All things niche and natural

A close look at two homegrown brands that found innovative ways to expand during the pandemic and still stay successful

Updated - January 13, 2023 08:25 pm IST

Published - January 13, 2023 06:35 pm IST

Terracotta decor from The Yellow Dwelling.

Terracotta decor from The Yellow Dwelling.

It’s a prolonged winter in many parts of India and home becomes the comfort zone most of the time. The décor and accents that make your space also determine the calm you can afford when news of another pandemic threat do the rounds. You could still be on the lookout for anything that exudes verve and joy.

Pinklay: Blending heritage into contemporary designs

Daisy Tanwani studied mass media with a specialisation in journalism from Jai Hind College, Mumbai University, and worked across industries for over 15+ years in mainly marketing and branding functions. In the early 2000s, she found herself marvelling at a tapestry piece at an international home décor brand in the U.S. “A small tag said ‘Made in India’ and I wondered why do Indians have to carry made in India from elsewhere. That is the crux of why I started Pinklay — to design and make in India for Indians who are now well travelled, demanding and discerning,” she says.

In 2015, she resigned from Danone where her role was leading the launch of an international baby food brand and returned to her roots, Jaipur, to launch Pinklay. “I spent 17 formative years of my life in Jaipur and the city has a lot to do with what I do today,” she says. “The idea behind Pinklay was simple — create a more accessible, aspirational, lifestyle brand that caters to the modern Indian while taking our handicraft heritage and fusing modern designs in unpredictable ways.”

The company’s first milestone was launching the brand at The Lil Flea, one of Mumbai’s biggest exhibitions. The idea was to test the market, understand customer behaviour and preferences, receptivity to the product offering, and market gaps and opportunities.

“We couldn’t think of a better way to do that than stand in front of our customers, and listen and learn the old-school way. While we always wanted to be an online-first company, learnings from our very first exhibition shaped how we approached our business and offerings,” Tanwani says.

Pinklay launched with a small, but highly curated, collection of cushion covers, quilts, laptop sleeves, tote bags, plush toys, ceramics, and wooden and metal artifacts for home, kitchen, and garden. “I personally designed our very first collection and ran point on everything — from product to marketing. Our initial investment from incorporation to launch was ₹12 lakhs,” she says.

There was no looking back after that. Apart from online, the brand now has two offline experience stores, in Mumbai and Bengaluru, and a third store due to open in Hyderabad.

On international players entering India, Tanwani says they are wonderful and operate on a very different scale, but ultimately are foreign brands trying to come to India to cater to Indians. “We are an Indian brand trying to cater to modern Indians and global citizens who value small batch handcrafts. And, there lies the difference. Pinklay combines heritage handcrafts with contemporary designs. Our design language is authentic and timeless with bold use of colour — it’s Indian but not kitsch,” she says.

Pinklay’s designs are crafted to convey stories — often inspired from natural elements and diverse crafts and cultures from around the world. “I love traveling and every collection has an element from various travels within India and elsewhere. We carefully pick unique themes and offer collections like Mahtab, Onam, Padma, Misfit etc.”

The brand works across a variety of art forms such as hand block, kantha, embroidery, patchwork, kalamkari, daabu, and ikat to name a few, pairing designs with the right art forms to arrive at our final collections.

Tanwani says the company is looking to build an omni-channel experience for customers. “We already have a strong online presence and are looking to expand our offline footprint in the coming years. We expect to have retail stores across major cities in India. In addition, we are also doubling down our efforts on building a strong international presence,” she says.

The Yellow Dwelling: Creating aesthetic and sustainable products

Launched in 2017, the brand is the brainchild of a couple who left corporate life to experiment with creativity. The Yellow Dwelling’s journey started in January 2017 from a small guest bedroom in the Bengaluru home of Abhinayah Sundaramoorthy and Nandakumar L. “We were unable to find suitable options in the furnishings market that aligned with our personalities: cheerful, made from natural materials, and affordable. The Yellow Dwelling was founded with the aim of bridging that gap,” she says.

Banana fibre and bamboo lamp shades from The Yellow Dwelling.

Banana fibre and bamboo lamp shades from The Yellow Dwelling.

The brand aimed to create a cheerful range of sustainable furnishings at affordable price points as the word sustainable now seems to be used interchangeably with expensive. The duo was also keen to try something new as they had reached a point where their corporate careers felt confining. The initial launch was small — the first curated collection was showcased to friends and family in the very same guest bedroom. The resounding positive feedback led them to sell at local flea markets like Sunday Soul Sante, Step-in Night Out, and other apartment fleas.

Blooming meadows bedding set.

Blooming meadows bedding set.

“”Our initial investment was ₹12,500 for that first collection. As business grew over the next three years, we invested roughly ₹95 lakhs in our stores, warehouse, and inventory. We continue to reinvest into the business as we see great promise and potential,” the founder says.

The Yellow Dwelling product categories initially comprised bedding, cushion covers, and dining. Over the last few years, the brand has forayed into other categories such as cotton and linen curtains, sheer curtains, bedsheets and quilts, cushion covers and throws, dining range, wooden wall decor, banana fibre and bamboo lighting, terracotta pots and more.

Cushion covers and sheer curtains

Cushion covers and sheer curtains

The brand’s design philosophy centres on creating aesthetic, sustainable, and utilitarian products. Each collection is unique and has a new inspiration — a walk in a meadow, Middle Eastern architecture, a quaint little English cottage. The latest collection, Enchanted Palaces, is inspired by the majestic architecture of Indian palaces and the rich flora and fauna found around them.

The brand strives to create more functional home décor products using natural fibres like cotton, linen, river grass, banana fibre, and bamboo.

Apart from retailing online, the company has retail stores in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, and Pune. The glut of home decor brands in India and the launch of international players like H&M Home, IKEA, and Pottery Barn does not worry The Yellow Dwelling.

What does the future hold for The Yellow Dwelling and its founders? “Our vision for The Yellow Dwelling is to become the most preferred home furnishing brand, with a contemporary design philosophy and using a wide range of sustainable natural fibres. We wish to open 25 stores by 2025 and 100 by 2030,” they say.

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