Incorporating Indian art with lifestyle products, this artist has created 15 crore profits

  • Akriti Art Creations employs and blends a variety of traditional art forms to create unique product designs.
  • Suman Sonthalia, founder of Aakriti Art, has been awarded the President’s National Award for Best Handicrafts in India
  • Akriti began selling Warli Art paintings, and now offers a wide range of furniture and home décor items.

Growing up in a middle-class family in the small town of Bhagalpur in Bihar, Suman Sonthalia had a hat on her dreams. Instead of aiming big, she was only expected to obtain a basic education, do household chores, and acquire skills such as sewing and weaving—all in order to find a good match.

However, Sonthalia had other plans.

“I played with time. I did things I was expected to do, but in my head, I knew my life wasn’t going to be like this,” SMB story.

Today, Sonthalia is the Sahibabad-based Aakriti Art Creations and recipient of the President’s National Award for Best Handicrafts (Shilp Guru).

“align=”center”>Suman Sonthalia

Akriti’s artistic creations employ a variety of traditional and folk art forms. He mixes them to create distinctive designs and lifestyle products across categories such as furniture, crafts, home décor, utility items, jewelry, etc. The prices of the products range from 100 rupees to 3 lakh rupees.

The brand has 3,000 SKUs in its portfolio. These include dining tables, shelves, cabinets, sofas, mirrors, lampshades, ceramics, earrings, necklaces, etc.

Entrepreneurship journey

After moving to Delhi after marriage, Sonthalia visited a handicraft museum where she would study and replicate a painting. That’s when a passerby offered to buy her artwork if she would like to do more. Then I started painting and selling war art. The motivation was simple – she wanted to be financially independent.

She trained and formed a team of six women, and began working with them from the living room of her rented home. In 1998, she created Aakriti Art.

Akritian art

Akriti products

“I created a mixture of Warli and Dhokra art in a painting for Central Cottage shop in Janpath,” says the founder. Her life experiences – coming from a rural background and settled into an urban landscape – are reflected in her art.

regional art

Akriti displays a mixture of regional arts from different countries. These include Warli from Maharashtra, Madhubani from Bihar, Dokra and Patachitra from West Bengal, Kalamkari from Andhra Pradesh, Mandana from Rajasthan and Gond from Chhattisgarh.

“In just one product, we give a glimpse into different Indian states. Each product has a story to tell,” says Sonthalia.

The company’s B2B clients include Pepperfry, itokri, Central Cottage Emporium, Fabindia, and Shoppers Stop, as well as other local stores. In addition, it sells through D2C channels like Amazon, Flipkart, and its own website, It also has a small outlet attached to its factory in Sahibabad Industrial Area where customers can buy directly.

By 2004, Sonthalia realized that the demand for paintings was not high, so she decided to combine art with utility. Then Akriti started making household items like vases, trays, jars, cups, etc. From 2004 to 2007, the team grew to 25 members and the brand’s products began to gain recognition for using eco-friendly materials to create innovative designs.

In 2008, she and her husband, Brij Bihar Sonthalia, invested Rs 50 lakh to purchase a workspace in Ghaziabad to enable the company to expand into more categories, especially wood products. As it moved into a more professional space, the company began taking orders from larger stores such as Fabindia.

There are currently 150 employees on the company’s payroll, of which 100 are women trained for free. Aakriti also has hundreds of artisans from states including Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and West Bengal. Sonthalia has trained over a thousand women so far and helped them become financially independent.

Entering new categories

In the year 2009, it set up a factory in Sahibabad Industrial Area in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh with increasing volume of work. It houses a furniture manufacturing unit, a sample showroom, a handicraft assembly unit, and a design studio.

Akriti started producing furniture in 2010-2011 which is currently one of its best selling categories. While it started off selling only seats, it now has a full range of furniture, including beds, sofas, dining tables, wardrobes, and hammocks.

Akritian art

Al-Akriti Furniture

The furniture is made of pure teak wood with a walnut finish and is mostly targeted at the middle and upper classes. It starts from Rs 5,000 and goes up to Rs 3 lakh.

Sonthalia’s son, Utsav Sonthalia, joined the business as CTO in 2014 to focus on the internet and target consumers between the ages of 20-30. Since 2016, the company has started to focus more on digital and exports.

In the last year, Aakriti has exported products worth Rs 3 crore – directly or indirectly – through its clients like Maharashtra-based Asha Handicrafts. It is currently exporting to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the United Kingdom.

Akriti also started selling jewelry during the pandemic to good response. On average, it receives around two lakh visitors every month to its website. In FY23, the company earned Rs 15 crore in revenue.

to move on

While many of Aakriti’s B2B clients do not sell its products under its own brand, the company will now focus more on selling directly.

Recently, the brand received a jewelry order from Italy. “There is great potential for this category in the European market. We plan to focus more on exports,” she adds.

Although Sonthalia relies on the quality of its products to expand its business, it wants more help from the government in exporting. “As a national awardee, I gained recognition because of the government, but government policies and initiatives did not help much in getting applications,” says the founder.

The company aims to double its revenues by the next fiscal year.

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