The hand weaving and craft industry is quite large and is one of the main employers of artisans in the country. However, the majority of finished products, which are also the best of the lot, are exported. For example, our block printed artifacts and fabrics are exported to over 71 countries.
India exported bulk printed products worth US$1.89 million in the financial year 2020-2021 (April-November). In 2020-2021 (April-November), the total export volume was about 23,8000. This implies that these handicrafts are quite popular outside of India, while illustrating the fact that the best handicrafts are not accessible to us Indians. Moreover, Indians over the years have slowly moved away from heritage designs.
Aware of the existence of this void, Daisy Tanwani founded her local craft brand “Pinklay India” in 2015 to revive the unparalleled aesthetic of Indian handicrafts and make it accessible to Indians.
“We travel a lot and collect beautiful pieces from all over the world. Most of my tapestries, murals and ceramics came from abroad and ironically the pieces we liked the most had the label ‘Made in India’,” she recalls.
This made her realize that she wanted to make ‘Made in India’ available to Indians in India and further, she wanted to turn ‘Made in India’ into ‘Designed and Made in India’. “India has an unprecedented craft heritage and a shrinking population of artisans. These are too precious to be allowed to fade into oblivion. Pinklay is a way to preserve our craft heritage,” says Tanwani, as she opens up about her journey of getting started with us.
A shameless Indian brand
Hailing from Mumbai, Pinklay is a local brand that caters to diverse customer groups, from women to children, and stocks everything from home textiles to trendy furniture. But what makes this brand unique is that the designs are all hand illustrated and strongly rooted in our traditional designs and colors. Tanwani’s love of beautiful block-printed designs also sets his work apart from other Indian-made brands’ products.
As a die-hard fan of block prints, which add immense glamor to her collection, Tanwani says her brand is unmistakably Indian.
Falling in love with craftsmanship was no accident for her. “I guess it’s in my upbringing,” she says.
Tanwani hails from Jaipur, the city of art, where every nook and cranny screams art and is a hub of hand prints. “I’ve seen it all my life. You can tell great stories through hand printing. It’s magic,” she tells us.
In addition to this, travel excursions, books and nature have been a big part of the inspiration behind the art of Pinklay products. “Pinklay is a confluence of our travels in India and elsewhere, our culture, our experiences and nature. It’s a beautiful cocktail of past and present,” she says.
Building and supporting communities
Tanwani started Pinklay for something she loves: art. But in addition to this love of hers, there is a greater cause that she espouses fervently.
The revelation that almost all of the arts and crafts produced in India were appreciated elsewhere amazed her. Tanwani’s belief is that Indians have changed and so have their consumption habits, specifically the middle class and upper middle class. The premise is that we are missing out on opportunities, as sourcing is being directed elsewhere, and artisans were unaware that India too has a growing class of consumers who appreciate locally made products.
“In 2015, Indian real estate was booming and there weren’t too many purist craft brands in decoration and textiles. It was also evident that Indian craftsmen were largely employed to meet the needs of the export market. There was new demand in the country and the supply was always there, it was just that it was directed elsewhere. Pinklay was a medium to marry these two tendencies. Over the next few years, we realized the need to pivot to grow and utilize our manufacturing capabilities optimally and so we ventured into apparel in 2020,” she says.
Moreover, Tanwani’s aim is not only to bring authentic and unique pieces of brilliant quality to the market, but also to give artisans the tremendous number of opportunities that India has to offer as flourishing market for their products. And above all, give them the recognition and credit they deserve.
“We are an online first brand, partnering with local artisans to fuse traditional and modern designs in unconventional ways to create stunning products. Currently, we work with 500 artisans and pay them fairly, often above market prices. Also, there is no place for gender in my organization, so we hire and pay equally based on skills, not gender,” she tells us.
In Pinklay, women make up almost 50% of the artisanal workforce. In socio-culturally disadvantaged clusters where women cannot get to work, Pinklay entrusts them with the work. “All of our quilts, embroideries and pom-pom making take place remotely in groups where women cannot leave their homes,” Tanwani informs us.
Until 2017, his team was small, consisting of just 10 artisans and three employees, including Tanwani, his partner and a warehouse manager. But today, they are 500 craftsmen strong and have a team of 28 people who put on a show.
In addition to leveraging local talent, the company also sources locally, avoiding imports and synthetic materials, making this start-up a sustainable business. “We do not promote thoughtless drinking. Everything we do is sourced locally, from talent to raw materials. We work with pure fabrics, avoiding all synthetic materials, leather and plastic. Conscious of its environmental impact, we limit the majority of our packaging to sustainable and environmentally friendly materials. Our clothes are made to last and also to be passed on,” Tanwani informs us.
Be a female entrepreneur
Tanwani’s fashion sense is comfortable and minimalist. As she puts it, “it’s one that doesn’t essentially follow trends.” But being an entrepreneur is not being in your comfort zone.
Having studied journalism and worked as a marketing specialist at Danone, Tanwani never received a formal education or experience in design. She quit her well-paying job at Danone in 2015 to start her business. From there, after investing all of her savings, she self-funded her business and thus began the journey of an entrepreneur.
“But it was not an easy passage. People often questioned my judgment as a woman, my ability to thrive in a male-dominated world, and my courage to quit my job and start over at 30,” she recalls.
“You don’t even have a design degree, you just graduated! You will soon have children; how will you manage? Why don’t you just source your products and open a boutique, like other women? Without funding, how will you grow? These are just a few of the many questions I was asked, when all I needed was ‘you get it,’” she tells us as she recounts how people initially treated her. .
But the tables have turned. Today, Pinklay receives 3,000 orders per month, with its wide range of textile and handicraft products such as metal engraving, wood carving, pottery, hand painting, quilting, screen printing and embroidery. , among others.
The pandemic has spurred their growth
“We were in the right place at the right time with the right product,” she says of how the pandemic has affected Pinklay.
It was in a really positive way, she tells us.
During the pandemic, March 2020 to be exact, just six days before the country entered one of its first lockdowns, the brand launched its collection of resortwear and loungewear.
“We had no indication of what was going to happen. But it turned out that WFH became a necessity, as did comfortable and stylish clothes. And that was the aesthetic of our collection. Importantly, even though the first two months were tough with everything, including e-commerce, shut down, our team worked harder than ever to ensure we were ready to deliver as soon as the lockdown lifted. We grew by 400% in 2020-2021,” she says.
Going forward, as the nation is back in the office and consumers have more clarity on the concept of YOLO, his startup has a lot more to work on and there are various plans and strategies in their pipeline. For starters, they remain committed to their initiative to hire more local talent and be more sustainable. “I am determined to add to our artisanal workforce. We want to have 2,000 artisans with us by the end of 2023. We are 85% plastic-free in our operations and hope to increase that number to 90% by the end of this year,” Tanwani says.
Ultimately, the start-up is working to expand its footprint in India. “We are a self-funded company and are in no rush to raise funds. Our goal is to grow the brand with strategic and meaningful partnerships and not just financial funding,” she added.
Additionally, Tanwani’s roadmap is to create a blend of online and offline branding and they also recently launched an offline store. She also wants to launch bigger stores in Mumbai and Delhi. Ultimately, Pinklay India plans its presence internationally and wants to further establish itself in the market as a strong and enduring digital brand.