I grew up in a family where art and antiques always played a large role in our lives. My great grandfather started out dealing in art and antiques and it got passed down from him to my grandfather, father and then to me. I worked in the family business for 5 years before realizing my love for interior design. I completed my undergraduate degree in Art History from Duke University in the US and Oxford University in the UK where I graduated in the top 10% of my class. I was part of the prestigious women’s leadership scholarship at Duke called the Baldwin Scholars which hand picked women who showed strong signs of promise as leaders in all fields. Having garnered experience in high-end furniture manufacturing and production during a five-year stint with Essajees, I was keen on learning the nuances and finest details on interior design, I traveled to Los Angeles where I spent time at Erika Brunson Couture Living. In LA I worked on putting up a furniture pop up at La Cienega Boulevard for Legends Week where Erika Brunson was displaying her creations and also worked on sourcing special fabrics for ongoing projects in homes in Bel-Air.
Closer to home, my projects included multiple health care centres and working on the private homes of celebrated nutritionist, Anjali Mukerjee. I also worked on homes at holiday destinations such as Alibaug, Goa, Pawna and Lonavala besides setting up a wine bar and fine dining restaurant. Currently, I am working on projects that include a holiday home with the property developer Ipsrava in Assagao, Goa, a 10,000 square feet holiday home for a Bollywood director in Pawna and a 5000 square feet home space in Breach Candy, Mumbai. My projects have covered the entire gamut of interior designing, right from styling bachelor-specific apartments to taking on projects of houses with no walls, plumbing or ceiling – setting up spaces from scratch, literally. Essajees Atelier is a small team of very dedicated professionals who ensure that every project is overseen with detail, care and utmost personal attention. Since its inception four years ago, Essajees Atelier has successfully completed 25 residential and commercial projects. Essajees Atelier was established in 2014 by me as an independent design practice founded on the legacy and ethos of the Essajees brand. Up there among Mumbai’s best, Essajees deals with art, antiques, and collectibles apart from custom-made flooring and high-end furniture. Some our clients include the Reliance Group, Taj Hotels around India, the GVK family, Gautam Singhania and the Birla family amongst many others.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
There were a lot - the biggest one was that I felt a lot of pressure to be a part of the family business - not from anyone else but just from myself. I felt like I was not smart enough or confident enough to take things forward and I felt unsure all the time. I also didnt think my interior design studio would be as successful as it is right now, and I cant believe how many doubts I had.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
Reading is my time to switch off so I tend to read a lot of crime thrillers. I am currently reading the Cormoran Strike series.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
My family and friends were always supportive but I think everyone was a bit concerned because at some point I had done about 6 different jobs at different companies including my own and seemed unhappy everywhere. There were a lot of concerns about me settling into a single job or at least finding something I liked. I dont have any regrets because all that experiences really taught me what I DONT like and sometimes that's as valuable as learning and figuring out what it is that you like.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
I wanted to prove that women can be as successful and powerful as anyone else, and this was especially true in my family because in four generations for the first time no son was born to pass on the family name and legacy to. My family had hoped that since I already have an older sister that when I was born I wouldve been a boy to be able to take the name ahead but I instead I was a girl and there was some disappointment from my grandparents about that. Since then everyone has hanged their minds and we keep getting comments now about how lucky my dad is to have had two girls - the opposite of what he was being told when we were young kids. Having that point to prove to the world made me more motivated.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I really think if you stick at doing anything sincerely for more than 3-4 years, you will bear fruit. I know for a fact that sticking around has given me the most amazing results, and had I changed my mind and moved onto something else I wouldnt be where I am today. As a millenial we love changing our minds a million times before breakfast even and its important to just try to stick to something for at least 5 years before shooting it down. Each job has its ups and downs, you just have to pick which you're willing to deal with, accept it, and get on with your life.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Just go for it. There is never a right time, there is never a good moment. Your time is now, and you will never feel ready so just make the jump, give it your best shot, and hopefully you will succeed. If you dont, you've learnt a whole lot of things, use those to move on and harder try again.