A qualified lawyer with a keen sense of design, that's who we have in focus today. Devangee Ganatra founded Vivat, a venture that has spent 3 years in the market and one that focuses on providing quality at affordable prices. There's a lot to learn from this young founder of Vivat, read on for an interesting story,
How did the inspiration to start a venture like Vivat come about?
Vivat was launched three years back by me (Devangee Ganatra) and Shruti Chowdhary when we realized there was a void in the semiprecious jewelry market. There were stores and brands that offered exclusive pieces at exorbitant prices and then there were small stalls with jewelry of inferior quality being sold in dozens! There was nothing in the market where you could get one-of-a-kind jewelry with aesthetic design and high quality materials at affordable prices.
I strongly believe there has been a perennial cost vs quality and design dichotomy that needed to end. As we built on the idea of exclusive yet affordable jewelry we also realized how shortchanged our Indian craftsmen and their talents are. Through our travels across India we met a lot of artisans who barely had a roof over their heads. So we decided to launch our brand by working with these craftsmen directly and bypassing wholesale stores for materials. This way, the craftsmen earned more money which in turn enabled them to send their children to school and we too, could allow for customization of designs.
The passion to design jewelry has always been there for me. I love being surrounded by stones and metals and different textures that i can then work on. Be it sourcing and putting together stones to form a necklace for a friend or designing something for personal use, Vivat is now an outlet for the sheer love of creativity and thematic designs.
Vivat means Eternal in Latin. When the brand was formed i knew it was important to create some pieces that could be worn regardless of changing trends. What Vivat aims to do therefore is design jewellery that is classic yet contemporary in sensibilities.
I personally enjoy strong, dramatic lines and features in my jewelry but i tend to temper down some chunky pieces so our collection appeals to those who prefer minimalism and to those who arent afraid to sport statement pieces.
What have your past work experiences taught you?
I studied law after i graduated in Economics and Commerce and traveled to Singapore/Shanghai for my Masters in International Business Laws. This travel experience as a student exposed me to so many different perspectives, cultures and traditions- It was enriching. I came back to India and worked in a couple of law firms in their litigation department for 3 years. The long hours i put in there did not leave me with enough time to pursue my creative interests.
As much as i enjoyed the debates, learning drafting skills and discussions on how a law can be viewed from different perspectives i knew i wanted to do something that made me look forward to the next day and after a lot of thought i decided to take the plunge- from lawyer to entrepreneur.
This did however pose a few challenges- convincing my parents this is what i wanted to do was a herculean task but they've been supportive nonetheless.
At work however, i realized that the training i got in the legal field had a lot to do with removing ambiguities and minimizing risk- two things that never work for entrepreneurs.
So i made a conscious effort to change how i looked at things. I was very idealistic in the start but once youre pushed in the throes of it, you realize that risk is an inherent part of your job now and its best to understand that risk and explore possibilities that can maximize your output and work results.
Law definitely taught me how important it is to stay organized, analyzing an offer and most importantly it taught me discipline with its long hours. I knew starting my own business would mean putting in long hours of work but its my labour of love and i dont mind it one bit. Though i should say i really value my sleep now! I could even set up my own Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) with Vivat because of my prior legal pursuits and im learning something new everyday!
What are the top 3 challenges you face in this business?
I think as a woman entrepreneur in India, the biggest challenge is to believe enough in yourself despite traditional mindsets around you. The proverbial glass ceiling exists at every level. I faced it with my craftsmen the first time i started designing with them. They are primarily men who scoffed at me traveling and making business decisions and instructing them on what i wanted designed. Next came people who approached the Vivat stall at exhibitions and taking our visiting cards only to harass us with unnecessary phone calls! For this mindset to change, i had to be more aggressive in my dealings with people. It took a while but i have a comfortable work relationship with my craftsmen now some of whom even encourage their wives to help them work. A challenge now is going to be discovering the skills of these women and how they can gain financial independence from that.
Networking and marketing is another challenge im trying very hard to overcome! The hours you spend at work brainstorming or designing or traveling is exhuasting in itself. Then having to go out there and socialize in certain circles and get your brand exposure is equally important. Ive always believed that quality work speaks for itself but in todays day and age aggressive marketing has become extremely important. So i try to go out (though i dont try hard enough) and wear my brand every chance i get. That is something i enjoy however and with a few supportive friends and clients who love their Vivat pieces ive been lucky! Im also trying to widen Vivats audience and we have taken the brand to Muscat, Dubai, London, New York and Hong Kong over the last three years. The response has been very encouraging and thats a testament to the skill of our craftsmen.
One of the most important aspects which is also a challenge is sustaining the business. With so much competition in the market, pricing becomes a vantage point. We aim to make exclusive yet affordable jewelry and our clients have always appreciated the fact that they arent spending a bomb on designs they love. Prioritizing certain goals also comes into play to ensure long-term growth for the brand.
These challenges are not insurmountable though. I think communicating with my family has helped me to persevere.
What are your short term business plans for Vivat?
The immediate goal is to launch our website. A lot of our clients across the globe have been requesting us to start a website with a payment gateway to ease their shopping experience. Currently we retail off Facebook, Instagram and exhibitions.
The aim over the next 18 to 24 months is to turn Vivat into a lifestyle stop for products that are sourced and made by people at the grassroots level that includes jewelry which is our core, vintage home decor and a focus on indian textiles on western silhouettes. I really think that a concerted effort in this direction will slowly change mindsets and lead to a more self sufficient way of living.
I also want to have a small team of people who are passionate about what they do to work as in-house designers, help with a streamlined sales forecast and marketing strategies and encourage the growth of our wedding planning division.
The aim is to be authentic in whatever the brand stands for because that in itself speaks volumes.
What other ventures (if any) do you plan to start in the future?
Thats a work in progress. One step at a time :)
Any last words of advice for fellow women entrepreneurs?
When i decided to start Vivat i could do it because of the active encouragement of my family and co-founder. Its not easy to give up something you know and start anew. I hear so many people wanting to start a business but are waiting for the right time for various reasons. Its what i was doing! That decision is always pushed because youre worried about how something may not work out or be perfect... and thats okay. Situations and people evolve with time. Its just important to be flexible, be open to suggestions and constructive criticism and not be afraid to ask for help. Do what you want to do and work doubly hard and most importantly take the time out for honest self appraisal. Be thankful everyday :) Things will eventually fall into place exactly how you wanted them to.