Designing and decorating your dream home isn’t always easy. “What colour should the walls be and what if I don’t like the colour after its already painted on?”. “What if I don’t find the kind of lampshades I’m looking for?” or “What if she doesn’t like the accessorized wallet I bought her?”. The answer to all of this is just one word…Zwende (www.zwende.com)!
Zwende allows you to customize and create your own home decor products and fashion accessories. You can even visualize them in real-time 3D thanks to their smart customizer. Each product is handcrafted, on-demand, by master craftsmen and artisans. At Zwende, you can let your imagination and creativity run wild. The expert artisans at Zwende will make your imaginative ideas come to life by creating an amazing ensemble of home décor products that include lamps, bags, wallets, furniture, stationery, and other accessories, with your innovative designs. Zwende brings together leading designers from all over the world to help build you the perfect home with the perfect interiors. Users can select the shape of the product and play around with the materials, designs and colors to create their own product. A 360-degree ‘Live Preview’ shows the design take shape so that there are no surprises. You can even custom design gifts for your friends and family. Inspirations are also taken from the ancient art forms of Tholu Bommalata, Madhubani and Kalamkari to help keep the age old Indian traditions alive.
The Dreamers That Started Zwende
Sujay Suresh and Innu Nevatia make up the dynamic duo behind this incredibly creative and innovative home décor company. Innu is a software engineer and MBA holder from the Indian School of Business and the Wharton School and holds over 9 years of experience in technology, strategy and operations. In her last role at InMobi as Vice President, Innu managed the Revenue Delivery Operations for the Global performance business – driving user acquisition for app developers/ digital business globally (across North America, Europe, India, SEA and Middle East). She is extremely passionate about the artisan and handicraft space and always had a keen desire to do something in this field. She is currently living her dream with Zwende.
Sujay is a mechanical engineer and also an MBA holder from ISB with 10+ years of experience across technology, HR, sales & BD, operations, general management and entrepreneurship. He helped set up Sign-A-Rama’s India Franchise as General Manager. Prior to Zwende, Sujay was running his own venture in the education and skill development space. But Sujay was always an entrepreneur at heart, and is extremely passionate about building ideas and businesses from scratch. He thrives in challenging situations, and his enthusiasm and optimism is contagious. In short, Sujay and Innu make the perfect partnership – at home and at the workplace!
Why You Ask?
Well, for starters, Sujay loves his lattes, and Innu her green teas. He stays up late into the night while she wakes up in the wee hours of the morning. He lets his imagination run wild while she crunches the numbers. Standing at the opposite ends of the ship, these co-captains always keep the ship afloat through every storm. Zwende is a result of Innu’s passion for making an impact in the space of artisan and handcrafted products and Sujay’s passion for entrepreneurship and technology. This is what you get when a creative genius and a computer geek get together!
The Idea and Inspiration Behind Zwende
The idea behind Zwende came about after 3 years of marriage, when the duo was setting up their house and went furnishing shopping. They looked everywhere, including huge lifestyle stores, boutique designers, shops, and flea markets, but couldn’t find exactly what they wanted and buying any of these products would have been a compromise. They then got inspired and wanted to mix and match between products – maybe change the color in one or add another pattern to the other one. Even when it came to finding a dining table, nothing even came close to matching their expectations.
The more they looked, the more they were possessed by the mental image of a vintage-chic, green, distressed finish table. They considered their options and building the table from scratch seemed like an expensive and exhausting affair. Yet, as stated before, settling for something lesser would have been a compromise. After some deeper prodding, Innu and Sujay realized that what they needed was a touch of their own magic. So they bought a table that fit their size and structure requirements and were set on customizing it. After creating the perfect shade of green, they added the distressed ‘vintage’ look by sandpapering it and manually adding highlights. They stepped back to behold precisely what they had imagined, right down to the smallest details.
They then spoke to their friends and relatives who were also setting up their houses around the same time and realised that they were facing similar problems. They realized that there was a gap in the market with regards to customization – which planted the seed for Zwende.
On speaking to 75 boutique designers, they realized that they were very happy to offer this sort of a customization within their portfolio of designs and products. They also confirmed that they do get many such custom requests but the whole process of customization and communication with customers is cumbersome. They would use Facebook/WhatsApp to discuss ideas and share pictures and discuss ideas or take customization requests.
Our inspiration has always been ‘Value Creation’. What motivates us each and every day, is that our work impacts the lives of artisans, makers, designers and customers alike. Every time we need to make a decision, we ask ourselves the same question – “are we creating value by doing this?”. If so, for whom and how.”
Sujay and Innu work very closely with their designers; they spend a lot of time in their shoes, going through the process and understanding their workflows and issues. They always question status quo. They think of things that are not and ask why not? This gives them insight into their inherent strengths and the gaps that exist. They then leverage this experience and knowledge to increase efficiency and save costs and time. This is the secret behind their motivation and inspiration.
Sujay’s and Innu’s families have been extremely supportive of them turning into entrepreneurs – leaving their high paid, cushy corporate jobs in order to pursue and realize their dreams. Both of them came from a family of entrepreneurs and therefore it was no surprise that they had all the backing and support of their families. “In fact, they encourage us to dream big, treat every challenge as an opportunity and to leave all our fears aside. The journey would have been much tougher, if, at all, without their constant support and encouragement.”
How They Beat the Competition and What the Future Holds
Luckily, there is no clear, direct competition for Zwende, but in terms of indirect competition, any player that sells a curated collection of bags, accessories, lampshades and stationery is competition. But what sets Zwende apart from the rest are three simple factors – customized products, smart, guided customization and handmade, creative designs.
Zwende plans on expanding their ‘Click and Brick Model ’ as well as their categories. They plan on adding 15-20 more new art forms and materials this year. They also plan to double down on the personalization front aggressively. With data driven intel, Zwende plans to invest significantly in personalizing user experiences. They also hope to have an international footprint by 2018.
Zwende is truly a bold inspiration for all those creative geniuses out there who can give the art/design lovers what they want while making a killing doing what they love doing the most and what they’re great at. “If you have a dream and if you wish to be an entrepreneur – by all means, go for it! Pursue it!” Sujay and Innu advise other entrepreneurs to always be open to ideas and experimentation as things evolve a lot in the entrepreneurial road ahead. “Keep an open mind and make changes as the situation demands. Challenge Status Quo – always, because change is the only certainty.” They advise the youth to prioritize and focus on the most important things as time is the scarcest resource. “Keep faith, build trust. Get the right mentors and supervisors. Enjoy your journey… stay passionate! Continue to believe in it!”