Rajasthan has always been a crown jewel in India’s heritage, both culturally and architecturally. Anyone familiar with Jaipur can tell you that the Pink City is rich with wonders of our historical past, but there’s more to the city than meets the eye. A creative storm has been brewing and like entrepreneurs all over the world, founders of creative companies in Jaipur are mavericks on a quest to create entities that are deeply rooted in personal values and social responsibility, many celebrating the spirit of the city.
From independent jewellery designers and fashion labels to a bespoke travel company and custom motorcycles – these entrepreneurs aren’t shy when it comes to straying away from conventional industries and exploring new horizons. Today we look at some of the contemporary creative ventures that are thriving in Jaipur.
I . Kesya
Kesya, derived from the Rajasthani work for saffron, ‘kesariya’, was born in 2015 when two Jaipur-based friends returned home and focused on re-invigorating an interest in the dying art form of hand enamelling and painting on enamel. Divya Shekawat’s degree in Fashion and Luxury Brand Management from Istituto Maragoni, London collided with Shivangani Singh’s expertise and degree as a Communication Designer from IILM, and gave birth to a unique range of accessories for both men and women, with a special focus on men’s accessories. “We noticed a gap in the Indian market for premium accessories for men, while there are a lot of brands catering to the Women’s jewellery market, the men’s market was still nascent. We often found ourselves struggling to find good gifting options for men which we found lacking in terms of diversity and price, so through Kesya we focus a lot on personalised gifting,” they say.
Each of Kesya’s pieces is handcrafted locally by incredibly skilled artisans using high-quality sterling silver. They explain that the incredible detailing employs the use of semi-precious stones and ancient techniques such as enamelling, hand painting and carving. “Borrowing inspiration from the rich Rajasthani landscape and old colonial hunting snaffles, Kesya offers pieces that fuse modernity, tradition, history and design. We try to incorporate a lot of history into our buttons, either into the design or in the way they’re made, allowing customers to ‘to wear a little piece of Rajasthan on their sleeve’. In all, each of Kesya’s handcrafted products is reminiscent of royal craftsmanship that amalgamates family stories or age-old heirlooms with designs that are fashionable in the contemporary sense.”
While passion and their love for Rajasthan brought Shekawat and Singh together to start a business, they insist that self-discipline and consistency are very important and the only way to see real growth. “It gets hard to set certain rules and follow them when you are your own boss, but the key is to be consistent and inculcate discipline in your work routine as early as you can,” they tell Homegrown.
The beauty of their products lies in the hand-making of each, but it also means that production is time and labour intensive, something they’ve been trying to overcome by streamlining production. “Another issue that not only us but the entire design industry faces, is that of plagiarism but that is something we have come to realise is unavoidable. When taken in one’s stride, it helps you to revise one’s own deficits and pushes you to innovate and get out of your comfort zone,” they add.
Born and brought up in Jaipur, Vijay Singh Ajairajpura was seven years old when his father put him on his first motorcycle - a BSA Falcon - and there was no looking back after that. He’d spend his time practising and then later racing at the motocross track (now converted into Central Park). He returned to Jaipur in 2009 after gaining a degree in Mass Communication from the Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
It took some time and convincing, as he writes, but he finally followed his passion and worked on his first custom bike, Original Gangster, from his garage. It was showcased at the New Delhi Auto Expo in 2012 and got a tremendous response. Orders started coming in for custom work on motorcycles, more so after the news of his work spread from his first client, John Abraham, as he told YourStory in an interview, and Rajputana Customs was born.
“We made mistakes and we loved to do so. We would end up making mistakes 10 times, but we succeeded the 11th time,” he said in the interview, tracking the company’s journey. He clearly states their one mission on their website – “To not conform to ‘demand & supply’; we are happy building 12 odd bikes a year. It goes without saying that we will give those 12 bikes everything we got. We set up this workshop “cause it was damn good fun and we intend on keeping it that way.”
‘Yaan’ means ‘to travel’ in Sanskrit, and that’s exactly what 30-year-old Soumya Gaur set out to do. Having worked with a leading luxury travel company for 4 years, she quit her job in 2015 and travelled solo through South America for 8 months, a trip born out of her interest in learning the Spanish language. When she returned, she was deciding what the next step for her would be and an ardent traveller herself, she realised that having a travel company of her own and being in that industry would come with a natural advantage of exploring India.
