieces. I was unaware of the fact that I was on the verge of hearing an inspiring story behind this vibrant collection.
Here I was meeting the modest Smitha Murthy the Co-Founder at ANTS Store and Café, Indiranagar. Smitha is a textile designer and works wholeheartedly with ANTS. Her journey with ANTS (Action Northeast Trust), a NGO in Bongaigaon, Assam, started in 2002 as part of her graduation project. She mainly worked with the Bodo tribes on various aspects like sustainable livelihood for the women, providing better health facilities, education, spreading positive stories about the tribes, their culture much against the views of the conflicts and riots which they were usually known for.
After her graduation, Smitha started working in Bangalore only to quit one and half years later to pursue her passion by wanting to make a difference and to be a part of ANTS completely.
A Design Service Center was initiated in Bongaigaon which provides the basic guidelines, training, facilities and techniques for the tribes and other upcoming organizations across the North-eastern states of India. The Center makes sure that the designs and the identity of the Bodo tribes are preserved. They work under the guidelines of Fair Trade Forum- India, Asia and World Fair Trade Organization which enables fair wages to the artisans and is devoid of child labor. The organizations and people have stood strong against riots, logistical issues and seasonal changes. The Design Center now also caters to Jammu and Kashmir and Orissa.
In 2004, Smitha founded the AAGOR Weavers’ Association in Bongaigaon which is currently run by the women. There are about 100-150 weavers who are a part of this association and they work from their homes.
In 2007-2008, the ANTS Store and Café was started in Bangalore. It is the only store in India focusing and working with Northeast Artisans directly. The products sold here are Apparels, Pottery, Baskets, Handicrafts, and Jewelry. The authenticity, the creativity and the spirit of the artisans shines in all of these beautiful creations.
The ANTS team here in Indiranagar and Whitefield Bangalore comprises yet another cohesive group- CEO: Sridhar, Textile Designers: Smitha and Shwetha, Business Development Executive: Pradeep, Store Manager: Anamika, Café Manager: Prem, Volunteer: Neil Bryan who has been a part of the store close 6-7 years now. There is one another ANTS Franchise opened in Chennai.
Smitha says, “The journey ahead is to increase the livelihood of the artisans. We are planning to scale up more retail stores in Bangalore and other cities, provide online shopping forum and also increase the Exports to Europe and USA.”
ANTS Café and Events:
The Store also houses Art exhibitions, food festivals highlighting the cuisine of North-eastern states, Musical evenings etc. There is a Café on the first floor which offers delicious English breakfasts, tasty snacks and organic drinks. It has been nominated multiple times for the best English Breakfasts in Bangalore. The place is serene and it is a great place to hang out with friends. There is a small library too where one can read a book leisurely and enjoy the space. The open-air ambience of the café is lovely. With a dash of creativity in the setting of this small café, it makes one want to spend more and more time.
Well amidst numerous atrocities, riots which the tribes go through, ANTS surely has been a ray of hope to many groups of people in the North-East of India, especially women in trying to bring about a positive, healthy livelihood and an enriching life. Kudos to all the wonderful people working towards a beautiful, joyful world and making a magnanimous difference in the lives of people. I am thoroughly glad to have met such a person in Smitha who has not only contributed a lot to the organization but whose sole purpose is to work for the betterment and be the voice of the artisans!
You can check out more about ANTS on the below websites:
ANTS Website: http://www.theant.org/
ANTS Store and Café, Bangalore: http://theantsstore.com/
Do visit, shop, eat at this wonderful ANTS Store and Café here in Bangalore!