As students, Shalinee Ghosh and Krishna Kumar were compulsive travellers who would accept photography assignments to cover their costs. During shoots they realised that tourists were seeking souvenirs specific to a site to take back home but typical souvenir shops would offer jaded options.
“One notices the same products everywhere. Kashmiri shawls in Goa and Gujarati mirror work in Khajuraho. There was nothing specific to a region for the discerning Indian; a sort of well-designed India-specific product for everyday use or to be given as presents,” clarifies Ghosh, a Kolkata resident who studied at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, and went on to start her design studio with Kumar in 2000.
In October 2010, the duo tested the waters by creating three designs that they sold at an exhibition in Delhi. They were curious to figure whether a market for products that revived traditional arts packaged in modern designs existed. The positive response spurred them on, and online store Froggmag took shape.
Explaining the significance of the title, Ghosh says, “It is believed that when the frog stops breathing the world will stop breathing. We found museum shops and gift shops outside heritage monuments to be lifeless. So, we felt that our Froggs were needed all over the place. Besides the Frogg makes for a great logo. We started off thinking we would create magnets and magnetic products only. Hence the tagline Magnetic India.”
Ghosh explains how things work here, “We have to get into the depth of every image we use for all our products. India’s heritage, art forms, colours, smells — everywhere you look there is something you can capture in a product.”
Apart from fridge magnets check out the magnetic bookmarks with motifs found on the Taj Mahal, Amber Fort and Itmad-Ud-Daulah mausoleum in Agra. They also offer magnets with designs found on Kalamkari and Baluchari textiles, as well as ones with images of monuments in old Goa, Delhi, Hampi, Sanchi and Khajuraho. They have folk art jigsaw puzzles with images of Gond paintings, Pattachitra, Madhubani, Santhal and Phad artworks as well.
Stationery lovers can go gaga over their lined and plain notebooks, which can be used as sketch pads or autograph books. If this isn’t enough, there are stunning Gond artworks as separators inside. This apart, you can also soak in Mughal era motifs on bridge sets. Of the lot, their bookmarks and puzzles are bestsellers, and their customer base includes a lot of tourists.
Apart from this, they also customise and brand products. While Ghosh and Kumar ideate and design every product, they also work closely with tribal and folk artists who do a few commissioned works. The duo has also developed exclusive collections for the National Museum, New Delhi, and FabIndia. A few Asian art museums, the Reitberg Museum in Zurich sell their products. They also retail in Japan.
Summing up the journey, Ghosh says, “We attempt to sell a story through every product — one that helps people learn a bit more about India from the mementos they choose. Be it the colours on our streets and walls that mark your page, the Mughal miniatures or folk art that shape
a puzzle, the opportunities are limitless.”