Pulling the Strings of Change
Project Kayakalp aims to empower traditional puppeteers and expand their income generation possibilities by making their art relevant to contemporary audiences and capitalising on unexplored markets.

Project Kayakalp aims to empower traditional puppeteers and other artists of Kathputli colony, Shadipur Depot and expand their income generation possibilities, while also using the medium of puppetry to convey social and environmental messages.

Puppetry, in India has seen a downward gradient from being an art which lit up the Indian streets and courtrooms, to being pushed to hopeless anonymity reduced by the contemporary forms of entertainment. Project Kayakalp is an initiative to revive the dying art form.

The endeavour aspires to set the stage for these preservers of Indian heritage to display their forte in full fervour, hoping to empower the community with new found certainty and faith in the art form. We aim to achieve this by expanding the community’s income generation possibilities, by making their art relevant to contemporary audiences and capitalising on unexplored markets.

Goals and Objectives of Project Kayakalp

// Revive

To revive traditional art forms and to preserve the rich cultural heritage of our country.

// Empower

To empower these artists by expanding and stabilising their income.

// Educate

To educate children on social and environmental issues using the mode of puppetry.

// The Community and the Business Model

The project is based in the slums of Kathputli Colony, Shadipur Depot, in New Delhi, home to a host of talented artists like the Indian puppeteers, sword-swallowers and folk dancers - jewels that adorn the Indian heritage which have been pushed to the verge of extinction due to lack of audience.

Professional problems like seasonal nature of work, lack of education, lack of a basic organisational structure, restricted market exposure and internal wage cutting have forced them to live in deplorable conditions.

The project can broadly be divided into two phases:

// Phase 1: PILOT

Comprises the phase which began with 4 artists, who after the requisite training and successful collaborations with established theatre groups, went on to stage 20 shows and 3 workshops across Delhi.

// Phase 2: EXPANSION

Establishing brand value and sustainable contracts with even management companies, fair organisers and cultural institutions by undertaking effective marketing for the theme based shows built by the team – now scaled up to 14 puppeteers.

Our business model starts with identification of low-income puppeteers, development of their script- building skills by professionals, and exposing them to varied forms of puppetry to broaden their horizons. They, then develop puppet shows based on social or environmental themes. They also conduct various puppet making workshops for ball puppets, sock puppets and Bunraku puppets. About 4 workshops and 7 stalls have been successfully held.


Triple Bottom-Line Impact

// Economic

The income of the puppeteers has risen to over 3 times their previous income. Their income during the lean period has also increased substantially.

// Social

The revival of the traditional art form of puppetry is a step towards preserving the cultural heritage of India. The messages spread by the puppet shows among children sensitize them to pertinent social and environmental issues.

// Environmental

All marketing and print material like posters and brochures are made of eco-friendly material. Further, our puppetry workshops also teach children to make puppets out of old newspapers; the puppet shows too spread important environmental messages. .

// Our Vision

In the near future, we wish to organize the artists into a puppet theatre group with a rotating ruling committee which will cater to their need for a self-sufficient professional body. This structure will provide an identity/brand-name to these artists whilst securing long-term patronage. Moreover, the formation of an organization would combat the issue of fierce competition within the community which leads to downward-wage spiral.