Say No to Vacuous Gifting
Gifts are supposed to hold special meaning. It could be a gift from family or friends or from an organization you work for or are associated with. Sometimes it could also be a gift to yourself. However, very often, we excitedly unwrap presents only to reveal something that unfortunately doesn't match our taste or requirements and it goes right on top of a pile of gifts we know we will never find any use for. This makes it all the more important to put careful thought into our purchases, whether for ourselves or others.
A Gift with an Artistic Twist
Corporate gifts are a challenging category as it is very difficult to impress a majority of the employees. It is undoubtedly difficult to find a good gift on a fixed budget that would please all the employees with their varied preferences and choices. Since a workstation is where the employees spend most of their workday even when they are in a work from home set up, wouldn't unique workspace accessories make great corporate gifts?
Many people like to express their creativity and always look for new and artistic products or for a good DIY project to try their hands on. If you are like that or are close with someone with an artistic bent of mind, a DIY product would be sure to impress. When it comes to kids, there is a huge variety and range of products available. What growing children need most is their imagination and their creativity which they might not have even discovered yet. So, when buying for kids, one must carefully consider the impact of the product on their young minds.
IVEI: Creative Products for Creative People
Each of us is unique in how we perceive things around us. What better than to discover a product as unique as you- that fuels your creativity further. DIY is trending these days and people of all age groups enjoy creating something.
Whether you are an artist looking for the perfect base to unleash your artistic imagination on, or a professional looking to accessorize your desk or workspace, or a kid brimming with ideas and creativity, waiting for the right stimulation, there is something for everyone on IVEI. IVEI lives up to its name: I Value Every Idea. Read on to discover how IVEI not only values the customer's creative instincts and creates thoughtful and useful products for them but also offers local artisans a second chance at livelihood by utilizing their experience, fine-tuning their skills and employing them to create those products.
Interview with Navya Agarwal, Founder & Director at IVEI
- Q. Please tell us about yourself and your background.
Ans. I am a product designer and I've done my graduation from Christ University. I've also been trained in animation. I belong to Sitapur which is a small place near Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh but most of my schooling has been done in boarding schools and then in Bangalore. So I actually got a chance to return to Sitapur only when I started my work.
- Q. What is it that led you to start IVEI and how did you go about it?
Ans. I took up spatial designing as my project in the final year of product designing and this required a lot of furniture to be made. I went back home to do it as I needed the help of local artisans to create miniature mockups. In that process, I realized the difference in the attitude between the artisans in cities like Bangalore and those in a place like Sitapur. The artisans in Bangalore were not interested as they were very occupied and already had the exposure and experience to excel in their field. Back in Sitapur, it was a new thing for them and they took it up with a lot of enthusiasm and were curious about the purpose of the products. It made me realize that they had the zeal to learn.
For me as a product designer, it is great to actually see my products being created before me and then taken to the market. I thought if I could join hands with these people I would get to work with the local level artisans. We would be learning both ways because the skills that they use are not taught to us in college and a lot of what we are taught in college is not known to them. So I thought that a mix would be very interesting. Initially, I decided to create some products and try them out in an exhibition to see how it goes. Thankfully the response was very nice and it's been eight years since.
- Q. What is Sitapur known for? Is woodwork a specialty there?
Ans. Saharanpur, which is 8-9 hours from Sitapur is known for woodwork whereas Sitapur is known for its daris and carpets. However, even general carpenters can be taught to carve wood or create products.
- Q. In the past, you were using traditional techniques. Are you still working along those lines?
Ans. Yes, we are. However, we couldn't continue with a lot of it because many of the artisans would create a few pieces and then quit. We do have a range of products with Mehendi Art where a silver marker is used to make mehndi on our products. Similarly, there is Chalk Art that is inspired by the game Chuna Rangoli where they used to make rangoli using only white paint. A lot of the women already know these things. Paper Quilling is not technically traditional but a lot of young girls are familiar with it and we have been training them on how to do it and they enjoy it. I consider that a form of handcraft as well.
