The Increased Demand and Popularity of Home Linens in India's Urban Lifestyle
With the COVID-induced lockdowns and the WFH (work from home) culture not going anywhere in a hurry, the home furnishings industry is witnessing exciting times like never before. Families are spending more and more time locked up in their homes and people have started looking at their home décor with a new perspective and an increased awareness. Home linens are relatively affordable and can quickly transform any living space without the need for any external intervention like a carpenter or an electrician. Moreover, you can give your room a new look as many times as you want, from young and colourful to mature and elegant, and everything in between, just by changing your home linens. As the demand for home linens increases, the competition amongst brands has also increased exponentially with only a few brands being able to make a name for themselves and leaving the rest behind. CocoBee Home Linens is one such brand which has established itself in this space and is known for its high quality home linen products available at jaw-dropping prices.
The CocoBee Home Linens Story
Prior to becoming a mother and a budding entrepreneur Nandini worked as an interior designer and always had a fascination for fabrics and how they could be used to enliven living and working spaces. The concept of CocoBee Home Linens started taking shape between 1997 and 2004 when she was juggling the responsibilities of being a mother of two and of creating an identity for herself. She was looking for quilts for her boys in Nasik but couldn’t find anything matching her tastes. She made a patchwork quilt at home which was liked and praised in her social circle. Gradually her friends and family started requesting her to make similar quilts and other products for them as well and orders started coming in. She realised that she was enjoying this and started participating in shows and exhibitions across Maharashtra. Finally in 2004, she moved to Mumbai with her family and CocoBee Home Linens was registered as a brand. Today CocoBee manufactures high quality home linen products like bedsheets, bedcovers, quilts, table-cloths, runners, etc. and has created a niche for itself in the home linen space. They also deliver customised home linen solutions for their clients and have been exporting their products overseas as well. We caught up with Nandini to know more about her exciting journey.
CocoBee is a design studio passionate about bringing alive spaces with creative, youthful, colourful and fresh stylised home linens since 2001. Premium in quality, non-fussy, contemporary, ethnic and practical. We blend colours, textures and fabrics in just the right proportions for effective gorgeous and appealing results, clean lines, simple but vibrant.
Nandini Khandelwal – Founder, CocoBee Home Linens
Interview with CocoBee's Founder, Nandini Khandelwal
- Q. Tell us about yourself and your background.
- I am a mother of two grown-up kids and I am an interior designer by profession. Back in 1997 I was living in Nasik and that’s where the CocoBee Home Linen story began. We became a brand in 2004, but between 1997 and 2004 it was a learning curve and getting to know what I really wanted to do. I had two small babies and it was a nuclear family so I couldn't really go out to work but sitting at home I wanted to do something. And that’s how CocoBee actually happened because I needed some quilts for my kids and I couldn’t find anything of my taste in Nasik. It was a small town then and I had to go to Mumbai for many things. I had a sewing machine and I started making small patch-work quilts for my kids. A couple of my friends liked my work and asked me to make things for them and through word of mouth a lot of such requests started coming in. It went a little crazy and then I realised I am enjoying doing these creative things.
A friend advised me to put a unit together and start out and have some exhibitions because she said I had an eye for it. That’s how it all began. Then I had a couple of shows and small exhibitions all over Maharashtra, and in 2004, we shifted to Mumbai and I registered the brand.
- Q. You said you were an interior designer prior to this.
- I did some freelance projects when I was a student working with a cousin who was an architect. The projects included some offices and also a small residence. I started designing my own home, my family homes and that is how it grew. I also did a couple of restaurant projects. Thereafter, leaving the kids behind and going to site was not happening because we were a nuclear family and Nasik was a growing town and interior designers were not much in demand. So, it was not really viable at that point. This was a similar line of work, home linen is what you require to dress up your homes, your offices and your living spaces. Fabrics always fascinated me so that’s why I treated too. It was just a very natural transition.
- Q. What is your process and how do you introduce a product? Who does the designing?
- Now it’s just not me it’s all the artisans and we are encouraging artisans from all over India. Normally I travel a lot, but not right now because of the pandemic. We curate stuff from all over India and see what really is viable for CocoBee Home Linens. Then I put in my creativity, for example, for hand block printing we prefer azo-free dyes and we are also exporting overseas in a small way. What we do is I go back to the people, sit down with them and discuss the designs of block prints and at the same time, also the quality, the finish, and yes it’s all hands-on. That’s our USP and also ensuring that they are using the right pigments, dyes, sizes and dimensions. A lot of creativity is involved – the colour combinations and stuff like that. We are introducing new fabrics such as corduroys and velvets for the season in a month’s time. Those will be completely our creations, the digital printing, the embroidery work, etc. It will be completely what the CocoBee team will be working on and now I do have people on board who help me out.
- Q. How do you curate products?
