Arathi Rajagopalan, founder of 'House of Kalart', talks about thinking like a designer & transitioning to thinking like a business owner.
Excerpts from an interview with Arathi Rajagopalan, founder of ‘House of Kalart’ – a fusion jewellery label that merges global aesthetics and traditional craftsmanship.
When did you start ‘House of Kalart’ and what was the intention?
Founder Of House Of Kalart Arathi Rajagopalan says I started House of Kalart in 2017 as a venture where painting, drawing, and embroidery are married with metalsmithing to create well-handcrafted fashion jewellery. Along with painting and styling, the venture aims to create a holistic fashion experience for a bold and dramatic woman! As a child, I had always been fascinated by arts and crafts.
My inspiration was my aunt who taught me different forms of crafts such as glass painting, origami, hot wax painting during my summer vacations. I would constantly draw designs on my school books, and I developed an interest in jewellery during my study of fashion designing.
This led me to combine two of my passions, art, and jewellery, which became a stepping stone to my career. Colours and textures not only inspire me, but they also instigate a play of design in my head, and to physically touch, hold and add character to something that was just an idea brings me immense joy. I take pride in personally hand painting or embellishing each piece.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in starting the company?
It is easy to dream and visualise a design, the real challenge starts when you get down to manufacturing it. I faced challenges in R&D initially trying to execute the idea of marrying art or surface ornamentation with metalsmithing, replacing art in place of a stone and creating well-crafted fashionable jewellery. Many artisans were not willing to experiment with new designs as they were more comfortable in making what they were used to.
I went on to learn the processes myself which made it easier for me to break it down and convince artisans. I was so invested in the designs, I assumed the great designs would drive the sales. I learnt that running a business is much more than just the product, starting with customer validation, there are many aspects of a business an owner needs to look at.
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What is the biggest mistake you made while starting your company in the initial few years?
When I planned to start my own business, I had to learn everything from scratch. I used to think like a designer and not as a business owner. I was confident that great designs will automatically drive in sales. I used to be stuck in creation mode most of the time. I underrated the importance of customers and market opinion. I did not notice the value in asking the customers what they like and what changes they would like to see.
I learned later on that help is always available if you are willing to ask. I don’t have to do everything on my own. Made mistakes and learned that keeping track of inflow and outflow of cash and maintaining a book of all accounts, inventory and transactions are extremely important. I also learnt how to prioritise improving instead of wasting time on perfection.
If there was one thing you could advice to a budding woman entrepreneur, what would it be?
My advice to young, upcoming women entrepreneurs is, embrace your journey as an entrepreneur not as a job but as your identity. Starting a business takes time, hard work, and a tremendous amount of patience. You will need determination and persistence, and a willingness to take personal responsibility for your successes and failures. Always remember “everything can be figured out” over time. Identify what you are good at, identify what is your competitive advantage, focus on those things, and build on them. Keep a positive attitude and listen to your customers. Take advice. Most important of all: “BELIEVE IN YOU!”
(Women’s Web, in collaboration with HEN India, will present a series of interviews with women entrepreneurs on Mondays. ‘HEN- Her Entrepreneurial Network’ is a community of Indian Women Entrepreneurs, connected by a vision to inspire, inform and support each other.)