“The idea was to provide complete assistance and look into all travel arrangements like booking hotels, providing private transport and knowledgeable guides at every destination to create tailor-made itineraries to suit each individual’s interests and budget. I understood that researching a holiday could be extremely time-consuming and with an overload of information on the internet, at times overwhelming as well. Having planned the first few itineraries for friends coming into India, I also realised the convenience of them dealing with one person over having to coordinate bookings with various hotels/arranging transport multiple times throughout their journeys. Especially for people with time constraints, I was glad that I fit in perfectly well to help plan, organise and execute holidays seamlessly through India,” she tells us.
With Yaan you get tailor-made travel itineraries that cater to your every need, with expert guidance and authentic experiences.
Entrepreneurship is not easy, Gaur says that planning your finances wisely for a possible financial crunch at the start of a business is key. “I am fairly new in the world of entrepreneurs myself but if I was to give advice to budding entrepreneurs it would be that it’s extremely important to gain hands-on experience working under accomplished professionals prior to launching your own business.”
“Kassa is a multidisciplinary brand working in and around upcycling and recycling concepts. We wanted to start a practice that resonates with our lifestyle or something we would like to carry or use ourselves.” The coming together of two like-minded creatives, Aarushi Kumar and Arpan Patel gave birth to Kassa in 2013 following completion of each of their respective Master’s Degrees and work experience. “We both have been in and around art and design all our lives, indirectly or directly. Individually, we do graphics and furniture/installation design respectively under our names, and together, its Kassa for various other lines of products.”
Leaving stability and venturing out to start your own business is difficult, but the duo says that it should not sway you from doing it if it is your passion. “The most challenging we would say is managing all the verticals as designers or artists...one is not aware of many segments that come under a label or a business. Sustaining is the key.”
There are two things they say that make you different from the rest and keeps you going - hard work and sticking to your motto or what you believe in, but also updating yourself at every step about your conscious surroundings. While bags and accessories are something they both have a fascination for, together they’ve gotten the opportunity to explore a variety of design possibilities in different materials. “We wanted to preach design as art or art with utility called design.”
A contemporary fashion label, CRAZYHEART was founded in 2013 by NIFT Mumbai graduate Ruchi Jain in her hometown. Never having studied fashion design, it was her love for styling that pushed Jain to take the next step. “Jaipur as a city was not progressive when it came to fashion, and I saw so much scope for experimenting. The crafts and colours of Rajasthan was something I wanted to explore and that’s how CRAZYHEART came alive. I have been working with the ancient art of tie-dye and bandhani in my previous collections and most recently with hand screen and block printing in my new collection ‘spacedrifter’,” Jain tells Homegrown.
To break the boundaries, to mix cultures and the old with the new – these were the aims with Jain started her brand, which she describes as very free-spirited and CRAZYHEART as a name reflects that. The label is consciously making alternative, sustainable materials and the collection ‘Basic Alchemy’ is made using 100% organic Banana and Bamboo fabrics.
Speaking of lessons learnt and wisdom gained in her entrepreneurial journey, Jain says, “I’d like to think our generation is driven by passion. The motto being ‘do what you love and love what you do’ it makes life simpler. Don’t be afraid of your individuality. Passion, enthusiasm and consistency is everything. If you want to take your hobbies seriously and make a living out of it, do it. What can be better than that?!”
Barbara Kosiorek and Abhimanyu Singh Rathore are the duo behind Kannbar, a label of hand-crafted handbags and accessories by local artisans, inspired by traditional Indian art and aesthetic.
“We believe Kannbar is more than a product. It is a piece of art that you can hold in your hands,” they write. Speaking to Homegrown about running the company, Kosiorek tells us that the most important lesson she has learnt in this journey so far is that every decision they make has its own effect and influence on the markers’ lives and environment. “It’s not always easy but choosing the traditional art forms over machines, paying the fair wages and simply creating quality pieces that will last years, not just one season have the power to change the fashion industry to better,” she says. Rathore stresses the importance of staying true to your values and reaching the right audience for your products.
Aged just 30 and 33 years, respectively, running your company is no easy take. Every decision becomes the most important one at the moment while you’re still building the foundation of your venture. For Rathore, in an age where mechanisation and factory-produced fast fashion is fast displacing the livelihood of artisans, showing them the bigger picture of the company is a big challenge and “to motivate them constantly and make them realise that their talent is beautiful and rare.”
Failure is a part of life and it’s okay to stumble and make mistakes when you’re trying to conquer the world. Rathore stresses the importance of reminding yourself why you started this journey in the first place and keep going when faced with obstacles. Kosiorek’s advice to young entrepreneurs is to “never stop innovating and believe in your products. Stay inspired and surround yourself with like-minded people, strive for greatness.”
