Mukta from Kanhai takes us through her entrepreneurial journey and shares some of her favourite design ideas for Working Women
It took us a lot longer than we expected to finalize our Workaholic Story Box. One of the problems we faced was that the very definition of “work” as we know it has changed. People work on the move, in home office, in tiny cubicles, in coffee shops- and in everything in between. So many desk accessories don’t necessarily recognize this change and continue to be made for the old-fashioned concept of a workspace. Others seem like they will only fit into the workspace of someone who doesn’t need to meet a client, with their slightly cheeky quote or image.
When we finally saw Kanhai’s adorable little Photoplay frames, we sighed in relief. Perhaps because they are designed by a woman entrepreneur herself- they marry functionality and design in a way that few other desk accessories do. We love the vibrant colours, we love how many ways there are to use this tiny spiral! We love how sturdy and durable it feels, we love how delicate it looks.
We had to speak with Mukta from Kanhai to find out more about her design philosophy and business. Here’s what she told us.
Could you tell us a little bit about the beginning of Kanhai, your team and the people who love Kanhai products.
I worked for about three years with a business that specialised in designing christmas ornaments. Fortuitously I ended up inheriting the business when the original owner moved to Goa. For a while I was content making christmas ornaments, but we have over time expanded to designing all kinds of home and office accessories.
The one thing that’s constant in all our designs is the delicate beadwork- be it with acrylic, glass or clay beads.
Today we design a huge roster of bead-based designs, ranging from small bookmarks and accessories to large intricate chandeliers.
A lot of our customers come to us when they find us online in e-tailers such as Pepperfry or Flipkart. Others find us in the few exclusive stores we retail at- like Eka and Purple Turtle in Bangalore, Either/Or in Pune, Barefoot in Goa and Tarine in Delhi. We export to the European markets as well- and just occasionally- do a custom order that interests us.
Today Kanhai is a team of 9 (including me): one other designer who has just joined us after 20 years in advertising, six karigars who bring these designs to life, and one Man Friday who buys all the raw materials and chases our suppliers.
Since we are including your product in our Workaholic box, we’d love to know some of your secrets to becoming a successful women entrepreneur.
It isn’t easy being an entrepreneur- you constantly need to grapple with many decisions and trade offs, but it can also be fun. In my own entrepreneurial journey, one of the biggest challenges I faced was the decision to make our business India-focussed. Initially, we were predominantly an export house and not really familiar with the Indian market and its trends. Although the market is still not mature enough to understand the nuances of handwork and design, it is also an untapped market, and figuring out how to make best of it has been equal parts rewarding and challenging.
The other challenge has been how to manage cash flows in a system that is pro-retailer and inherently biased against designers and manufacturers. It is difficult to generate the funds that will give you the escape velocity to reach the next level of scale.
Who are some of the role models you look up to?
Overall, I do believe this is a great time for women entrepreneurs. I am amazed at some of the wonderful new businesses that women are creating. Personally, I love the work of Marie Christophe, a European designer who creates beautiful pieces with wire and beads.
I have also always looked up to my father and admired his work ethic.
I’d love to hear a bit more specifically about this photo frame, the inspiration behind them and how you went about designing them. Any other ways they can be used, apart from as photo-frames?
I love this photo frame because of just how many different ways there are to use it! You can use it to put a bunch of visiting cards, or add an inspirational quote in nice calligraphy to brighten up your day. Get more than one, and they can are perfect for table setting at a sit- down lunch.
Or just use it the way they were originally designed for – to put the photograph of a loved one in!
Since it is quite sturdy it also makes a wonderful paperweight to declutter a small workspace.
Any special instructions for taking care of it?
All you need to do is wipe it with a soft cloth and keep it away from moisture to have it with you for many years.
What do you have on your work desk right now? Would it be possible to share a picture?
My workspace is, as always, incredibly messy with bits and bobs and things that accumulate all over the day. At this moment I have my MacBook here, my tools, a book of ideas that I use to pen my thoughts whenever one strikes, and a few Kanhai prototypes along with a million other pieces of paper!
What do you do to de-clutter or organize your day?
Two simple organizational tenets work for me:
- I like to end each day with a to-do list for the next day. That helps me organize my day better.
- A run or swim in the morning before work keeps my head clear for all the challenges that lie ahead.
What kind of designs and designers do you personally enjoy?
I have always enjoyed the interplay of colours and patterns that Yamini’s home furnishings specialize in. I am also a fan of Neeru Kumar’s design aesthetic and the simplicity of her weaves.