Sunday, October 24, 2010

Q & A with Nihar Mehta of Tribal Route

Think India and you think of vibrant colours, jewel tones, beautiful crafts....and so much more. Nihar Mehta, set up Tribal Route to bring forth the immense talent and craft know-how that this country can be proud of. Lets tread the Tribal Route and get to know this entrepreneur.

"Tribal route is not just a store....but a handcrafted store-y."

q. Please tell us about yourself – your educational and work background and interests.

a. Professionally an Interior Designer with a Diploma in Interior Design from Rachana Sansad, School of Interior Design in 1992. Worked as an Interior Designer for close to 15 years where I designed residential and commercial projects. Few of the biggest projects were the office of Iran Airways at Marine Drive, and also designing and executing various projects for the Indian Navy.

I enjoy music, promoting Indian crafts and supporting craftsmen, travelling ( specially driving the lengths of India ). I like collecting Ganpatis, coasters, stirrers, pipes, and now frogs. The Frog, by the way, is the mascot of Tribal Route.

q. When and how did you start Tribal Route?

a. Tribal Route started in November 2006. (wow, 4 years have flown past!)

I wanted to pursue my dream, my passion of working with products, handicrafts… and then I stumbled upon Aram Nagar, a quaint little society in Versova, Andheri, which has cottages that date back to World War 2 when they were army barracks. Small cottages, with courtyards, mud roads, trees and birds... and yes I had found my dream place for my dream project. I had been doing my home work for years connecting with creative people, so it was a little easy to know what to get where. Finally on my mother’s birthday, on 24th November, Tribal Route was born.

q. What was the idea behind such a store?

a. Tribal Route was a thought, a dream, a passion that I was sitting on for almost ten years. The thought came across when I got hooked onto collecting pieces of art and craft over the years while I was travelling across India and internationally. I realised that India had to offer much more by the way of skill sets, creativity, materials etc than what was usually available at emporiums or mela type exhibitions.

Also I felt the entire experience wasn’t complete till the perfect setting was created by way of a store that looked, felt and was every inch India. The raw beauty, the colours, the warmth, the ‘Guest is God’ welcoming feeling to every customer who came in.

q. Would you like to tell us about the kind of things you have in your store?

a. At Tribal Route, I only sell products that are made in India. We have an entire range of products for the home and for you. We have furniture, home decor, home furnishings, candles and aromatic products, hand made paper stationery, jewelry, bags, footwear & clothes.

Most products are made for the store, or are one of a kind so will not be available any place else. Some are semi customised and some are sourced. We have something for everyone.

q. What about the interesting work that you do with artisans? It would be great to know how you help them create these products.

a. One of the things that had inspired me to open a store was that the Indian artisan is so talented, but his skill is under utilised. They are also unhappy with no innovation opportunities, and bored of making the same old products across generations. So I started using their skill sets, to make new products that were fun and different, and even they surprised them selves, as somewhere down the line they had forgotten the joy of making new products.

q. Which products are your favourites in Tribal Route?

a. Every product is like a baby. But if there’s something that’s really my favourite, its something that I created - a collection of Zardozi mirrors, and also there is this collection of wall clocks that’s completely designed and created in house.

q. Would you like to tell us how you ideate and come up with new and interesting collections of things? For instance, during Ganesh Chaturthi, you had some really cute and different Ganeshas.

a. I try to come up with things that are different, and I have a fantastic bunch of people who support me in this endeavour, be it vendors, crafts people or artisans. I keep thinking out of the well...err box!

q. What would you like to shout out to people who want to start their own ventures around creative ideas?

a. Don’t hold your creativity inside you. Go ahead. Also please please, do not give away your handmade products as gifts to friends and family, even if you are doing it as a hobby. Sell it to them, even if it means taking the bare minimum from them. And yes, if you are looking for shelves to sell your work from, to tread the Tribal Route...the doors are always open for you.

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