VII. Craft Boat
A handmade paper company based in Jaipur, Craft Boat was founded in 2015 by Priti Pugalia. Born from her admiration of design, hand-crafted things and colours, Craft Boat has fashioned itself as a “design-cum-manufacturing studio for recycled cotton paper products and sustainable craft projects to engage with traditional craftsmanship of India”, as Pugalia puts it. “With a keen eye for details, aesthetic beauty and community development, we are willing to grow slowly and look at the process of product making by hand as a timeless celebration.”
Speaking to Homegrown, she shares that being a female entrepreneur trying to engage with the artisan community was not a simple task. “It took me years to make our artisan team understand that running this business was not just a hobby for me. It is also challenging to intervene as a designer in a traditional process of any craft and to share with the team the other ways of doing the same thing.”
Pugalia adds that working with the products they create and exporting them was the only viable option when she started as the right price point for these crafts and design details were not very well received by the Indian customer base.
Craft Boat recycles scrap fabric from garment manufacturing industries and converts them into handmade paper products with a unique texture and durability. “A lot has changed over the last three years and we are not looking at our challenges as problems anymore but a way forward and all this has helped in shaping the objective of the company.”
“Nurture your ideas with art in your heart, discipline in your design, and empathy in your business,” she signs off.
VIII. Teatro Dhora
Dhora is a contemporary and signature jewellery brand brought to life by Aavriti Jain. Conceptualised in Milan and made in India, Dhora’s pieces have firmly cemented themselves as emblems of modern design in the country. “It was conceptualised in Milan with my friend Siddharth Daspan back in 2011 and then ideas fed off of each other and we couldn’t wait to come back to our hometown and kickstart Dhora. Our ideas just synced and we knew we had to get back home and bring the minimalism along with age-old craft into life. There was a huge gap in the market for brands back then, for whom less was more. And I guess, our timing was right. It has always been my canvas to express my creative moods whether through jewellery, leather, furniture or now the store. This space really reflects my personality in a way and serves as a meeting point for like-minded people who are doing cool passionate original stuff in our country”, Jain tells Homegrown.
When it comes down to work at Studio Dhora, the process begins with a mind sketch that is a reflection of Jain’s thoughts, more often than not. It is then left to make its own journey with a few tweaks here and there. She previously told Homegrown, “A large part of my collection comes from the brainstorming I do with my team of craftsmen. From them, I have learnt that not all my wacky ideas can be recreated, I have to be more patient and I have to try more Bengali sweets!”
Being young and having no professional experience in the design field, she shares that it was a struggle for her to get her visual mood board to turn into a reality, technically. “It’s always a task to get people to take you seriously. Fortunately, the design and fashion industry can be as snooty and as welcoming depending on the work and courage you show through your work. Once you stand strong then nothing can move you or shake your confidence,” she adds.
The union of the two regions’ cultures and Jain’s creative sensibilities come through more than ever at Teatro Dhora, Dhora’s design theatre. “We use this space for interaction between the local artists and brands of our country. You will find works of various artists, photographers and local craftsmen here. We continue to collaborate with musicians, gardeners, and chefs too. This theatre is a room wherein we curate anything which falls in the aesthetics and vibe of Dhora.”
Where in the world are you going to get “Sharktooth” earrings and a Bison head necklace? Chances are you’d find it a challenge, unless you were a fan of KICHU. Kichu Dandiya’s brass and gold work is more reminiscent of things you’d find at an apothecary’s den or a taxidermy’s study than your regular Indian store, but it leaves you with a style that’s cultivated, yet edgy.
Dandiya who studied jewellery design at Central St. Martins, College of Art and Design and is a trained bench jeweller. Her brand was conceptualised in late 2014 when she made the move to Jaipur, and saw that independent jewellery design was at a very nascent stage in India. Jaipur as a city lends itself to inspiration, experimentation and resources - all of which Dandiya used to create her base.
The collections tend to sing a song of minimalism with bold tones and uncomplicated design. There’s a certain discipline to her creation process so the jewellery stays true to her design philosophy that’s inspired by urban cultures. When you think of high-end jewellery, images of diamond-encrusted metal comes to mind but Kichu hopes that will change soon. All her pieces are extremely wearable on an everyday basis but that doesn’t mean there’s any compromise on the quality of materials that are welded and twisted into these contemporary designs.
KICHU proves that the traditional doesn’t necessarily mean boring, and that you can rock gold necklaces without becoming the neighbourhood’s new aunty. KICHU believes firmly in the idea that fashion jewellery is not just “junk jewellery”. You would be hard pressed to find an accessories hoarder who does not own at least one piece from this designer.
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