Before we get to know the story of this stunning brand named Swaabhi, could you tell us something about you?
Humans are indeed born with a huge amount of fate. It’s rightly said, you can choose your friends but not your family. While I have slowly learnt the power of changing my fate, I do thank the heavens for blessing me with the loving family I was born in. I have been even luckier to be blessed with a strong woman in my life who has been a continuous mentor and an idol for me – my mother. Since childhood, I have carried her genes of creativity in me. Giving me birth was not even the tip of the iceberg; she has literally crafted me by always ensuring I adopt qualities making me a good human and has always pushed me to explore myself to the core
Seems like you have a big influence from your mother, was she an artist?
For me she is nothing less than a magician! And like I said, I carry genes of creativity. My paternal Grandmother used to run a kindergarten school and I have grown up seeing how she effortless wrote songs, direct dramas, design theme based concert dresses and so many other things within the money limitations that she had. My mom used to teach in that school and she was the one who used to choreograph all dances excellently. If it was not for her efforts to push me to become a seasoned dancer, I may have never tapped this energy in me. And not just her, but even my father has been my real hero. We had a family of 25 people and you can imagine the kind of financial pressures it can have. But knowing my inclination towards art, he left no opportunity to support me. When he saw me playing harmonium, he got so happy that he bought me a synthesizer and since it was not an easy buy, he paid installments for it. No matter what I needed to pursue my art, my parents have always found out a way to encourage me and support me, can’t thank them enough!
Wow, with a loving support like that, you must have thrived on your creative calling
Absolutely! Life has always looked like a canvas ready to paint with not just colors but also new compositions, innovations, rhythms, tunes and everything creative. After 9 years of through training in diploma and Post diploma, I completed my Masters in Bharatnattyam (One of India’s popular classical dance forms) from Lalit Kala Kendra Pune. Music plays a vital role in dance, so I also learnt South Indian classical vocals. Along with a wonderful family, I have also been blessed with 2 remarkable gurus. Mrs. Manik Ambike who showed me how each dance technique is a science, she really extracted the best out of me, taught me the importance of discipline and perfection which made me a go getter in all aspects of my life. Mrs. Sucheta Bhide Chapekar on other hand taught me to improve and expand my power of perspectives. She taught me how dance can express each aspect of life if you get into a deep study and use multiple perspectives.
I feel blessed that I started teaching this art and now it is a core of my life, almost like my breath. However, my creativity bug never let me rest there. Through my life journey I remember I have been so restless to create something new. My feet used to start tapping while standing, the closest mirror I found, and I used to try striking new dance poses. While my hands were busy at chores, my mind used to be busier thinking of new compositions. As my head tried to rest on my pillow, my mind would battle it out to stay awake and pen down some poetry. With a mere touch of pen and paper with my hand, design forms used to start flooding out. While all this may sound quite good a quality to have, the restlessness it gets along is not always the best thing to have residing in you.
Did the major events in your life like marriage and motherhood bring any obstacles in this creative journey?
I got married in 1998 , I’m sure dealing with a new member like me, a creative bug would have been a different experience for my in-laws but as they realized that I am incomplete without all that I was doing, they started supporting me more by the day. My husband has been an important support and shield for me. With 2 beautiful daughters’ later, I had a very typical busy life, but my creativity resided in the same world in parallel. I remember I was pursuing the fashion designing course from Rathi Institute in Pune and while pursuing this education I came to know that I was pregnant with my second child. I tried to push myself to continue but I used to get exhausted doing late night assignments and submissions. The doctor advised to take more rest and I had to ensure I give my baby the best so I discontinued that dream. I still continued with my classes and programs, choreographies alongside. But this restlessness did not subside; it had a ripple effect on everything else. It’s almost like a riot to test the boundaries and do something creative with all the art inside you. Finding a vent out is so crucial, I had not realized. Few years back I tried my hand at 3D wall hangings using different themes, it turned out to be really attractive but taking it to a scale of business all by myself did not seem feasible. It’s unfortunate I could not take it ahead as it was something really satisfying for me.
So when did this idea of jewelry designing strike you?
In 2014, I clearly remember I had made a handful of decorative artifacts for a wedding planned in US. The experience was very joyful and everyone appreciated my work. After an enjoyable wedding, we were set for our journey back to India, where suddenly I was stopped by customs. They enquired about one of my necklaces, a precious piece from my jewelry – ‘Tanmani’ gifted by my mother on my wedding. They thought I had bought it from the United States and hence asked for its receipt. I did not have any as I had carried this one from India to USA especially for the wedding. This necklace was very dear to me and definitely did not shine like a new one. There was no chance I could have let it go. I pleaded the officer and tried to make him understand the fact that it was a necklace my mother had passed on to me and I was very attached to it. He seemed to be a kind man and explained that while carrying such articles, one needs to carry along a detailed certificate mentioning all the details of the piece. After somehow assuring him, that I would ensure not to repeat this mistake in future, we took off. That day the flight we took was not the only thing which was clouded but it suddenly felt like I was finding a new idea, a new purpose.
