Two youngsters have started a business that brings artefacts from different countries under one roof.
D'Hut. Eye-catching exteriors. Impressive interiors. Welcoming owners and a mind-blowing variety. That is pretty much what this ‘World Handicrafts' store on the ECR is all about.
The history, the story
Our story begins when Neethi realised his passion for handicrafts. A marine engineer by qualification and with the Merchant Navy by profession, this man soon realised his thirst for all craft handmade was far more than what one house could hold. The four walls of his house will not suffice for the amount he wanted to bring back to India from his many voyages. Thus, the dream of ‘D'Hut' began. What was primarily a passion soon transformed into a successful business and Neethi, along with wife Reshuma, found themselves doing what they enjoyed as a commercial venture.
The name itself strikes a chord. D'Hut. What is that? Where did it come from? How is it pronounced? Pronounced ‘The Hut', its etymology is, as Neethi puts it, “anywhere in the world, a person making handicrafts is most likely to be chipping away in some corner with a thatched roof above his head.” Since their products were born in huts, Neethi and Reshuma prefer to sell them from a hut as well. Then what of the spelling? Reshuma just laughs, “Oh! That's only to spice things up a bit”
Reshuma, an MBA who'd worked with FMCGs and the water-borne Neethi are 29-year-olds with a thirst to bring art to your doorstep or at least close. Starting with African masks, their business now brings you handicrafts from around 13 (and counting!) countries. The list includes Kenya, Rwanda, Cameroon, Tanzania, Egypt, Ghana, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Turkey, Iran and at one point included Korea as well, until stocks ran out! Now, they have started procuring Indian craft forms as well, with their fledgling collection comprising mostly traditional puppets.
When one is exposed to so many varied cultures, comparison becomes inevitable. Which craft form is most similar to Indian traditional forms? Pat comes the reply in unison. “Indonesia” they chime. “In fact,” Neethi elaborates, “often people can't even tell the difference.” And the most dissimilar? Another unanimous reply — Africa! Africa is also, according to the couple, the most vibrant of the many cultures they capture in their shop. Simply because the style is undiluted.
The confident and passionate couple does not consider anyone as competition, simply because they believe that no one else operates in their space. Neethi explains, “Most people selling handicrafts soon diversify into furniture soon. We just want to stick to natural interior décor products.” The market in general has been very encouraging and promising to this pair of entrepreneurs and in fact, they respect their clientele immensely for teaching them the tricks of the trade. Both hailing from different backgrounds, have managed to keep this one-and-a-half year business (since June 2008) alive, kicking and crying for more. What more, contrary to possible assumption, they do not cater to a very niche market. Their target audience is anyone who appreciates art.
D'Hut has only started to play host to Indian craft forms but in the few months that Neethi and Reshuma have stocked them, they have faced a harsh reality. The demand for Indian art is so great but the supply is not even close to where it should be. Also, Neethi enthuses that economic advancement need not be at the cost of our traditional art forms. “If a craftsman's son wants to continue in the line of work of his ancestors, our country must have the ability to allow him to do so in an economically viable manner. There should be no need for him to look beyond his talent pool in order to support his family.”
When one is so closely connected to a field of work, you can almost definitely see yourself in one aspect of it. So which pieces of craft reflect their personalities? Reshuma is quick to answer on Neethi's behalf. “Oh. He is most definitely an African mask.” After a couple of minutes, she identified herself with the metal fishes and other Indonesian handicrafts for their colour and vibrancy.
Both Reshuma and Neethi are satisfied with their work. It may not be economically attractive, but when you follow your passion, everything seems to fall into place. That is their message for all those aspiring Indian entrepreneurs – Do what your heart tells you to do and success will follow you.
D'Hut is located at 137, East Coast Road, Srinivasapuram, Thiruvanmiyur.
You can contact Reshuma at 94433 36930
Yashasvini is a Std XI student of APL Global School.