- It’s like doing head-hunting. If someone tells me or if I see something that I really like I get down to the grassroots level to find out where and how it’s made. First I try to find out if it is workable – they should be tech-savvy as you can’t travel much, then the second thing is whether they will be able to manufacture and supply in bulk, and also understand our conception designs. In terms of material, they can use the material that we provide which is sustainable and eco-friendly. Finally, after all these, whether the price of the product is viable to the customer. But it’s really worth getting on board on both sides - online or offline. I will give you a short example - just a couple of days ago I came across some beautiful lamps and the artisans are from North India, so right now I and my team are looking at artisans who can do our designs. Hopefully, something will come up in a few days and we will have a CocoBee lamp that works for us. We just introduced handcrafted glassware and glass tableware last week during the Ganapati festival.
- Q. You have been in the home furnishing space a long time. What is the biggest change you’ve seen from when you started to now?
- The consumers are very aware now. The media gives lots of exposure, so there is plenty for all but you have to be competitive and on the edge. It’s definitely a more competitive world. Your price point is your quality. A few years back there were just a few boutiques, now you will see one in every corner and in every street in Mumbai you will find somebody doing something very artistic. Thanks to the electronic and social media the awareness level of people sitting at home has increased and they are getting to know that people have beautiful homes. People want to create beautiful things, want to put them up and display them. This wasn’t there much in 1997. Gorgeous homes were there throughout the century but the exposure was not there. Now, every home wants to be something different from the next one. This has created a huge market for it now. I think that this trend is good and healthy. In fact, it’s one of the best times to enter this business right now.
- Q. What are some challenges you have faced?
- When I was living in a smaller town materials procurement was the main challenge because everything was not available there. I also faced logistics challenges of transporting things. Sometimes I would order a tempo to take things for a show in Mumbai and the tempo would not turn up on time, and then my friends would load all the material in their cars. It felt like even after all the hard work I put in I would not reach the destination on time. Sometimes we had a show in July and we assumed the weather forecast would be accurate. Everything was set up and we suddenly had a huge downpour and then nobody would turn up in the first few days. Another challenge was reaching out to your customers whom you were expecting to come to the exhibition. You literally had to start calling hundreds of them manually on phone. We didn’t have the very tech-savvy social media back then that we could just post something and say that we want you back. Sometimes for large orders of our customers the artisans were unable to deliver on time. It was challenging to convince a customer not to cancel the order because it was not CocoBee that they were cancelling but it was the people to whom we were giving jobs, whose livelihood was getting affected. We have to ensure that everything works properly and smoothly, right from the artisan to CocoBee and finally to the buyer. The B2C model has to be very smooth.
- Q. You mentioned you have to first check that the artisans must be tech-savvy. Is this a new requirement?
- This is a recent phenomenon because it’s a little difficult for me to go to small towns and villages personally. Sometimes I, my masterji and craftsmen do that work, and sometimes they are so tech-savvy in the rural areas that they end up teaching you a new couple of things. It’s amazing. They have learnt to operate Zoom in this pandemic and also social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Recently there was a problem with some napkin rings that we had got manufactured in Moradabad and Allahabad where those people have their small workshops. The samples received by me were not in acceptable condition or quality. I called them on the phone and told them that it would be very difficult to explain the problem on phone and neither could I return the samples since it would take another 5-6 days for the samples to reach them. I had no option but to cancel the order. Surprisingly, she requested me to connect with her on Zoom and explain the defect. The problem was sorted out in 5 minutes. Then I realised that even though I am sitting in Mumbai I feel as if I don’t understand a thing, and these small villages and towns are so tech-savvy that they can manage to resolve the problem so quickly sitting at home. You feel so proud that these people in the interiors are doing some amazing work there.
- Q. What are your interests and how do you like to spend your free time?
- I love painting, I like doing watercolours. This is just to chill out, I am not a great artist but I enjoy it. I put them up as my husband says they are a lovely piece of art why don’t you frame and put them up. He always encourages me and is my biggest supporter. I like planting things. I like plants and in my home in Nasik you will find me in my garden planting something with my gardener. That’s my hobby, my way of recreation. Yoga is another thing that I do and I enjoy. I also love music and my kids play the piano very well. When they are in town I see to it that they play music for me. Both my boys are grown up so they are in and out of the house now and it’s like an empty nest right now.
CocoBee's Bestseller Products
600 Thread Count Cotton Bedsheet Set
This is an extremely soft and comfortable 600 thread count 100% cotton bedsheet set in white colour which you would love to indulge in. The set comprises of a king sized bedsheet (dimensions: 92 inches x 108 inches) and 2 pillow covers (dimensions: 27 inches x 18 inches). Priced at ₹ 2,950.00, you can get it here.
Patchwork Cotton Quilt Single
This patchwork quilt is made of cotton and is suitable for a single adult. It's dimensions are 60 inches x 90 inches and it features pretty prints, delicate squares and shapes in light pastels and soft colours making it a perfect quilt for any bedroom. Priced at ₹ 3,300.00 you can check it out here.
