Once dismissed by India’s upscale retail space owners, luxury costume jewellery brand Isharya now has eight stores across high-end malls in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune and Bengaluru
Since 2017, sisters-in-law Gauri and Radhika Tandon, Founders of Indiainspired premium costume jewellery brand, Isharya, have opened eight retail stores in high-end malls across Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Pune. Their recent one opened in August at the swanky Palladium mall.
When the women bosses decided to take their brand, which was initially B2B, to Indian consumers, they chose premium malls to open their stand-alone stores, except for their very first in Bandra. But getting a space inside multi-brand establishments wasn’t easy. “One of the mall owners rejected us as he didn’t believe in costume jewellery. But I don’t blame him,” says Gauri. India, for ages, has looked at jewellery as an investment. It was difficult for people to believe that women consumers were ready to spend thousands of rupees on fashion jewellery.
Radhika and Gauri were, nevertheless, convinced that their products would do as well in India as in the US, where Isharya was launched in 2004.
Their retail strategy in India has always been aggressive. “We must have even annoyed a few people, constantly calling them to give us space,” says Gauri, laughing. The persistence paid off. The malls initially assigned Isharya smaller stores and after seeing its popularity were willing to give it bigger outlets. “In fact, a year on, one of the malls that had initially denied us a space, gave us a great store,” says Nisha Khiani, Head Marketing and Sales at Isharya.
Today’s independent women do not define jewellery by its weight. They are looking for great designs, craftmanship and light pieces that they can experiment and have fun with. “At the same time feel luxurious and be proud to wear it at a party and stand besides someone wearing a tencarat ring,” says Gauri. “Most of our clients have their real jewellery locked up in the cupboards because they are bored with it. When they want a fashion accessory, they come to us,” adds Khiani.
Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Freida Pinto, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Selena Gomez and Priyanka Chopra have all worn Isharya. Its designs were also featured in the TIME magazine, New York Times and Forbes.
But when the London School of Economics graduate, Gauri and US-based lawyer Radhika started making jewellery, there was no business or growth plan. Isharya, a name derived from the initials of the founders’ three children, just catered to friends and family initially. In 2004, when online magazine Daily Candy’s editor spotted and featured one of Radhika’s rings, things changed. They received several enquiries for the accessory, helping them realise that there was a market for their products. Gauri and Radhika started with selling at small boutiques. Then in 2007, e-commerce giant Net-a-Porter placed a big order with them, and they were soon selling at other premium multi-brand stores as well.
Despite demands from India, the businesswomen were doubtful about the response from the country, and for long, weren’t thinking of launching their brand here. “We thought that a nation that is crazy about real jewellery may not want to buy our jewellery.” They changed their minds when at a shopping pop up, in 2007, in Bungalow 8, Mumbai, all their pieces were sold out in a day. “We realised that women wanted jewellery that made them look glamorous and well put together, and were not necessarily willing to spend big bucks on real jewellery,” says Khiani.
Soon after, the same year, they opened their first store in Bandra and over the next two years added seven more to their brand’s portfolio. The entry into the Indian retail space has been a gamechanger. The direct interactions with customers have helped Isharya’s team understand their tastes better and get feedback on their collections, made from cut polki mirrors, enamel work, resin and cut stone. The materials are sourced from Jaipur and the jewellery is made at workshops in Thailand.
But none of it would have been possible without the design sensibilities and business acumen of the two women leaders. “Gauri has a great eye for details,” says Khiani. There have been times when she has rejected the entire collection just a few days before the launch. “I don’t sell anything I won’t wear,” says Gauri. And this philosophy, Khiani believes, is one of the reasons for Isharya’s success. Gauri, however, credits her team for the brand’s popularity. “At Isharya, we hire the attitude. We like to work with people who think that the brand is their baby like it is ours.” They also shouldn’t be boxed in their roles. “A night before the opening of the Palladium store, Nisha and I were cleaning the floor, without ever thinking that it is not our job.”
The launch the next day was a success. Along with their new collections, people also appreciated the NOW (Name it, Own it, Worth it) counter, which lets clients customise their jewellery. “We all are our own brand and the new store celebrates that,” says Gauri.