Lights, Camera, Action!

During the debut year of our company, we have been fortunate to get advice and help from many of our close friends. Manasi Kashyap is one such friend who is not only an astute business woman herself but also a very gifted photographer. Our friendship was sealed over two decades ago by a momentous incident where I broke a school window and Manasi came to my rescue. Since then we have shared many lunch boxes, rides on smoke spewing scooters, our teenage sorrows and grown-up aspirations.

If I try tracing back the beginnings of my interest in art and home décor, I will surely land up at one of the tastefully done homes by Manasi’s mum, Rizwana Kashyap. With both our families hopping from one city to another on account of our dads, our mum’s tried very hard to make the dreary old government houses look like welcoming family homes. Rizwana aunty, a very talented artist herself, always succeeded in injecting the Indian charm into her home with billowing curtains reminiscent of ‘Durbars’, vibrant patchwork bedspreads, skillfully embroidered cushion covers and wall art. Their homes, whether a small city apartment in Mumbai or an idyllic bungalow in Nasik, have always been a source of inspiration to me.

Two decades hence, Manasi and I both find ourselves in London, pursuing our passions. Manasi has set up her successful lifestyle photography business where she captures people at their natural best. It is such a refreshing departure from the rigid posing for photographs and smiling despite your mutinous inner feelings. When I requested Manasi if she would do a session with us for our website, she agreed immediately. Her suggestion to shoot in a park worked out wonderfully for us – it portrays us as the young energetic trio we are, rather than patronizing matrons. As you can see, we had the most fantastic time doing the shoot, all thanks to Manasi for putting us at ease instantly. You can see more of her fantastic work on her website.

Manasi, thank you and good luck! XX


Top Drawer/ Home 2012 – To be or not to be!

Top Drawer is an industry respected trade show at the beginning of the buying season every year. It was our dream to launch Purvaai at this event despite warnings offered by many that a large trade show may not be the right choice for a brand launch. Reasons being 1) it is quite a large outlay of money 2) our brand visibility is not high enough for visitors to come and seek us out. However, it had its pros, mainly 1) it has a jury panel for selection – so if we do get selected, it speaks about our credibility in the industry 2) this trade show in particular has a great emphasis on design which fits perfectly with Purvaai’s ideology 3) it will help us target the small business owners and retailers, which is our market.

So going by our gut instinct (which will be a regular feature in our business, I suppose) we decided to take the plunge and submit our proposal for exhibition space. One can only imagine the despair we felt when our proposal was rejected a couple of months ago, which clearly meant we couldn’t rely on only this event to build our brand awareness and get orders.

Home 2012 Stand Design by Isabel

We were quickly on to plan B which includes targeting the retailers we have shortlisted through the traditional means of cold calling, e-mails and personal visits (clearly the long way around). However, we weren’t going to give up on our dream launch at Top Drawer and we sought feedback from the organizers about what we could do better. There were two things we needed to work on; stylized images of our products and stand design. Both areas in which we are severely lacking so we decided to work with professionals (and a good thing we did as you’ll know by the end of this post).

Mark - setting up for the shoot

We enlisted the help of professional photographer Mark Henderson (who has shot the beautiful product images for us) and Isabel Lúcio, a freelance product and exhibition space designer. Their specific skills and great work ethic helped us achieve a crisp and professional look to our creative vision. So armed with the new product images and stand design we resubmitted our proposal again. AND WE’VE BEEN SELECTED TO EXHIBIT AT TOP DRAWER 2012 – can’t stop smiling! This is just the beginning – but we are one step closer to the dream launch! We’ll be at STAND Aa36!

Top Drawer/ Home 2012 is on at Earls Court, London between 15-17 January, 2012.

Brand Ahoy! (Part II-The hunt for the perfect logo)

In my time at TiE-Boston, the Boston USA chapter of a worldwide business-networking not-for-profit organization, I had worked in Marketing and Communication.

Each year for the annual conference, we commissioned a brochure. This work had been awarded three years in a row to an advertising and design agency based in Pune by the name of Studio Blossoms. They kept getting repeat orders from TiE-Boston because they were just that good!