If you wish to flaunt your rich taste and style this exquisite 100% cotton handcrafted runner using wooden blocks is surely going to leave a profound impression on your guests. Having dimensions 33 cm x 170 cm it features a floral design on a royal blue base. Priced at ₹ 1,850.00 you can buy it from here.
Where Can You Find Them?
Interview with Nandini Khandelwal (Contd.)
- Q. How do you ensure quality?
- Normally if it’s in Mumbai and if we are doing our production in a workshop in Nasik its hands-on because we have a team there which inspects everything coming out production for example bedsheets, packaging and distribution. If it is a customized order then yes we have to wait till it’s made and then we check it. There is a lot of trust between CocoBee and our artisans and craftsmen, and they know that we will not compromise on quality and if a lot of items is defective or substandard it will definitely be returned back to them. Even after they send the material to us here in Mumbai we do a thorough quality check before we despatch it to our customers.
- Q. What makes CocoBee stand out from other brands?
- Quality, consistency and we try to be as sustainable as we can. We also try to make things as user-friendly as possible, but of course it is not possible everywhere. We have a great team which works day and night to ensure customers get what they really want. So, our USP is basically quality, consistency, customer service and affordability. With CocoBee you can get a classy product at a really good price.
What's Next for CocoBee?
We are planning to open up a small CocoBee home. I am very excited about this, have been dreaming about this for long and am keeping my fingers crossed. Till now we have always been offline or in exhibitions. I think it’s time now CocoBee needs a home so we are looking out for a place. Hopefully it’s will be an experience centre cum a buyer’s paradise, where buyers can always walk into that little home and pick up whatever they want and also customise their requirements. I am hoping by the end of this month or the next we will be online in Mumbai. It would be in our residential area. It would be like a shop on the street, a boutique studio kind of thing. I will keep you updated on that. CocoBee will be a one-stop destination shop and home. Physically, it looks different from what we see on the website. Sometimes photography doesn’t do that justice.
CocoBee's New Product Launch
Handcrafted Glass Tableware
Handcrafted by some of the most skilled artisans of the country this 5 piece glass tableware set in blue colour consists of a small oval bowl (30 cm x 15 cm), a large bowl (38 cm x 22 cm), a small platter (30 cm x 15 cm), a medium platter (33 cm x 20 cm) and a large platter (35 cm x 25 cm). Priced at ₹ 4,550.00 you can get it here.
Any Recommendations for Our Readers?
- Q. Which products would you recommend to someone trying Cocobee for the first time?
- Our bedsheets, quilted bedspread and our patchwork bedspreads are the bestsellers at the moment when you come to the larger price point. Due to the ongoing festive season everybody wants colourful things, so we have used a lot of these beaded handicraft products which are doing very well right now. The craftsmanship is really very good. Throw cushions can give a great flavour to your rooms. They all look like spanking new and I will definitely recommend these things. Otherwise, there are so many things in CocoBee it’s hard to recommend a single one and it all depends on your requirements at that point in time.
- Q. Please can you give some tips on buying home furnishings and décor items as gifts?
- This is the season for weddings, celebrations and festivals and if you go on our Instagram page you will see a lot of these gift box packages that we have come up with that gives an idea to you about what you can curate from CocoBee. Basically, anyone in a budget can curate things from CocoBee and we can curate that in a box that forms your gift box. We have put up these presentations and videos on our Instagram page. Recently we did 50-60 boxes for someone’s cocktail party. They wanted to gift all their friends and also send them along with their invites as people cannot meet in a big group. This is a new trend that we are seeing this year that people send out invitations with small gifts because they can't call everybody together. It’s like a thank you favour gift. So, what we did was that we simply did one small party in which we had this box with 4 sets of napkins, coasters and napkin rings along with our handcrafted bowls. We just gave it to them in a box and then they added dry fruits, some napkins and chocolates and gifted them to their guests. It turned out to be a big hit because we started getting enquiries from those guests who wanted us to curate things. One guest even came up and wanted us to manage the gifting for a wedding coming up in their family. We first understood their requirements and then we gave them a variety of options like for the near and dear ones we gave a larger set of quilts, a bedsheet set and a runner, and they made a gift hamper out of it. There are different ideas. If they can go on board and curate them they can gift four bowls and a set of three platters putting some of their things and gift wrap them. There is so much in CocoBee Home Linens you can choose and curate your own box in your own budget throughout the year.
Use CocoBee's Exquisite Home Linens to Create Beautiful Living Spaces
As you would have realised by now CocoBee offers numerous home linen products to spruce up your living spaces and at extremely attractive price points. We are sure you would love many, if not all their products. Share your experiences of using CocoBee home linens in your home and stay connected with us for more such engaging content.