By Mubasher Hasan.
Covid 19 is still at large and we are all doing our best to get used to the new normal. Among many activities, light recreation like reading, painting, games, and such are some of the most effective ways of keeping ourselves positive. The co-founders of ‘Kraftz’, Tasliman Azam and Abdullah Salman put their faith in the healing power of off-screen interactive recreation and start their venture based off of it. They talk to colors about their entrepreneurial journey and their unique products.
Despite all hope, 2022 is no different from the persistent chaos that is the “roaring” 20s. Covid 19 is still making its way through all the characters of the Greek alphabet and we are still trying to hold onto our sanity any way we can. Though the tiktok trends and the viral recipes were fun at first, people need recreations that are lasting and therapeutic. Therefore, many of us went back to our old habits of reading, painting and playing board games. Pandemic or not, these activities can get more eventful and impactful than video games, social media or the internet. With that principle in mind, Kraftz brings their own line of interactive products. As the co-founder Tasliman Azam says, “our initial idea was to locally produce items that were being imported, but as time went by we realized that we ended up making products that help people escape their hectic lives. Anything that could bring them out of their busy schedules for a moment.”
Kraftz initially started as a passion project for Azam as he started making bookmarks when he was in his third year of undergrad and gradually evolved and expanded to other areas as well. The business took wind in 2016 with Azam in the helm, until Salman joined in 2020. As they keep emphasizing, “our goal was to provide passion based products. Since reading is a passion, we decided to design bookmarks; for organizing and decorating we designed fun stickers.”
Then in 2018, they decided to design board games. The primary objective was to bring back the chaotic culture that grew around board games. While there are lots of fun and engaging board games all over the world, only a few of the classics like ludo, chess, monopoly and the such are still popular in Bangladesh. And the duo wanted to make it a part of the hobby tree once again.
Growing up with the classic family board games, Azam initially attempted to bring back some of the classics with a modern twist. So he designed the Harry Potter themed snakes and ladders. As you can guess it is pretty much a standard snakes and ladders with a fun twist where the HP characters roam about on the board.
Since this was the only board game they made at this point and a snakes and ladders board of this theme and quality was not seen before. People assumed it was an imported game so the initial response was a bit subdued. “We didn’t achieve the desired mark with our first game” Azam said, “so we decided to bring in a new one which would solidify the fact that these games were produced locally. So I came up with ‘Race to Central Perk’”. This is a strategy game designed with the hit show “Friends” as its theme. The mechanics include character abilities and in-game currencies which is a newer design compared to the common games available, so it reached that desired mark for the company.
With the pandemic, people started to fall back to the reliable comfort and fun of board games. Which gave Azam more space to think. At the same time, people started knowing the company for their board games. So Azam started thinking of something more engaging and competitive. Which gave way to designing the next game, “The Upside Down.” It is a highly competitive, survival game that pits players against each other in a dark dimension.
As emphasized earlier, nostalgia plays a big part in the design behind these board games. For most people, being stuck at home unearthed the repressed memories of the long-gone childhood games that kept us occupied during the dark evenings of blackouts and load-sheddings. This touch of bittersweet memory can be seen in the creation of the game ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’. At the end of 2020, when Salman joined forces and the duo officially decided to expand their venture, they launched this highly intense and chaotic fun game. “This came to be the game which created the most heat.” Azam says, “It is very dramatic and very nostalgic as it is inspired from our childhood classic ‘Chor-Police-Dakat-Babu’. It triggered a spark and went on to be our highest selling game by far. We got all kinds of features and attention because of that.”
At this point the company garnered quite a dedicated following and their regular clients started chipping their own input regarding new ideas. By the time of the second lockdown, kraftz started getting regular requests for two-player games, since bigger gatherings were impossible. So, the duo came up with “Make Me Tea”, a slow build-up strategy game that requires steady planning to win.
Right now their latest game which was released in late 2021, is called “The Haunted House of Gulmondi”. When asked both Azam and Salman declared this one as their personal favorite since their entire team designed it along with feedback from their regular patrons. The design is a clever mix of both co-op and competitive gameplay in a 2v2 platform.
If you are wondering whether there’s a way to try out these games before buying them. They have an experience center in their store where they host game nights every Thursday, from 5 pm to 7 pm, completely free of cost. All you have to do is book your slot a day early. Since there’s a pandemic going on, only ten people are allowed at a time. “We call it an experience center because we prioritize the experience our krafters take away from our creations. It is basically a way for people to have a good time and relieve their stress after a long day of work.”
As Salman envisioned, there is more to escapism than books and board games. If you are an artist or an art nerd, Kraftz has got you covered with their set of coloring plates. A set of fifteen plates each with a different subject and theme. These also garnered a lot of demand from patrons, especially during the lockdown. Azam said, “one of our clients got infected with Covid and spent her entire lockdown with our coloring plates. She told us that was what kept her sane.”
Salman believes we have all been a little too screen dependent in recent years, especially younger, grooming kids. While they don’t hold anything against it, they love to see the younger generations spread out to other forms of recreation as well. That is why they try to bring up old and new kinds of hobbies.
Kraftz has not only been successful in bringing back the nostalgic fun of board games and manual recreations to millennials, they have also opened up an opportunity for Gen Z and kids coming of age to have access to more forms of fun and games and an opportunity to use their imaginations to groom their intellectual skills in a wider spectrum. They have also started out on other business prospective with their sister company CUBE where they provide retail packaging service on small-scale orders to support startups and small businesses. Salman says, “Not everyone can or need to order bulk amounts of packages, especially startups. What we provide is small scale orders, or even single pieces of premium quality, custom packaging.”
Lots of potentials and promises can be seen regarding the company’s future. Right now they’re working on a mystery-solving, detective board game, and an experiment relating to origami. They also have lots of plans regarding the experience center. They want to make it into a full hobby zone, where along with the board game corner, there will also be music corners and painting sessions.