- Q. How else do you combine traditional techniques with modern designs?
Ans. We don't technically combine traditional techniques with modern designs but we use traditional artisans to create modern designs. We provide employment to those artisans and their families who were earlier employed in the industry of creating and carving furniture. We are teaching them how to work with the new machines but the designs that we use are our own based on what today's generation likes. In return, we benefit from their knowledge about wood as they have been around it for so long. I believe that for any handicraft industry to sustain itself in today’s market, modification is a must. My idea here is to take these trained and unemployed or untrained artisans and provide them with a sustainable employment solution slightly linked to their earlier art form.
- Q. How does a product get created from start to finish?
Ans. We start with brainstorming and we focus on the utility of the products. We have three categories of products; workspace essentials, DIY and products for kids. For each of them, brainstorming starts from a very different level because the customer or the end-user is very different. Then comes sampling where my team uses the final product to see if we want to change anything. We check the price point and compare it with competitors and once everything is level, we send it for manufacturing. We manufacture a small batch in the first round and we wait for customer reviews. We make modifications again and then we roll them out.
- Q. Who's doing the bulk of the designing at this point? Are you the primary designer?
Ans. Yes, I am. I do not want to leave it yet even though it's a major challenge to manage the company along with designing. I do have help in the design department as it's not possible without that. There are designers and we brainstorm, but I like to oversee it directly. Manufacturing is done in Sitapur but my team works from home from different parts of the country like Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Mumbai etc.. We are virtually designing and creating everything.
- Q. In that case, the lockdown must not have affected you too much.
Ans. Not at all.
- Q. I noticed that you have quite a large DIY segment, how did that come about?
Ans. It was actually an idea given to us by repetitive customers. Our products were being sold in artisanry markets, like flea markets where a lot of creative people go to buy. A lot of people would say that they want to paint on our products but can’t as the product is already polished. That made me realize that there are many people who are creative and they just want a base to paint. We started with DIY coasters and got an amazing response and now most of our catalogue is DIY. Usually, the artists would approach us with ideas for products. For example, they would ask for DIY pendants since we already have DIY earrings and then we would launch the product.
- Q. The challenges that you face today, how are they different from the ones that you started out with?
Ans. I have seen a major shift in that respect. Earlier, my manufacturing was fine but my marketing was a problem as I was trying to get more customers. Now, my marketing is fine and we have enough customers but I'm trying to level the manufacturing to meet the demand to prevent us from going out of stock. So, that's a good problem in a way.
- Q. What are you hoping to achieve?
Ans. For the Workspace Essentials segment and DIY segment, we're looking at community-based marketing. For artists interested in DIY products, we want to be a known brand so that they can have the confidence that if they want to paint something, the base would be available with us. For workspace essentials, we want to be the brand that strikes corporates when they are looking for innovative corporate solutions or any person thinking of doing up their desk or the workspaces. These are the two categories that we want to primarily focus on. We want to be a known name in the corporate sector as well.
- Q. How do you ensure the quality of products?
Ans. We have a quality check team. We are particular about quality especially for DIY products because if the product is rough or if there's a joint open even slightly then it cannot be purchased because the paint would leak and the surface wouldn't be smooth. We have a quality check at the manufacturing level where a small team actually hand screens the products. If the MDF quality is different then it would end up absorbing more paint. We like to keep a check on these things to ensure that from the artists’ perspective there is consistency in the products they buy from us. If they were able to paint it with the primer without any issue before, they should be able to do that the next time as well. We are the best sellers in the DIY category on Amazon and all the customers have always been very appreciative of the quality. We do have a quality check for other products as well to ensure there aren’t any damages, open joints or cracks.
- Q. What products would you recommend to someone shopping from IVEI for the first time?
Ans. For friends, I would suggest hobby boards. We have a huge variety of utility boards, combination pinboard, whiteboard, metal board and those are my personal favourites. I think they really help you in multitasking no matter what your job domain is. They are very compact and just the perfect thing to have in your office.