So was that the day you knew you want to create your own jewelry? And how did it all come together?
Yes, I decided I will make artificial Jewelry which will be almost impossible to be differentiated from the original one. Beautiful craftsmanship, affordable for the pocket… yes.. I found a way to channelize my creative energy. But this was just a thought, what I am happy about is that I actually started designing the jewelry. And this was far from a small feat.
I first had to figure out craftsmen who could create jewelry from my designs. For this I visited quite a few places in the interiors of Kolkata, Assam, Rajasthan and I also tried hunting international craftsmen from Indonesia. However, the rich artistry of India has always fascinated me and I feel fortunate to be an Indian. I met quite a few people but few were actually just traders and called themselves manufacturers and others had lack of designers who could understand my designs and translate them into jewelry. For such cases, they introduced their own mediators who could bridge this gap. It took a lot of perseverance and patience to stick to my plans. I finally started sharing my designs and took the first step. For the entire first year, it was a one man army, right from designing, networking with craftsmen, managing inventory and accounts, setting up exhibitions, it was an endless task. My close friends and family members, especially my mother and my husband helped me a lot during this time.
How was the response? Was it easy once you started?
Let me be honest, all this is far from easy, and probably that’s why it turns beautiful later. I first tried to put my products into an online market named ‘Etsy’, but they somehow did not believe that I was the designer and thought I was simply trading. That’s how I lost my account with Etsy. Later I started with my exhibitions where along with managing all the administration of it, I was the designer, sales girl, Facebook account manager, cashier and just about everything for my brand. The initial customers I could gather were mostly my relatives and friends; honestly I used to feel a bit obligated to sell my products to them. And this model would not have sustained anyway. The good things which got Swaabhi brand recognition was digital marketing and mouth publicity.
So how was this brand name coined?
That is a different story in itself J. Initially I had named my brand ‘DBS Gems, however, it was not an ideal choice as it would have got confused with a bank named as DBS. Later, I changed the name to Kairavee Gems only to realize that there were 4-5 brands already registered with this name. The constant changes and legal documentation process was trying my patience. I had absolutely reached a point where I felt like quitting, in fact multiple times, but my husband pushed me to keep up my faith. I did not know how I could give my brand a good identity. Finally, when one of our family friends suggested few names, it played the chords right. He asked me about the entire background about my work and since I was so proud about the Indian tradition, he suggested the word ‘Swabhiman’ (means Pride in English) and we funneled out options like Swabhimaan, Abhi or Swaabhi and then agreed on “Swaabhi’. I got the name registered along with the logo and my first jewelry landed in my hands on 23Rd April 2016. It was a relentless journey of 2 whole years for Swaabhi to be born.
What is the specialty of Swaabhi?
Standing amidst the competition of a well-established and extremely competitive industry, you will find Swaabhi’s designs to be very unique and rich. Swaabhi brought ‘Vilandi’ (which originally referred to a style of cleaving diamonds) first time to Pune on a huge scale. Also a huge variety of customized patterns of ‘Jadau’ became a differentiating factor for us. Along with traditional richness, Swaabhi has also brought in innovation with its jewelry based on themes like Parna, Spices, Rangoli, Warli to name a few and will continue finding interesting patterns. Swaabhi connects with every woman, having varied tastes and for every occasion. Be it your festive voluminous ornaments, some simple delicate ones or your daily wears and modern designs for women at work, Swaabhi has designs for all.
How do you feel now that Swaabhi is doing so well?
I think through the process of Swaabhi I have shown myself my strengths, my perseverance and my potential. This industry is tough but my belief in my creativity and myself helped me trust my gut. Additionally the team and the staff that we built for Swaabhi has also been very supportive. That’s my treasure for the rest of my “Swaabhi” life. Swaabhi perfectly reflects the essence and spirit of every woman who is strong, self-sufficient, a fighting spirit, self-righteous and yet very nurturing and loving. I get numerous requests to put Swaabhi products up on online portals and also dozens of requests to buy my brand name J Having experienced such a beautiful ‘Swaabhi’ experience I keep praying that just like me, may every woman find her Swaabhi moment.