What does it take to create a big brand? What does it take to rebrand and follow your heart in doing something new? Can you change your brand DNA and begin to weave stories with customers? If you’ve been looking for answers to these questions, here’s the next edition of the Social Trends Show. Listen in to House This CEO, Shikha Pahwa on how she’s been at the helm of all things branding for her small business. The whole transcript is included in this post! Don’t forget to share your feedback with us!
Credits of the show/ music: www.purple-planet.com
Production: Brandanew.co hosted by Upasna Kakroo
Show Guest: Shikha Pahwa is the Founder & CEO of House This India, a home decor company based in New Delhi, India. Shikha runs the brand along with her brother and House This CMO, Pranav Pahwa. House This works on the design, manufacturing and branding of its entire range and comes with a strong background in textile exports.
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE BRANDANEW SOCIAL TRENDS SHOW, Episode 2, Season 1
Upasna: Hey everyone. Thank you so much for your comments, feedback and suggestions from our last Podcast. Thankfully, most of the comments were fun, and not really dissing our first attempt. And that’s quite cool right? Our social trends show may in fact get a ton of followers and become this national sensation. Okay, I’m kidding. I mean, what we really hope for this Podcast to do is to reach more of you while you listen to Detroit 105 or whatever your true north is. If you have a question that we answered or a spark that we ignited, we’d assume success!
I am going to quickly introduce who we will meet today. Today’s guest is a branding super-girl. The story is this. It was in 2008 that my childhood friend introduced me to his then girl-friend. We watched the Revolutionary road together. Yeah, it was sooo depressing, but this girl had such a great spark about her. I asked her what she was doing. And she responded that she was trying to create a brand. My immediate response was, how do you measure the value created? It was a genuine question and I do think ROI is important. But I was still a struggling engineer who hadn’t learned the value of life without just numbers. This was in my McKinsey days and I was totally swamped by proxy indicators and fact based analysis. But, I do believe that I hadn’t gained the maturity of being someone who understood the true value of communities and branding. I mean the intangible benefits.
One of the topics that gets people to the brandanew.co site is in fact branding and storytelling. So, when I decided to talk about this topic on the Podcast, I had to invite this girl who’s been at it for years and has created something magnificent.
Without further ado, today on our Podcast we have the CEO of House This. Now this is a home decor company based out of Delhi in India. The company comes from a big background in textile exports. Shikha Pahwa, the branding super-girl was in her 20s when she decided to flip this effect and creating something Indian that would stand globally tall and firm.
HouseThis today is led by Shikha and Pranav Pahwa, the siblings in arms creating the unseen magical things that are out there. And in the same spirit, I invited my sister Vatsala to do the voice-over. So for anyone who knows Shikha, yes, she didn’t change her voice overnight, this is our production team. Talking of which, let’s here from them before you go deep.
The first season of The Brandanew Social Trends show is edited by Upasna Kakroo. Our theme music is called Fingerpoppin’ and our break music is called Celebration. Both of these come to us courtesy of purple-planet.com.
Upasna: Before the break I told you about Shikha’s brand new adventure in her 20s. I was very curious to know what made Shikha create a new Indian brand, instead of carrying forward with what was working and just exporting to the global brands as a supplier and partner? This is what Shikha had to say:
Shikha: The Indian consumer today is aspiring; he/she seeks a better life for themselves. At House This we realize the importance of wanting to grow, of wanting better for one self albeit within one’s budget. We started thinking and creating such products more suited to different archetypes of customers. So we became that one brand that offered quality, aesthetic as well as culture. We had a strong inclination towards the community and the various ecosystems we live in and we present ourselves to consumers who are specifically aspiring to be more. Your home is your personal canvas and the way you decorate it and literally ‘house it’ defines who you are as a person. We believe we are beyond products that are just bedsheets or cushions. We were so inclined to give so much more.
House This CMO, Pranav Pahwa (also an accomplished musician)
In business school, Pranav found it interesting to see how so many people wanted to create more out of their personal living space, and more so in tune with their personality. He was also intrigued at the fact that a economically developed Country such as the United States of America, still did not cater to every economical bracket when it came to home furnishings and décor. The younger age brackets could not afford the everyday market! It drove Pranav to think about the Indian customer who is just moving up the ladder, just getting his first apartment/flat, is about to receive his/her first pay cheque and in thinking of them he sought to create an offering that is neither too expensive nor too generic, but personal and pure.
Upasna: At the back of my head, I am thinking yes, exactly. That’s exactly what I’ve been saying. We need a Ford of home furnishings! But I also wondered that overhauling an entire business and creating something fresh comes with so many difficulties. And everyone has them, but it’s sort of helpful to get these validated and find a core thread which we relate to. So, I asked Shikha about the difficulties she had in setting up a new brand. What could others learn?
Shikha: When we started off in 2010 the recession had just hit everybody really badly. We then wanted to start our own channels, create our own identity. The unfortunate occurrence caused us to be more multi-brand and we became dependent on the buyers and the customers they were reeling in.
The market was developing based upon the lowest common denominator, it was selling to the masses, and numbers meant everything. We wanted and continue to aspire to be something more meaningful. We had to be at the right place at the right time, and most importantly be sustainable.