- Q.Please give us some tips for buying DIY or home decor as gifts.
Ans. If someone is buying for an artist I would say buy a product you've not seen and painted before and you will find such a product in our collection such as DIY earrings or DIY calendars. Buy something unique because an artist is always looking for creative and new ways to showcase their art. If it is a student or someone from the workspace category, then go for hobby boards. I would say that those boards are the perfect gift for anybody, even for a 10-year-old. You could give them one with a cute camera or an elephant. Even a 60-year-old could use it to write down things. Irrespective of gender and age, I think it's a perfect gift.
If you are wondering what to buy for someone who already seems to have everything, below are a few unique and refreshing products that will surely make wonderful gifts.
IVEI Educational Phonics Toy - Set of 5
A unique toy that will not only keep kids entertained but also help them develop their reading skills in a fun way. This toy comes in a set of 5 and the kids can turn the letters in the peg to create three-letter words. It is made of high-quality, seasoned wood by artisans in Uttar Pradesh. Get this innovative educational toy for your child for Rs. 1,000 from here.
IVEI Wooden Fridge Magnet with Whiteboard and Hooks - Paper Quilling
A cute whiteboard with vibrant paper quilling work done by women from Sitapur along the top and bottom edges that you can place on your refrigerator to jot down messages for your loved ones, shopping lists, a dinner menu or things you want to remember. There is even space provided to keep the marker pen that comes free with the board. It can be purchased for Rs 500 from here.
IVEI Pin + White +Metal Combination Board (Big)
This multi-utility board has it all, from a calendar to a magnetic sheet and even a bulletin board to pin your notes to. Made by skilled artisans, it is built to last. A perfect gift for students or for someone who likes to keep things organized at their workplace. It comes with a free Whiteboard Marker, a duster, 6 push pins and 1 elephant and 1 camera magnet each. You can purchase it for Rs 1,350 from here.
Latest Products at IVEI
- IVEI Cup Cake Black Board: A lovely board in the shape of a cupcake that you can write or doodle on with chalks, this fun gift can be purchased for Rs. 810. It comes with a box of chalks and a duster.
- IVEI DIY Round Plate with Foldable Stand - Set of 2 : A set of 2 high quality, round mdf boards with foldable stands for DIY art and craft work. You can purchase this set for Rs 600 as a gift for craft and DIY lovers.
Where Can You Find Them?
Getting to Know the Founder
- Q. How do you like to spend your free time?
- Ans. I don't have a lot of free time as I have two young kids, a 5-year-old and a 1 and a half-year-old. My elder son is learning chess and tabla so whenever I do get time I actually sit and learn with him and try to keep up to his level. I like focusing on my personal growth so I also do different types of courses from Udemy or Unacademy. I believe that if I have to run a company, just being a designer is not enough. I should know the work of every employee that I hire so that if someday they are not there then I should be able to do their work. Only then I can guide them better. I try to keep learning be it from my kids or teachers.
What's Next for IVEI?
- Q. What is next for your brand?
- Ans. We would like to launch more products and gain more customers. Going forward we want to focus more on the workspace essentials category and become more known in the corporate gifting sector that we have recently ventured into. We are trying to focus on creating more desk organizers and other workspace products. Be it work from home or office space, we should be able to help people feel happy in their work environment and that should help us get into the corporate gifting section. Earlier IVEI was just one category and now we are segregating it into three different categories to make it easier for our customers to find what they are looking for. We have now finalized these three categories, workspace essentials, kids and DIY. We would like that going forward each of these to become unique and known in their sector.
Handmade Keeps Traditional Skills and Crafts Alive
Hand-crafted items are created under one roof, by one maker. By supporting the maker, you support their creativity and skill. The Artisan has spent many nights learning a skill, perfecting a technique and pouring their passion into what they make. We are a society that values art and creativity and by buying handmade you support the continuation of the arts for the next generation.