In that time, the proprietor, Prasad Rasal, had become a friend. When we realized we needed a logo for Purvaai, I knew I wanted to go to Prasad and his team at Studio Blossoms. Their work had been exemplary and they were very, very good about understanding client requirements. Luckily, my partners Sonali and Priya were open to that.

When I mentioned to Prasad that we’d started our own business, he was genuinely happy for us and asked what he could do to help. I explained what we needed- a logo that would stay on with anyone who came into contact with us, one as beautiful as the products we would sell.

As always, he understood perfectly and was super-supportive. So much so that he gave us a break on his regular charges for these services! This was, to a small start-up like ours, a huge deal.

Logo options as provided by StudioBlossoms, Pune

All the gorgeous logos we had to REJECT to pick the best one!!! Criminal waste, we say.

Within a week or so of us having communicated our requirements for a logo, Prasad’s very efficient and extremely talented team had already created no fewer than SEVEN logos!

All of them were beautiful and very relevant to our positioning. They had interpreted the brief so well that all we needed to do was select our favourite. Of course, again, like with the brand name, this was easier said than done. But we managed- the winning logo you can see at the top of this page.

Just like Prasad and Studio Blossoms, there are many others; Photographers, PR professionals, Designers, other e-Commerce retailers and many more, who have helped us in our journey towards becoming successful. Some have offered price breaks, others advice we wouldn’t get anywhere else. One of the things we hope to do through this blog is also thank all these individuals and hopefully get the word out about them. Purvaai supports other small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Brand Ahoy! (Part I)

The very next thing, which actually came out of deciding on “Contemporary Tradition” as our USP was the realization that we needed to build a ‘Brand’.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” This, we believe, is a very good definition of a Brand. It certainly was those same things- Name, term, design, symbol etc. that we had now to think of.

We needed to ensure, our products would be instantly recognizable as being ours, so that in the future people would choose them and ask for them over anyone else’s.

So we started bandying about names. We thought of a number of names- descriptive ones, Indian sounding ones, even unusual ones that actually had nothing to do with our products! We thought it would be fun for us to list here just a few of the names discussed that didn’t make the cut:

The @rtsy Home
The Crafty Needle
Craftesia/ CraftAsia

At this point, we had all developed a brain ache! The suggestions started getting wackier and wackier! One of the names was misheard on a Skype conference call. This name was “Purvaai”. But that was serendipitous! All of a sudden, all three of us realized, it fit with our USP and our ideology, perfectly. In a matter of seconds, we’d all agreed to this name. Isn’t that often how things work? Stuff just seems to fall into place.

The next stage in Branding was creating the logo. Watch this space for Part II of this post, which describes how we did that.

…but what’s so special about YOU?

We’d already decided we wanted to share our love for unique home décor products by marketing decorative soft linen in exquisite designs, which would be very different from anything anyone had ever seen before. But at the same time we realized there were probably hundreds of home linen marketers out there thinking exactly the same thing! This brought home the fact that we needed to differentiate ourselves.

At this stage of our journey, we knew we needed what’s called a USP or a Unique Selling Proposition.  A USP could be very simply defined as that which sets you apart from others doing similar/ the same things.

SilkCollection-KalamkariCentralPanelwithEmbellishmentSo, in an attempt to find this USP, we went back to thinking about what we wanted to market- the kinds of designs, style and materials we wanted to present as a company.

We kept thinking about the rich textile design heritage of India. The traditional embellishment techniques on handloom textiles; the weaving, the embroidery, the cottons and the silks- all of which we’d been surrounded by, growing up in India but about which, people outside of India didn’t seem to be very aware.

But while we were thinking on these lines, we also realised that there was a decided preference in the western world for things that would fit in easily with the modern lifestyle. These two things, while not mutually exclusive, were certainly hard to reconcile.

Thinking about bringing hundreds of years worth of Indian handicraft traditions into today’s day and age- making them appeal in the contemporary setting, that, we concluded, would be our biggest challenge.

It was during one those discussions that the term “Contemporary Tradition” came up. The idea that tradition could, in fact, be contemporized! It grabbed hold of our imagination. This term also subsequently became our tagline and the inspiration as we started talking about design and production.