A fashion designer by education, I graduated from NIFT in 2004. Since then I worked with companies such as Wills Lifestyle, Madura Garments, VF-Arvind Brands, TCNS and on several design projects. My mother largely influences my interest in home decor. Due to my dad’s transferable job my mother was constantly planning our new homes. I witnessed her great flare for home decor and uncompromising approach in everything she does.
Tell us about Gulmohar Lane
Gulmohar Lane is a brand of “A September Home Lifestyle Private Limited’. The website was launched on 14 February 2015. Gulmohar Lane’s expertly hand-crafted collections offer a wide range of natural fabric and leather upholstered sofas, coffee tables and home products. We take great pride in design and hand-craftsmanship of our products. We create time-honed designs. Our expert craftsmen, some of them even from the fourth generations of furniture and sofa karigars, who have been working for Royalty in Rajasthan, transform these designs into timeless products. Our designs blend contemporary sensibilities with traditions of excellence in craftsmanship and quality.
At Gulmohar Lane, we love using natural material, whether it is fabrics, wood or mild steel. The idea is to make the natural fabrics ‘mainstream’. Our core desire is to make beautiful and rich aesthetics approachable to a larger target market. We have kept our pricing extremely competitive in the segment, because we feel that great aesthetics should become accessible to the people who appreciate design and quality at the same time.
We have a great passion for creating and providing products that breathe easy and exude strong aesthetics that comes from the gap we saw in the Indian market. Gulmohar Lane also provides easy customization options where the customer can choose size, fabric and fill. A customer can click on a fabric swatch on the product page and see the sofa in that fabric.
For us, the Indian online furniture market is a very interesting place to be. We want to reach a large market, offering a wide range of aesthetically designed products, bring awareness about natural fabrics and re-introducing age old techniques, all at an attractive price.
Why did you set up the company?
Due to our past jobs we moved cities every three to four years which meant we had the opportunity to plan our home décor every few years. Being passionately involved in designing our home we found it a daunting task to find a sofa or a piece of furniture that could provide you comfort and beauty and which was priced fairly, all at the same time. In the current scenario either you get options which are over-the-top pieces made in ply-board or cheap quality wood which are wrapped in synthetic polyester fabrics, or you find ‘Made in the East’ rubber-wood furniture which won’t even last a year before revealing its shoddy quality. If we were lucky to find something good, the price tag would hold us back.
With a natural flare for home and interiors my husband and I started building an idea of starting a lifestyle brand. From concept, product development to creating a customisation friendly website it took us nearly two years to launch our ecommerce venture.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
With rising expenditure online also comes bad experiences. This definitely makes a customer wary of new players. However, I am sure we will be able to change this through positive word of mouth and organic growth. We want our product to talk and do all the marketing for us. Till now, we have received much appreciation from our customers and people who value aesthetics and quality.
The cost of logistics is another factor where the challenge lies as we deal in high volumetric weight products like sofas, coffee tables etc. However, we are working on bringing these costs down through various means without compromising on the packaging, quality or product safety.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
While most ecommerce players in India today are sourcing and selling furniture on their platforms like market places, at Gulmohar Lane we design our own collections. A product takes about four to six months from the stage of conceptualisation to final prototype, before it appears on our website. All of our products are designed keeping functionality, comfort and over-all aesthetcs in mind.
As a brand took a conscious call of using only natural fibre blends. While the industry both offline and online (organised and unorganised) is full of synthetic, upholstery fabrics, we decided to swim against the tide. We wanted to bring natural fabrics back into the mainstream, therefore it became essential for us to come up with fabric finishes to make these natural fabrics hassle free and easy to maintain with finishes. Hand craftsmanship, natural textiles, unparalleled comfort, aesthetically yet easy-to-maintain products, combined with our competitive pricing is how we are being able to make our mark. Overall we have been able to connect and build trust in a short span of time. This is our biggest achievement.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I draw inspiration from both my parents. My mother’s keen eye for detail and uncompromising presentation skills are a huge influence. My dad, though an I.A.S officer, always encouraged us kids to pursue our creative interests. Apart from them on an everyday level I draw inspiration from anyone with a unique visual take.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
The role of a homemaker in today’s times has extended beyond the boundaries of a home to being focused on our careers, involved in part-time work and various other creative pursuits at times. There’s a lot more being expected of women today. From managing homes to juggling between careers and being super moms with expert cooking skills, women are expected to outperform in all areas, with an innate desire to excel in everything we do.
Being focused on my career and equally dedicated to my home I know from personal experience how big a challenge it is to strike a healthy balance. Gulmohar Lane is a new venture and needs undivided attention. I co-founded the company with my husband. We are on the same page as far as our priorities are concerned and that understanding makes all the difference.
What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?
It’s a good time for women entrepreneurs. In current times online is such an amazing platform for everyone. Whether its your own website or selling on marketplaces. It’s a great time for online retailing in India. Firstly, it is only amazing to see, within a span of a few years, how comfortable the Indian customer has become with the concept of online shopping starting with fashion, books, accessories and today, with furniture and even diamond jewellery. The Indian consumer is evolving like never before. The online retail space is definitely an exciting place to be as it provides amazing opportunities for the women of today. Also with the internet and logistics made easier, reaching out to your audience in any part of the world isn’t difficult today.
Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?
I-Solutions, our web development partner, has been a huge support for us. I highly recommend the team.
What does the future hold for you?
Any ecommerce business needs funding to expand in the long term. It’s a highly competitive industry and I would say we are no exception. Our future plan is to widen our product range and to provide an unparalleled shopping experience to our customers. Whether it is product research and development, opening a few product experience centres, marketing or logistics, it all requires lot of infrastructure to be built and sustained and which definitely calls for external funding. Some investors, who have shown a lot of excitement about our product and design, have approached us but the talks are at very initial stages at the moment. But for us, it is very overwhelming and humbling at the same time that our brand is being accepted well both by the customers as well as the potential investors.
About Shweta Mewara Ailawadi
I was born in Rajasthan but spent most of my childhood in Assam. This helped me a lot in understanding different cultures and drawing a lot of inspiration from my surroundings. I pursued fashion design soon after my schooling. Children of parents with transferrable jobs grow up to be very adaptable in life. I guess which is why in spite of my background in fashion design, the move to shift gears to home and interiors seemed more exciting than a challenge.
This article was provided by WeAreTheCity Delhi Committee Member, Ashish Bhardwaj.