Where art is more than just a hobby
Ritwika Chaudhuri's institute offers training for a career in art
The UAE is proving to be one of the most progressive countries in the Gulf to support women entrepreneurs, says Ritwika Chaudhuri, founder director, The Palette Art Training and Consultancy. Palette has been functioning as a full-scale art training institute for 17 months.
"The country is encouraging women in leading roles in all sectors, be it in the ministry, business, corporate or financial sector. There are women entrepreneurs in almost every field and they have carved a niche of their own," says Ritwika.
The go-getter mother of two believes the UAE has started becoming a hub for art and creativity. The government is creating a conducive atmosphere with its policies such as creating dedicated art and design districts. Most importantly, the presence of several nationalities and culture has made the UAE a melting pot of ideas, styles and practices.
Ritwika recalls how the idea to create Palette was born when she was learning to use water colours from a reputed Indian artist, Atul Panase, in 2012-13.
"In the midst of our learning sessions, we used to talk about setting up a dream art institute, more serious in its pursuit, offering diplomas and certificates - something not very typical in Dubai as far as fine arts is concerned. The idea was to go beyond a mere hobby and help students with a preparatory or foundation course for college or for those who wanted to pursue art as a future career," says the M.Phil degree holder in international trade and development from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
No professional help
Ritwika realised that students who aspire to take up art and design, architecture or fashion designing as a future career need to submit a portfolio of their work. There was not much professional help available to guide such students.
"We wanted to position ourselves as a professional guide for this segment. This apart, the regular consultancy aspect of art as well as commissioning of projects were other important verticals we considered," says Ritwika.
She adds that an entrepreneur's journey is never easy - the process is tough, full of uncertainty and challenging. "You are not born an entrepreneur, but you can be one if you have the fire within you to test and try, to build something of your own and most importantly, if you are passionate about what you are doing," she says.
Ritwika's first year was lost in the process of trial and error and to keep finding answers - what to do, how to do, is there another way to do the same thing, etc. "The challenges are many: to target the right audience for your business, develop the business, convert customers, manage finances, recruitment and most importantly, spreading the word or marketing," she adds.
"You learn in the process, managing issues one by one and going up step by step, slow but steady. Today, after a year and half in the business, I am learning the do's and don'ts of how to choose the right employee for your organisation, what is the best way to reach people, effective marketing and communication tools, how best to use digital media, manage your cash flow and the tricks to continue despite new challenges every day."
Palette has received an overwhelming response from the second quarter of this year, she claims, with the number of students at the institute going up substantially. Ritwika has also started receiving responses for commission jobs, collaborative work, workshops and entered into contracts with educational institutes in Dubai. Palette Art recently signed a contract with Academy Plus, the sister concern of Gems Education, for after-school activities for schools under the Gems group.
"To reach our target audience, Palette has undertaken different marketing strategies - some conventional and direct, others indirect. We were present in different fairs and cultural functions as sponsors and school events to spread the word, distributed flyers door to door and also participated in the Sikka Art Fair and hotel shows to reach our target audience," Ritwika observes.
"Our unconventional way of marketing is through inter-school art competitions. One of our most successful marketing strategies is digital media and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc."
Palette is keen to work with corporates to do workshops for employees, spread the concept of art as a therapy and also take up turnkey projects of art and installation for hospitality and other real estate sectors.
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