School friends start website for ‘affordable art’

School friends start website for ‘affordable art’, the e-commerce site they launched this year, offers artists and artisans in the UAE a convenient portal to showcase and sell their handmade goods.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Sun 25 May 2014, 8:53 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:44 PM

Ekta and Nafisa. — Supplied photo

Nafisa Rebello and Ekta Saran grew up together, became friends in school and are business partners now, having introduced in the UAE market a website where you can buy handicrafts made by UAE residents exclusively, the e-commerce site they launched this year, offers artists and artisans in the UAE a convenient portal to showcase and sell their handmade goods. Ideyna means ‘our hands’ in Arabic.

“We launched on February 4 but the idea (occurred) about two years,” says Saran.

“We have a love for handmade products in common,” adds Rebello. “After a trip to Artisans of the Emirates (Arte) about two years ago we realised the UAE does not have a marketplace for handicrafts.”

The two women left their jobs to pursue on a full-time basis. The website is now celebrating its first month of success.

“What is unique about the website is that it provides creative entrepreneurs a personalised space that becomes something like their e-shop,” explains Rebello. “They can upload content — like pictures, videos, and details about the products that they want to sell. Their shop showcases the items they make, supported by a gallery of photographs of the items with descriptions and prices.”

There is no registration fee or listing charge for a seller; takes a commission when an item is sold.

The website also arranges shipping items to buyers worldwide.

“Our initial visit to Arte baffled us because we did not know that there were so many artisans,” says Saran. “Mostly stay-at-home mums or wives who were making such fascinating products. The problem with most of them was that they did not have a platform or space to sell their products. And that is where we wanted to help.”

“Take for example one of our shops, Ragmatazz. The women behind these brightly colored kaftans, bags, and clutches are Minakshi Nagu and her daughters Rohini and Ragini. Minakshi works from her garage-turned-workshop in Sharjah,” says Rebello.’s uniqueness lies in the fact that instead of just selling handicrafts, the women encourage dialogue between the buyer and the artist.

“We sit down and analyse the work and product of each and every artist. We establish a very interpersonal relationship with them. That is what we are looking to do in the long run, establish a sort of community that encourages handmade art,” says Rebello.

Currently, there are more than 300 items for sale while about 25 local artisans are using the platform. The website sells everything from art to accessories, clothing, jewellery, kids’ wear, bath and beauty products and toys. The prices range between under Dhs100 to over Dhs500.

Currently, is open only to sellers from the UAE, However, there are plans to include artists from other countries.

Affordable art

Among the products are jute clutches from Ragmatazz, wrap dresses from Teal, leather-bound journals from Surat, shell and lace pendants by Breeze Clothing, and knit cushions by Finishing Touches.

“The website’s focus is on ‘affordable art’. It’s a virtually untapped market and we know a lot of local artists who sell very affordable art,” says Rebello.

UAE-based, South African artist Eileen van der Merwe’s desert landscapes are up for grabs at about Dhs500 each. Laober Zhu’s beautiful watercolour paintings of Dubai’s skyline are also up for sale at Dhs400 onwards. Zhu is a third-generation artist. Then there are the pencil coasters by Crafty Dust, which are made from stubs of vibrantly coloured pencils.

“Anyone looking for something unique, creative and original will be right at home on Everything is one of a kind. You won’t find them in a mall near you,” say the founders. “It’s amazing how talented the artisans here are. Through ideyna, we want to show their skill to the world.”

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