In conversation with Ayush Baid, Founder of Ellementry.
What does an ideal Ellementry Home look like to you?
An ideal Ellementry home for me is where people live in harmony with nature, where they believe in cultural upbringing, a perfect milieu of past and present, where technology is not overpowering the human emotions, where a home-cooked meal is relished with family members, where ‘me time’ is given the same importance as ‘family time’, where a routine is not mundane. Where every moment and every day is cherished. Where there is joy in everyday things.
What kind of a dream are you selling to the customer? Ellementry is not selling any dream to its customers. We are providing them with a way to live a beautiful life in harmony with nature by making them recognize the power of handcrafted products. Without compromising on quality, food safety or the modern lifestyle, one can embrace the Ellementry way of living, i.e. the love for handcrafted products, combined with the knowledge that is passed down from generations that make ellementry products soulful.
If you were to describe Ellementry in a few words, what would it be?
Ellementry for us and what we wish to say to others. Good and a cultured living is basic, it is ellementry.
What would your advice be on curating a space? Ellementry always believes in curating spaces instead of decorating them. We try to evoke multiple layers of emotions through our products. We try to design multifunctional products that serves more than just purpose with sustainability on our minds. For example, one of our best-selling product is a terracotta water bottle. For our customers, that bottle is not just another water bottle; it is a piece of art due to its beautiful design; it is a piece of Indian culture; it is a healthier lifestyle. For some, it might remind them of their childhood or grandmother’s earthen pot. Curating a space to us is simply making the mundane beautiful without losing its core.
Creating products that are sustainable, long lasting and safe is very important. How do you ensure the right measures are taken?
Before starting Ellementry, I conducted thorough research of the market and the consumers. Created my core team, travelled across India and met the local artisans with my designers. In this extensive research, we got to explore the Indian culture, Indian crafts, Indian handicraft, apprehension about food safety in handcrafted products, modern sensibility, and the increasing love of people towards sustainability.
We made sure to include all these factors in our brand Ellementry. In fact, we made it a point to address all these points and made these as the six pillars of Ellementry which are: food safety of international standards, a fusion of natural material, handcrafted with love, sustainability, cultural revival and form & functionality.
Any product that our designers create along with the artisan have to pass through these six pillars and those products need to have at least 3 of these qualities. If not all six, to be qualified as an Ellementry product. So, in a way, our six pillars ensure the right measures for us along with intensive quality check and constant research. We use completely food safe finishing in our tableware and kitchenware section. For our wooden furniture we use wood safe finish that not just look good but also does good for the longevity of the furniture.
At Ellementry, everything is artisanal made. What separates your products from the ones made in factories? At Ellementry, artisans are our artists, not the machines. Machines might create everything correctly, but they can’t have the soul that comes through hands, and that makes our products unique. That is why an Ellementry product is not like any other. Ellementry is a handmade lifestyle brand that handcraft products with love using natural materials that are safe for our planet. So, when a person uses an Ellementry product, he will not just feel good but also feel satisfied that he has done his bit towards sustainability.
We are an end-to-end solution to customers and we have full control over our products. We have our designers of international standards who work closely with the local artists and give their design a modern outlook. This way Ellementry is able to provide employment to many artisans. These artisans, with their cultural wisdom that they carry for generations, breathe life into our products. This kind of soulfulness can never be achieved through machine made products.
Ellementry has grown in a short span of time, people love the brand and always want to see more of it. What has your journey been like?
Ellementry comes with a core promise to make your everyday beautiful. We draw inspiration from Indian culture, using natural materials and take it forward through our lifestyle brand of handcrafted products in India. Ellementry has an essence of India, albeit with a modern silhouette.
We feel this is the reason why in just two years of Ellementry's inception, it has created its name among the top brands in this category. Regularly we keep having encouraging encounters with people on our social media handles about how much they adore our products, the quality and the design, the sustainability factor and the handcrafted love. This is the reason that our Ellementry family has increased many folds organically on social media.
Well, it is not just through social media, but people interact with us in person too. I would like to share one such encouraging incident which happened to me. One day before the inauguration of our store in Gurugram (at DLF Galleria Market), I was there at the store premises managing the pre-requisites of opening the store. Due to the daily organic footfall in Galleria Market, there were a lot of people passing by our store, and at least 30-40 people must have stopped and peeped inside the store, and most of them wanted to buy stuff at that very moment. I had to request them to wait for one more day to buy things as the store was still under the process of getting ready for the inauguration. Many people came to me and expressed their love for Ellementry. Few said they love our posts on Instagram", some said, "they are a regular buyer on our e-commerce website", "a few praised our terracotta collection". But one comment made my day, it came from a lady, and she said: "Thanks a lot for opening Ellementry store in Gurgaon, now I don't have to travel all the way to Delhi just to buy Ellementry products".
