A country that loves its gold, India has seen a dramatic change in the preference of its jewelry. From being only used to make a statement about status and station in weddings, or as family heirlooms to pass on to the daughter or the daughter-in-law, jewelry for the Indian has evolved into a means of self-expression. No longer are men- the father or husband, the primary jewelry buyers in the family(usually for an occasion). Jewelry is now an indulgence that the woman wants to allow for herself- for her own joy, for making her own statement. This transformation has brought with it a milieu of new materials that the Indian woman has fallen in love with – from old watch parts to clay, but silver seems to be the hot new favourite among women wanting to make that splash! Move over, diamonds! The women are excited about their new best friends!
QuirkSmith– a brand true to its name- is one of those that seem to blend women’s quirkiness and sensibilities with the right touch of craftsmanship, leading a renaissance in silver jewelry.
As a besotted admirer of the brand, I got in touch with the founders of this stand-out jewellery line. Behind this brand are two firebrand women- sisters at that! Meet Divya Batra and Pragya Batra, the duo who started a home-business with a grand vision.
Read on to find out about their amazing journey, their unusual sources of inspiration and what they did to build a unique brand within such a short time.
Divya Batra: My love affair with silver started during my early days at Amrapali (I worked as a designer at Amrapali straight out of college – from 2004-07). While I have designed and still design in all precious metals, silver has always been my true love. Working together as sisters was a dream come true because we compliment each other so much in our skill sets. And there could have been nothing better than silver jewelry. It is what I know best, but being an artist myself, I didn’t enjoy the part of selling and marketing. Which is where Pragya came in. We thought we’ll do this together, each one of us taking care of what we are good at – she at her business and marketing, me at the designing. So with this, we started Quirksmith in 2015. But we went all in only by end of 2016. For one year between 15-16, we tested the market by doing small pop ups and selling through our facebook page.
Pragya Batra: We believe there is inspiration everywhere, and most artists believe in this. we do have our sources from where we are sure to derive inspiration, like what we read, poetry, stories, etc.. besides this sometimes people inspire us, sometimes while walking on the road we see something that is inspiring. there are also techniques and materials such as coins etc that are very inspiring. Some times Divya writes a poem and that is the starting point to some collection or design.
Pragya: We started experimenting early with facebook marketing and it remains our biggest source for getting new customers. Early on we also relied heavily on showcasing our work at exhibitions and flea markets. As a new brand, it served as a testing ground for our body of work. It helped us realize that people liked our work and hence led us to move to an online only presence in order to scale.
Divya: As a natural course of what we are doing, right from the day we started this venture, we have never really followed trends. Trends come and go, we want our jewellery to have the value beyond this, we ideally want our jewellery should be so loved and so classic that it should be passed on and not die with a dying trend.
Pragya: Buying silver jewelry online wasn’t a trend when we started out a few years ago. Hence the biggest challenge was to gain customer’s trust for a new brand like ours. In order to overcome this challenge we did a lot of physical showcases in the first year of our existence. That helped to spread the word as more and more women started to try our designs. And when we went online only in end of 2016, there were already a large group of women who had worn our designs and loved our work. They also acted as the brand’s promoters once we launched online.
Pragya: We started with a one person workshop and are now 10 craftsmen strong! I consider that the biggest achievement, because we have been able to teach the craft of silver smithy to young men who may have otherwise not picked it up. We usually work with untrained men, and train them over a few months till they start to excel at the craft.
In the early years we also experimented with several business models to work with (stocking at stores, testing several online portals etc, experimenting with different types of showcases), and finally narrowed down to focus on our own website and a handful of online portals we work with as of today.
Divya: It has never been better for me as a mother. I keep my daughter in the studio after her school and she is busy with some art craft activities. If you come to our studio unannounced, you are likely to see me and Pragya working and Katha, my daughter painting or building something. She has learnt to respect my time at work and has realised this is the best for her and me both. Kids adapt very fast, and in this case it has been a welcome transition.
In all honesty, Katha’s being around also gives me a lot of inspiration. Kids do the silliest of things that bring back some nostalgic moments fromour childhood. And as an artist I love to tap into this nostalgia when it comes to designing. In fact our collection on Kid’s anklets came about from one such moment, which first translated into a poem and then into these cute little anklets for kids. Here is the poem that I wrote prior to the kid’s collection – this poem was inspired on one such day when my daughter was going about her usual business at the studio.
Pragya: We want to make jewellery that means something to the wearer – jewellery that is not only pretty to look at, but something that reflects the wearer’s attitude and feelings.
Pragya: As a habit, I start my day with one task that would add some value to existing business. It could be reading up on a new integration for our website, analyzing our marketing spend for past few days or something else. I maintain a long list of tasks, some that are strategic and long term in nature, and others that are daily operational tasks. And I make sure to tackle at least one strategic/long term task every week. That is the only thing that makes me feel like I am moving ahead. A lot of times, I end up doing multiple tasks, few of them being very mundane but necessary for the business. Hence adding a few strategic tasks gives me the much needed push.
As for Divya, she is constantly thinking about new ideas, new designs. Her mind never stops. She is the most excited when she is designing. Another great habit is to personally look at all the customer feedback we get. She does not hesitate to pick up the phone, call the customer, and take their feedback to improve on any aspect of an existing design. It takes a very open minded artist to do that. Most of the times, as designers we are so wedded to our ideas and designs that we feel they couldn’t get better. Divya on the other hand is always open to feedback.
The coolest experience is definitely looking forward to Mondays (as opposed to the Monday blues that most of us face:)) .
Through Quirksmith, we have also crossed paths with some of the most talented people both in the creative sphere and professional sphere, who have now become close friends.
Devishobha is the founder of Kidskintha- an online parenting resource repository dedicated to jumpstarting conversations around millennial parenting, encouraging parents to bring their attention to words, thoughts and actions that will enable them to raise a well-rounded, empathic and motivated generation. You can also find her on the Huffington Post, Parent.co, Entrepreneur, Lifehack, TinyBuddha and many other publications.