Three young companies on a mission to bring humour and a dash of eccentricity into our lives
For children who grew up in the 70’s and early 80’s, all middle class homes appeared identical – fabric or faux leather sofas in brown or black adorned with white lacy antimacassars , paintings of Indian landscapes, peacocks & tigers (with the occasional one of Mrignayani) and a mantel piece that proudly displayed the trophies awarded to everyone in the house, with the occasional memento from a foreign trip. Meanwhile, we kids expressed our sensibilities through posters and button buddies (remember those?) from Archies – usually of rock stars, Hollywood celebrities and cricketers (and tennis stars for this author).
But thanks to the last 15 years, our design aesthetics have not only expanded, they have also become more individualistic. From prints of famous global artistes to eccentric barware and other objects of desire from around the world – our homes and office cubicles give voice to our unique sense of style.
To celebrate our humour issue, My Big Red Bag brings you three young companies with a common mission – to bring laughter and a dash of absurdity into the homes and offices of Indians. What’s more, we also bring you our favourites from their portfolio of products – so you can laugh all the way to the shopping cart!
For The Love of Wisecracks : Random In Tandem
Mumbai based Random In Tandem‘s founder Naqiya is a citizen of the world – originally from Sri Lanka, she grew up in London and came to live in Mumbai after her marriage. While decorating her new home, she struggled to find accessories that satisfied her design ethos – products that are minimalist, fun and have a global influence.
Recognizing an opportunity, Naqiya started Random in Tandem exactly two years ago, working from her house to begin with. Today, her portfolio of products ranges from stationery to utility boxes to several other decor objects. (we love her I’m Going Nuts tins which imbibe healthy snacking habits). Her droll bookmarks and pillows are especially popular, especially the Miss & Mrs. Always Right (and the accompanying Mr. Right) pillows! Naqiya’s personal favourite is the I’m Hookedbookmark (We love it too, in fact it’s responsible for getting us interested in RIT!). She is clear that Random in Tandem’s niche is wordplay & contour based design and she is committed to creating products that are timeless, utilitarian and carry a universal appeal.
Most of her customers are educated and young professionals from the metros, with a design sensibility that prefers sharp wit to sheer wackiness. But Random in Tandem has also seen a good response from cities such as Raipur and Baroda, and some of her products – such as the Mood-O-Meter mug – are also well-liked by the older generation.
Each and every product sold by Random in Tandem is designed by Naqiya, who thinks that a ticklish funny bone is an extremely important trait for anyone who wants to design quirky products. She herself finds inspiration in every day motifs, from the Gmail inspired letter holder to the camera inspired photo frame. Her children often provide her with material for copy – she laughingly recalls how her daughter solemnly explained to her that “etc. stands for End of Thinking Capacity”; that’s certainly going to make it to a Random in Tandem product soon! She admires London based designer Waldo Pancake for his fantastic puns and typography and Umbra for it’s timeless classic contemporary design. When it comes to humor, she believes that Oscar Wilde’s dry wit is timeless and Vir Das’ intelligent, well researched comedy always makes her chuckle.
When we asked Naqiya what she has learnt from running Random In Tandem, she declared – Designing is one thing, running a business around design is an altogether different ball game. Wise words, those!
Random In Tandem products are available on all major e-commerce stores, as well boutique decor stores in Mumbai. An online shop is coming soon, as also home design solutions.
Desi Inspiration, Global Aspirations : Ek Do Dhai
Delhi based Sagar Jain, founder of Ek Do Dhai, was set on joining IIT (weren’t we all!), till he went to study in Chandigarh. Always fond of sketching, he realized for the first time that he had alternatives to engineering – such as pursuing a career in design. Encouraged by his friends, he discarded his engineering dreams and opted instead for a course in product design from NIFT, Hyderabad. It was possibly the best decision of his young life, for it opened up a world of possibilities for him. After graduating from NIFT, he got some hands on experience – a stint with a design firm and then with a Jaipur based export house – but he was always clear that he would start something of his own. That dream was realized in June 2013, when he set up Ek Do Dhai.
