By Hand From The Heart is a curated makers market event in Chennai, South India. UPCOMING EVENT: 24th – 25th, AUGUST, CROWNE PLAZA, CHENNAI
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello Everyone! I am Nikita S Veejay-A daughter, a sister, granddaughter, wife, a daughter-in-law, an MBA grad, an entrepreneur, like to think of myself as a world traveller, a grade 7 pianist, a pretty good driver, antiques connoisseur, impeccable style sense, a bit of a feminist, a pretty good friend, incessant ideas giver and much more, but all this not necessarily in that order.
Always knew from when I was a kid I wanted to do something creative but never really knew what the exact calling was. When I scramble through all my old slam books and school memorabilia, I have always scribbled about starting a store or something related to fashion and accessories. But what I do is a bit tangent to this idea. I went to a boarding school, Sacred Heart’s till Standard 10 in Yercaud, finished my higher secondary in Good Shepherd, Nugambakkam, then went on to complete my Bachelor’s In Commerce from Stella Maris and then went on to complete my MBA from Loyola Institute of Business Administration.
When I joined LIBA, I always knew I wasn’t going to take a corporate job and kept telling myself that I have entered a B-school to learn the nuances of a business and dealing with case studies and being with people who are on the threshold of stepping into the world.
I got married in the 2nd year of MBA, and I must say a pretty supportive husband who asked me to follow what I wanted. He always accompanies me for the exhibitions.
If I wasn’t married, my Dad would have made sure I got a job and seen what the corporate world really looks like. My first investor was my father though and then I got a couple of hand loans from friends and family. Then there was no looking back.
How would you describe what you do; and how long have you been making and creating?
I started out my brand “Urumi” in February 2012. “Urumi” is a Tamil word which is the drum in our logo. I loved the sound of it and it had good recall. The drum has certain beats, which can put people in a trance. I have no degree in design but I can conceptualize, so I sit with designers and tell them exactly what I need. Half is what I bring to the table and the other half, it is the designers. Always have an eye for detail and a penchant for design. I always go with my “Gut”, mostly it does not let down. The first designers of the brand were always friends, they didn’t charge at all. But after a year we were working with few agencies and freelancers.
Our first product was the famed Iyer USB. Since, we wanted to showcase South India as a brand, nothing befits better than a TAMBRAHM. It was the first product and it was a success. If it did not take off as we expected I might have been doing something else.
Tell us about your recent works and your proposed showcase at the By Hand, From The Heart.
This year we have developed Souvenirs for Madurai and Kodaikkanal. The reviews have been pretty good. That was in our brand’s strategy from the very beginning, to do souvenirs and merchandise for specific cities and places of interest. Couple of heritage clubs and hotels approached us and has given us a much-needed push in this direction.
At the By Hand, From The heart this chapter we have 2016 calendars and some home furnishings to showcase. We have rebranded Urumi in terms of logo and brand language; it will be visible as we unfold our latest collection.
Can you describe your work place / space?
Currently, my office is being done up. I have this beautiful antique table with photographs, postcards and knick-knacks from my travels. Love a little clutter to be inspired. On some days just clear the whole thing up. Mostly we set up our meetings at coffee shops, yes from the chic ones to our round the corner Café Coffee Days, Subways or even some days at Hotel Saravana Bhavan over a cup of filter coffee. Have a small godown space at my parents place, use it for all the delivery and shipping.
What is a typical day at “Urumi” like?
Start my day with some Yoga and music to get me started. Then sit at the breakfast table and make my “to do list”, there will be about 10 things, everyday from meetings, to orders, swatches and samples for the next collection, in between all the face booking and watzapping. We customize orders for friends, acquaintances and do party favors as well. So, this keeps a bit of the cash flows on the side as well, so our coffers don’t dry up. We travel a bit for work; we have different sourcing hubs and do some flea markets around the country. At times I ponder if could see myself doing anything else, I DON’T think so.
What/who inspires you? Or how do you find inspiration?
In the December of 2010 I travelled to New Zealand for our honeymoon. The beauty of the place is inexplicable. But what caught my eye the most was the superfluous availability of souvenirs and keepsakes. So, at this stage the seeds of what I planned to do were planted subconsciously (I think!!!) and it kept growing and when I completed my MBA in the summer of 2011, it 2012 the brand was de facto. It’s also the everyday monotonous things you do can be an inspiration to design few things.
Can you describe your creative process and what is the most rewarding part of the creative process for you?
It could be an idea scribbled on a paper napkin. I have the habit of always a carrying a book with me, (very brand loyal-only URUMI books), to jot down ideas and pen down my thoughts. In the last 3-4 years have used around 15 books. When I read the older books it shows how much we have grown. Some ideas turn tangible, some we shelve. We never know when it can come in handy. Some take few days to get on the store stands; some ideas are built for years.
The most rewarding feeling is when you see someone sporting your product and you chance upon seeing that. My mom and I were driving near Mylapore one particular day, she saw a girl jogging and wearing a “Urumi” t-shirt. I think Mom was quiet for a minute and then said, “What you do is not easy? But I guess it is worth it.”
What’s the best thing about being a crafter / designer?
The picture says it all. When we have somebody send a photo of him or her feeling special from something the brand has to offer, it makes all the sleepless nights and the migraines worth it.
What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
It’s never easy and you are going to want to give up more times than you think. You will beat yourself about taking that, 9-5 job instead. But if it doesn’t let you sleep at night and your obsessed and “gut” says go ahead, you should.
Anything exciting on the cards for the coming months?
The whole idea how we have changed our branding and want to present ourselves in the Urumi 2.0, is an exciting stage for us as a brand. The product ranges also diversified.