The Indian market has been evolving and if you trace back 5 years – India with the concept of ‘brands’ per se has only evolved recently. The Indian brands have existed for a while, but it has been masked under many international brands, the outcome of which was that we became the manufacturing component for most of the world! Retail picked up in 2009/10, and when we had these ideas 5 years back, we were too soon. We decided then to evolve to the market rather than let the market evolve to
There has been a lot of learning in doing the operations, in reverse logistics and in customer fulfillment. Our DNA was essentially manufacturers and to suddenly change our gene codes, it took us close to three years! But now, we are ready.
Upasna: Oh wow. So many millennials who were still in schools in 2010 perhaps just didn’t see it so closely. It does make you reflect on what you would have done as a brand in the biggest recession that we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. I am reminded of Tim Kaine’s recent speech in the Democratic convention. In Honduras, the greatest compliment you can give a person is, “Listo” meaning, you’re ready. It’s incredible to go through the whole entire journey and get there as a brand.
Like I said before, Shikha had impressed me with her spark a while ago. As as a small business owner who’s a woman, I was intrigued to know what her experiences were from a gender lens. Many people ask me how India feels as a woman. And it is a complex question. But there’s a common thread of relatability no matter where you are. This is how Shikha described her experience as a woman getting out there to build something new.
Shikha: Standards change when you’re a woman, either people become too soft or too hard on you. Whether you are a woman or a man, I want a level playing field, on fair and equal terms. But a lot of it comes with maturity and clarity of thought. If you are clear about what you want, no matter how chauvinistically people behave, you will not deter, you will not fail, and you will not give up. A goal has got nothing to do with a man or a woman, a goal is a goal. You either work towards achieving it, or you give up. I think a lot of challenge lies in being ‘young’ and a woman.
If you’re not seeking any benefit or exemptions for being who you are, these surrounding irritants can be ignored. Challenges at work are more daunting and require more focus than diverting energy to behaviors that may equate to misogyny or chauvinism. I do not condone such attitudes, and at many times I have not tolerated it either, but having a clear vision and working solely towards that is very important.
Upasna: That’s so refreshing. I think this sort of an attitude also flows into the kind of work that your brand eventually does. You know, what’s important to you, how do you achieve focus and reach your goals, despite gender or any other differences. Although, having said that personally, I feel we still need to push this point across because so many people face a systemic bias on the basis on mere gender. I had a boss once whose only question to me in our meetings was – what about your marriage. At that time I just wasn’t aware or mature enough to internalize how wrong that was. But I’ve also had mentors who’ve done fabulously well and become role models to me. I am hoping girls and women hearing this, understand what Shikha is managing to do too. Especially if you try and get deep into how traditional the textile world is.
And because she is different and remarkable, I asked Shikha a question that had been bothering me a while. There are a ton of textile and home decor companies wherever you look. How would she ensure that her brand stood out and made a difference? Hear her answer, after this short break and a word from the production team.
You’re listening to the first season of The Brandanew Social Trends Show. Our theme music is called Fingerpoppin’ and our break music is called Celebration. Both of these come to us courtesy of purple-planet.com
If you’re interested in social media and digital marketing trends, don’t forget to check out the content marketing 101 eCourse listed on brandanew.co. Invest in your own learning and stay ahead!
Upasna: Welcome back everyone. To recap, we are talking today with Shikha Pahwa, the CEO of a home decor brand called Housethisindia. She’s from Delhi, India and we’re having this wonderfully profound conversation around creating a new brand. Now while Shikha sent us her answers, this is a voiceover done by Vatsala who is the most accomplished debater and should have just been on TV. I could be a little biased because she’s my sister. Oh and she’s joined us from Montreal which is fantastic.
Coming back before the break, we asked Shikha how was she creating something unique with her brand, despite so much competition around her. Here’s what she told us.
Shikha: We are storytellers. We weave intricate stories, simple stories, stories that inspire, stories that inform. What we want to become is something bigger, we want to start involving our customer to create a change, help us inculcate an eco-friendly inspirational worldview that transcends the pure materiality of selling “products.”
Our products are meant to convey a sense of discovering; we make sure that every sheet we sell, every cushion, every curtain is based on that idea of discovery. The phases we aspire to travel range from us creating the product, to having the customer engage with us where the inspiration comes from them and finally inculcate a community that is also part of designing their own products through us.
Today the customer is becoming more talkative. The previous business culture says that the customer doesn’t know what they want, and you put it out there and educate them as to what they need. But the process has reversed; now we look at our customers’ pain points and access that data to provide what they need, not what we think they need.
In India, often design trumps all. Everybody doesn’t offer utility. The common psyche drives an individual to purchase based on aesthetics. We, at House This, are approaching design holistically – for us our biggest triumph is to look at a design as something more than eye candy, keeping in mind the design thinking methodology.
Utility, functionality, accessibility, discovery and responsibility are rooted in everything we provide and we are slowly & steadily evolving towards being eco-friendly.
All in all, we find magic in everything we do.
Upasna: Isn’t it amazing how stories make brands? And I am so thrilled that Shikha sees her brand in a way like this. What an authentic vision. I mean, if we didn’t focus on stories, we’d all be just another commodity. Don’t you think?
I would love to have your feedback and questions on this topic. This whole Podcast with the references and links is available on the Brandanew Blog. So don’t hesitate to write to us and share your brand stories!
I’ll be back with yet another episode of the Social Trends Show in a couple of weeks. Till then, stay magical.
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