Khazaana Bazaara: A marketplace for international products

Elizabeth Vaughan

Starting Feb. 8, three Lawrence University students opened Khazaana Bazaara, a storefront on College Avenue to sell jewelry, pottery and art from around the world. They collaborated with The Rabbit Gallery, an art gallery that utilizes for-sale areas in downtown Appleton, in order to promote local artists within the Appleton community.

The works come from eight countries: Bulgaria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, India, China, Ghana, and South Korea. The founders, Aimen Khan, Ranga Wimalasuryia and Vishvesh Subramanian, aim to analyze market behaviors and taste over a three-week period, ending Feb. 29.

Through the commerce of international goods, Khazaana Bazaar’s founders hope to raise awareness of international artisans, to educate consumers about the uses and origin of their products, and to promote the understanding of how culture and tradition affects the craftsmanship of the items.

“We wanted to give back to society and help eradicate the problem of poverty. Through microenterprise networking, we can find skilled labor who don’t have the ability or means to start their own studio with a large clientele, and we can help them,” said Khan. “As college students, we learn that there is no real solution to anything, but we do learn there are a lot of ways to help and give back to society.”

The name of the store, Khazaana Bazaar, translates from Persian and Urdu into “Treasure Market.” The idea stemmed from a class Khan took, called “The Pursuit of Innovation.” “I wanted to do the project in class, but since the professors didn’t want me to do it one term, I wanted to do it as a Lawrence project.”

Khazaana Bazaar’s founders come from several different countries and are enthusiastic about sharing their culture. Khan is originally from Lahore, Pakistan and grew up immersed in cultural exhibits and shows. He is a double major in economics and government, and served as president of Lawrence International. He was introduced to consumer trends towards traditional artisans when he helped contribute efforts for Pakistan Flood Relief last year.

Wimalasuryia comes from Colombo, Sri Lanka, and is already experienced with running businesses as CFO of the 2011 edition of the Rabbit Gallery. He has also managed small scale corporate and social events at an event management company in Sri Lanka. Wimalasuryia is interested in marketing and corporate finance, and for the past two summers, he interned with the Deutsche Bank and the Tata group.

Last December, Wimalasuryia visited two of the most impoverished provinces in China, Yunnan and Guizhou. There, he networked and brought back artwork from women and minority artisans specializing in batik paintings.

Khazaana Bazaar’s third co-founder, Subramanian, is a double major in mathematics and economics. He was raised in India, Singapore and Ohio, and interned at Frost & Sullivan working in market research. He is also a student assistant in the office of International Student Services.

These founders also employ the help of international students in order to create even more networks and to ensure that items from these countries are in good condition when they are sold. The co-founders are well-versed in the background of their items. For example, one of their products, a decorated and adorned sculpture of an elephant, comes from a rich history of the Esala Perahera festival, which the largest parade in the world. “In Sri Lanka, the elephants wear cloaks and carry the relic of the Buddha out of the stupa. Seventy-five percent of the country is Buddhist, and it is a huge tradition,” Wimalasuryia explained.

The store sells many items made out of materials such as camel bone, wooden lacquer, and handwoven thread. “Our Bolivian scarves are quite popular, as are many of the small keychains and products from Pakistan,” said Khan. Other products include traditional sandals from Pakistan, intricate painted plates from Bulgaria, cell phone cases, bracelets and bangles, small sculptures, and woven rugs.

Pop-up galleries like The Rabbit Gallery have enjoyed immense success in much larger cities, and The Rabbit Gallery hopes to become a permanent, though moveable, addition to the Appleton community. The Rabbit Gallery hopes to not only showcase international artists but also to showcase the Lawrence artistic community to help bolster their artistic résumés and to give them an enormous advantage to their future professional careers.

Unlike many stores that exhibit art, this gallery would take 33 percent of the total price as opposed to 50 percent, which would allow the artist to earn a fairer commission. In the future, Khan hopes to expand Khazaana into the entire Rabbit Gallery storefront on College Avenue, and for it to become a permanent fixture in Appleton.

The store is located at 502 W. College Avenue, across from Victoria’s. The store will be open from 4-8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 10-2 p.m. on Saturday. The store’s website is www.khazaanabazaar.com.

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