College Dropout To Ace Entrepreneur, This Working Mom Built A Brand To Sell Indian Artisan Products
Following her late father’s dream of forming an organization named Naanjil, this working mom and serial entrepreneur, Sushmita Singh, started the brand five years ago. Naanjil is a national platform interlocking the gaps between the local Indian artisans and their handcrafted items by promoting them out in the world. It presents the country in its exact form, which is, Unity in Diversity at a global level.
How it began
Everything happens for a reason is the motto that gets people through tough times. For Sushmita, it turned into a prophecy as she went on a self-discovery journey after dropping out of college. Right from her first job which did not pay much to her first corporate job at American Express, and now as a founder, Sushmita had gained confidence to take over the world armed with her intelligence and sheer will.
“Naanjil happened when I met artisans who were very realistic about their approach in life and their art. Those artisans never wailed about the lack of opportunities. Instead, they kept going and were perfectly happy with what they had in their little homes. Their struggle resonated deeply with mine, and inspired me to give them a platform. I started aggregating artisans from all corners of the country, even from the middle of deserts.”
About the company
With her husband as the co-founder, the Delhi-based company shifted to Hyderabad a year ago. A friend in need is a friend indeed — many of her friends came together to support and help create Naanjil, wholeheartedly. Currently they are a team under ten, working full time, and a few work on contract basis.
Their platform listing boasts of creations from 400 artisans, spanning across 22 states of India. With about 700 SKUs present on their website, they have another 250-270 SKUs listed on Amazon.
Naanjil offers its customers a huge variety of products, of which the prices range from Rs. 800 – Rs. 2 Lakh; the Kanjivaram saree which features a print made of actual gold zari.
Since Naanjil products are handmade, it is a time-consuming process. Pressuring artisans and prompting them to create items on an immediate basis of orders received is not Singh’s style. Instead they purchase their creations, once ready, and then list them on the portals.
“To my surprise, wooden miniature veena became the top-selling product on Amazon, and that was something I did not see happening.”
Following the pleasant news, Naanjil provided advance money to procure machines to help the artisan who made the veena. They also spent Rs.3000 – Rs. 4000 to hire a person as a helping hand for that artisan.
Some other brand bestsellers include wooden kitchen sets, palm basket, jooties (designed by Sushmita herself), coconut incense stick holder, and Rajasthani choker. What started as nothing has now grown to a brand that processes 50 – 100 products everyday.
The pandemic and other unprecedented natural calamities brought forth the misery of artisans, all over. With grief, she shares,
“One of my artisans from Odisha sent a picture of his painting floating in water, inside his house. Another one was worried as to how would he be able to pay hospital bills if he contracted the deadly virus. Although, with passing time there has been improvement, and that brings hope for the betterment of their livelihood.”
When the chase is for monetary benefits only, mistakes are bound to occur. The serial entrepreneur truly believes that if one pursues an activity with a higher purpose, money eventually follows. With this zeal and intention, the working mom is striving hard to build Naanjil into a global brand that sells handmade items by Indian artisans.
“I’m in a rush to execute my carefully thought-out plan so that we can contribute to these artisans in more ways than one.”
Sushmita, the working mom of a 6-year-old, believes that her own mother is her guiding source. “It is because of her that I came to know about my late father’s dream of Naanjil. Interestingly, my mom became a Twitter sensation when my sister tweeted about the gajras she lovingly made for them despite all her health issues.”
Eventually, the entrepreneur listed these gajras on Naanjil, and since then her mother has been actively involved with the brand.
Talking about her husband and his side of the family, Sushmita says, “When I met my husband we couldn’t spend extra, even if it was for buying Chole Bhature. Now, the moment I set my eyes on something, he gets it for me. This is the kind of pampering I receive from him. As well, the love from my late father-in-law, who was my best friend, was amazing in itself. He would be as proud and delighted about my work as are my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.
But the outside world wasn’t all roses as her family.
“I did face, on multiple ocassions, people building a notion about me. They felt I would not know certain things as they gauged me to be a person with low self-confidence. I was constantly judged, for I struggled and barely spoke the English language. But hey, now I can speak with Joe Biden, like he is my buddy!” *bursts into laughter*
Inspiring message from the working mom
No student should feel that their achievement can be stunted because of not having formal education. She believes, “There is a lot to learn about life outside the school, so it is not everything, but that doesn’t mean one needs to drop out.”
To the upcoming and current mompreneurs, she says,
“It is okay to take a break, laugh, and be happy as a working mom. Enjoy the journey of entrepreneurship as every successful entrepreneur has a story of failure, because, to keep going on and not giving up is the name of the game.”