In October 2016, Purpose Climate Lab spearheaded the 100% Uttar Pradesh campaign. It was around the time of the state elections and the time when news was out about India’s vision to move towards 100 percent electric mobility by 2030. In July 2017, we partnered with the second phase of the 100% Uttar Pradesh campaign, along with Design Fabric to really push the message and build awareness around clean energy solutions through The Banaras Project.

The idea: To use Banaras’ e-rickshaws to highlight clean and green transportation by turning them into beautiful, informative travelling design on clean energy.

How: By launching a country-wide open call for entries that would led to a design-sprint with three designers to create Taxi Fabrics for the e-rickshaws.

Over the next few months, the three chosen designers – Neethi, Tarini Sethi and Sumantra Mukherjee – along with the teams from Purpose Climate Lab and Design Fabric worked relentlessly to put together these uniquely design e-rickshaws that were officially launched in Banaras on November 1, 2017.

The residency program really allowed the three chosen artists to explore, understand and interact with the city and its people. In order to achieve that collaborative way of working, it was imperative to understand the mindset of the people and speak to them in a way that they would understand. “The designs really needed to be easy to grasp by anyone – a tea stall vendor or a university professor”, adds Sakshi Bhalla, senior strategist at Purpose Climate Lab.

But this is simply the beginning for the team. “The 100% Uttar Pradesh campaign goes on for the next six months and we will continue to use the e-rickshaws in all our engagements. The Swacch Urja Yatra that included the e-rickshaws designed by artists Neethi, Tarini Sethi and Sumantra Mukherjee and that launched in Banaras on November 1, will now move to Lucknow and Allahabad, stopping in between both these places in several districts to engage and connect with the local audiences”, quips Sakshi.


For Delhi-based fine artist Tarini Sethi, The Banaras Project happened by surprise. “I think it was an itch in me to get out of Delhi for a bit and do something and so I applied. The next thing I know I had gotten in and that was it”, she reminisces.

Working with pen and ink and metal sculptures, Tarini defines her style of work as “romanticised figures in an architectural form”. A lot of her work surrounds making alternate universes where everything is beautiful and lush and perfect. And her concept for The Banaras Project was not far from that. “I wanted to create a Utopian Banaras where everything is beautiful and clean; a Banaras from few years ago when we didn’t have the glaring climate issue. That was my basic idea. I also remember that whenever I used to read about climate change, I realised that it is something that we think is so far away, but we fail to realise that it’s happening right now and it’s happening around us. And because of this, I wanted the design to be fun and not just a typical information style poster.”

A quick look at Tarini’s e-rickshaw and you instantly grasp her idea. The Banaras in her design is clean with bright blue water, a spotless sky and a strong focus on the city’s infamous ghats. “My focus was on the ghats and the blue sky, because that’s what I knew of the city even before I visited.” There is also a heavy inclusion of local elements such as a heavy dose of people and the sprinkling of cows and goats. But a closer look reveals something with a deeper message. The Pratt Institute graduate’s design is riddled with suns. Bright yellow glowing orbs. Placed gently in the hands of the people, perched atop the heads of the animals and decoratively adorning the ghats. But all this isn’t without a reason. “If you see, in my design I’ve put in a million suns so that even people who have no clue about climate change form their own understanding of it. I wanted to my work to be obvious without being obvious at all. I wanted people to interpret it in their own way”, she adds.

Speaking about her experience, she says, “the actual trip and the residency was amazing. I mostly work alone and don’t really meet that many other artists and designers, so it was nice to be around people who share the same interests as me. What I also found interesting was that usually, I have a free reign with a lot of my work. Whereas here I worked closely with a team and had to take a lot of direction from them. So, I would count the experience as one of the hardest things I’ve done since art school. It was intense but in an extremely fulfilling way.”

The Banaras Project is supported by 100% Uttar Pradesh.