Overall, I would say that as a brand, our journey has been quite overwhelming with lots of experiences to cherish and opportunities to learn. I am sure it is going to be more interesting as we move ahead.
As a successful entrepreneur, what would be your advice be to people who are just starting out?
The journey of a start-up has a lot of challenges, ups and downs, but it teaches you a lot, gives you a different perspective altogether and builds an ethic which is driven by discipline. Working in a start-up equips you to deal with all sorts of problem one could encounter starting from managing finance, recruiting the right talent, building your brand, surviving the rough days and more. My advice to the start-ups would be that one should always strive to hire those people in your team who are smarter than you! I am a firm believer that having a good team is the key to face any challenge! There would always be days when one would feel that it is not working out, but one should not give up whatever they are chasing and instead find creative solutions to overcome that problem! If you stand true to your brand ideologies, then even when push comes to shove, you will survive.
What were some roadblocks in your path, and how did you overcome them?
Opening up a start-up at a young age that too of handcrafted lifestyle products was a challenge in itself. As a brand we see these roadblocks as opportunities to prove ourselves, I was fully aware that in this fast-moving world, I was introducing a smooth but beautiful lifestyle through Ellementry. We knew that Ellementry has to compete with machine-made products, but we were confident that the beauty of our handcrafted products combined with sustainability, cultural revival, fusion, form & function and food safety, Ellementry as a brand, would find its way to the heart of its customers.
We started Ellementry as an e-commerce company, but after seeing an overwhelming response from the audience, by the end of the 1st Year itself, we were able to open eight offline stores across India and planning to expand more. But as a two-year-old brand it was an uphill task as we had to deal with all the challenges that any new brand has to go through. For example, as a start-up we had to make relevant capital expenditures on research, setup and other fixed assets. But as I suggested in my previous answer how creating a team of talented people plays a vital role especially in a start-up . At Ellementry it helped us in creating a perfect mix of capital expenditure, operating expenditure and working capital.
Because of this we are able to focus on integrating data and creativity. Our forte is our experiment with sustainable raw materials, so after experimenting with our existing materials, our future research (conducted by the R&D department) is working on making robust products with cane/bamboo.
Things were moving in the right direction; we were advertising heavily on print and digital space and people have started recognizing us a niche brand of handcrafted products. But due to this COVID Pandemic, the entire world started facing a considerable business challenge, the retail industry, as well as e-commerce, are severely affected to the core. We had to stop print and digital paid advertising, but Ellementry is still a young brand, and we were afraid that after stopping the advertisements, we might lose our reach and audience. We don’t want to be an out of sight, out of mind brand.
So, staying in the mind of the customers without advertising was a big challenge. Our Creative Head, Riddhima Khandelwal, came up with a brilliant roadmap of connecting with our customers through Ellementry’s social media communication. She suggested that in this lockdown, we all are forced to stay at home and Ellementry products are mostly home products, so, why not connect with people highlighting the home angle, and we started creating home-specific motivating content on our social media handles. We started showing how staying at home is the safest thing to do, how cooking at home for the family with the family is a sheer bliss. We talked about immunity booster food, interesting food presentation tips. We tried to engage our followers in a productive activity of creating new designs for Ellementry products. We got an overwhelming response as people from across India participated in this contest by sharing their innovative designs to us through social media. Post lockdown top 2 most liked design will be converted into Ellementry products, and the winners will get the first piece of these designed products as a prize.
These interesting and engaging interactions on social media not just increased our followers on social media but people also started ordering Ellementry products amid this lockdown too. Though people know that due to lockdown there will be a delay in the delivery but they are happily willing to wait for the delivery post lockdown.
All this was only possible because as an organization, we are paying keen attention to how this situation is altering the landscape, and we at Ellementry are planning scenarios accordingly. We are investing in research, insights and optimization today itself so that we can accelerate in a post-pandemic world.
Ellementry to you is “what does good, looks good. And what looks good, does good.” What is it to your customers?
It is not just what we feel. We coined this line after seeing the reaction of our customers, how they reacted to Ellementry products and what makes them come back to us. So, “what does good, looks good. And what looks good, does good.” is what our customers think about us.