For Sagar, the company name reflects both the design philosophy and soaring ambition of his firm: As he explains, it’s inspired by the only non linear chess move, the words are commonly heard in India, and best of all, it sounds catchy, quirky and slightly crazy – just like his products!
Ek Do Dhai has a wide range of barware and tableware, and plans to extend into several other categories. Their barware is especially popular with the youth, and the pair of I Swear To Drunk I Am Not God glasses sell like hot cakes. But Sagar is astute enough to recognize that humor means different things to different people – while the single and the newly married are always scouting for in-your-face eccentricity (such as the Mardana mugs), the more mature customer is more interested in subtle hilarity and utilitarian products such as home ware and kitchenware. He plans to tap into this market in the future, and also scale up operations in store design and special events for restaurants and pubs.
Sagar believes that humor is present all around us, but often gets overlooked in the day to day saga of life. He started off with desi motifs, but is now turning towards products with global subjects, such as the Beatles & Shakespeare inspired glasses. Sagar’s inspirations are artists who have shown that great art can also be funny and irreverent, such as Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. Melodrama – whether in the movies or in real life – always gets him laughing, and Andaz Apna Apna is all time favourite. He believes that the intense marketing by political parties during elections is crying for a good joke (seems someone heard him, going by the viral memes on Ab Ki Baar Modi Sarkar).
With a packed schedule, Sagar does most of his thinking at night, but he always carries a diary to make note of anything that seems quirky or interesting. Running a fast growing company such as Ek Do Dhai has taught Sagar that design is just one aspect of running a business, and that all good things need dollops of patience!
Ek Do Dhai products are available on all major ecommerce stores, as well boutique decor stores across the country. They are also going to launch their own website this month.
Geek Nation : Why So Serious
Gurgaon based Khushboo and her husband loved hunting for quirky memorabilia during their numerous travels abroad. They would often joke about selling such products in India, but never took it seriously, till Khusbhoo fell ill and took a break from her advertising job. That gave her enough time to start giving shape to what was earlier just a half a baked idea – of bringing nerdy fun products to India.
Encouraged by her work colleagues and with support from her husband – who helped design the website – she launched Why So Serious in March 2013. Taking inspiration from the arcade games and the 8 bit era of the 90’s – the product range at her company spans toys, stationery, barware, tableware, collectibles and digital art. The company has an interesting retail model – they offer original merchandise of global brands and showcase handpicked products made by talented product designers across the world. More recently, they have also branched into designing products in-house, such as tote bags and coffee mugs.
True to the company name, the Batman inspired merchandise is the most popular – especially the Bat Signal and the 8 bit sunglasses. Khushboo’s personal favorite is also a Batman product – the Batman Ice tray – and there is a back story here. She stumbled upon the product during one of her travels, and fell head over heels in love. Unable to find it in India, she realized what Indian shoppers were missing out on, and decided to plug the gap herself. Obviously, the Batman Ice Tray was the first product that she ended up stocking!
For Khushboo, it is important that her products offer utility as well as the “wow” factor. Her consumer is also someone who is willing to experiment and is not afraid to express her inner child. She finds people who grew up in the 90’s, or those who are nostalgic about that era, are most drawn to her products. She sees a lot of interest in her products from both metros and non-metros, and believes that the latter offers more opportunity in this space due to the limited availability of such merchandise in their cities.
The most important thing that Khusbhoo has learnt from running Who So Serious is the value of hard work and persistence. Her success mantra is simple yet time tested – work as hard as you can and never EVER give up, for nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself.
While she is busy making people laugh, Khushboo herself loves the histrionics of Will Farrell, whose movies always manage to draw loud guffaws from her.
Why So Serious products can be bought at their website and on major ecommerce stores.
Editors’ Note: The recommendations above are based on the editors’ personal tastes and opinions – these are NOT PAID endorsements. My Big Red Bag takes no responsibility for the availability of the items described above after the time of publication. All images are the property of the companies mentioned in this article.