Considered one of the 12 mega biodiversity countries in the world, India has seen some significant changes in the past few centuries. First ruled by the Maurya dynasty, followed by the Mughal Empire (sultanate), and before its independence, it was taken over by the Britishers. No matter how the situations were under these several rulerships, but what these different empires left behind was their vast buildings and forts that represented the art form of that empire and ruler’s origin. Some of them traveled the world and introduced this country to the designs of the world.
Over the years, we have seen several movies about these empires and kings and rulers, and one thing that always filled us with awe is the way they lived their lives. The larger than life bed, mirrors, and frames with artwork that makes it more of a design piece than a regular mirror and the big, soft, velvet sofas and armchairs. Deep inside, we all have wished for a life like that, to get our hands on such furniture and one such business enthusiast and creative thinker who is making these dreams come true is Aishwarya Reddy.
With the help of her designer luxury brand, Khenshu, Aishwarya is on a journey to bring the custom, handcrafted furniture market and combine it with various art forms and designs of India. She was a firm believer in the fact that any piece of furniture or décor could be a conversation starter, and she wanted to create pieces that would start conversations. Her vision was to introduce a luxury offering that would represent the country and give recognition to the slowly dying art forms of India on a global level. Khenshu is not just a luxury furniture offering, Aishwarya, along with her team, take up orders for interior designing and customize the interiors with luxury offerings like gold foiled ceilings, mirror worked walls, etc.
Life before Khenshu
In conversation with TimesNext, Aishwarya tells us how she thinks of herself as a content curator, a creative thinker, a storyteller, a business enthusiast, and a global citizen- all in one. After completing her schooling from Delhi Public School, Bangalore, she decided to pursue her undergraduate degree in Industrial Design Engineering and Management from Bangalore Institue of Technology. By the end of her degree, she realized that her interest lies in creating and selling things, and she decided to move across the globe to San Francisco for her Master’s degree in International Business from Hult International Business School.
Things were going well as she moved to the Big Apple- New York City for an internship before moving back to India. A Bangalorean by birth, she has spent most of her life in the city, and she decided to start her journey as an entrepreneur from Bangalore. Home to Aishwarya and Khenshu, Bangalore is the base for the luxury design house since the beginning.
Inspiration for the first collection
Operated by Aishwarya and her team, Khenshu is a luxury design house that is working closely with various dying art forms and giving them a contemporary twist. They are recreating timeless pieces of art and representing them as furniture and artifacts with a modern twist. Inspired by the Make in India initiative, Khenshu is bringing various India art forms on the global market. Every piece developed by them has a story to tell, and every product is worked on intensively by the product design team. Then these are recreated by the traditional Indian artisans present in the Rajasthan unit. The local artisans make the products that help in preserving the art form, create employment, and support the cause of Make in India.
The first collection by them focuses on pure silver furniture and decor as they follow the art of silver gilding or sheeting silver on aged teak. This first began in the 4th century in Egypt, and the technique spread across the globe and ended up being used on various furniture designs from the time of King Louis XVI and in several palaces in India. The art follows the process of using a thin layer of silver sheets on premium teak wood, and then the designs and patterns are worked on them.
The story behind the name – Khenshu
Khensu or Khonso is the name of the God that represents the moon in Egyptian mythology. Moon represents silver and immortality in ancient mythology. They chose the Egyptian God as their first collection includes silver furniture and the art of making silver into sheets started in Egypt, and the price of silver was higher than gold and copper. All the pieces were falling in their places, and they named the brand Khenshu. The furniture made by them justifies immortality as their pieces are meant to last a lifetime.
Aishwarya talks about how she saw the opportunity in the country as the furniture industry was slowly growing. This would increase the demand for luxury furniture of Indian origin, and the lack of such brands has helped them create this opportunity. Khenshu targets the crème of society like architects, interior designers, corporates, wedding planners, luxury villas and apartment construction agencies, and prominent families. They wish to target the top 1% of the population and offer them Khenshu’s services.
Khenshu believes in quality over quantity, and with a waiting period of three months, they deliver furniture that gets appreciated by people as well as the market. The quality of material and the detailed designing of the product increases the value of the item over the years. The furniture can be a part of the family, and it can be passed on to generations as an heirloom piece.
Challenges faced by the Khenshu
The biggest challenge faced by them is educating the customer about the products that are offered by Khenshu. Whenever they mention the silver store, the first picture that comes to a customer’s mind is a jewelry store. The idea is to change this mindset of people as the brand makes a place for itself in the market.
Europe is known for its design houses and architecture, and Khenshu wants to change this misconception of people that the best luxury furniture is made in Europe.
Collaborations to improve the working
Aishwarya is working with a marvelous team of full-time product designers, graphic designers, interior designers, and sale team that make sure that every step of the production is running smoothly. The firm was bootstrapped until their first collection, which was personally curated by Aishwarya. This made her realize that it is crucial to work with a team for better production and faster working. The in-house creative team comprises a vibrant young team that is always looking to create new and sustainable designs.
The company is mentored by Dr. Nagaraj Reddy, one of the founding partners and investors in Khenshu and a successful serial entrepreneur since 1992. He successfully raised VC funding for Boutique Business Intelligence Consulting company. Dr. Reddy has also worked in the silk fabric printing industry and with fabric and fashion designers. Currently, he is operating the NR Group, India.
The first milestone for Aishwarya
The first milestone for them is the setting up of their flagship store in just a few months of conception. The ticket size of the products is large, and she believes that it would be better to experience the product in person, so they had to open up their store. They also have a website where the customers can get the prices on request and take a look at their products.
Along with Khenshu, Aishwarya is also running another platform named Spaceki. This platform provides interior design solutions to transform basic spaces into aesthetically pleasing and smart spaces.
The current growth of the company
The company is up and running, and the response they have received in the past few months is much better than they expected. With orders rolling in and requests for customizations, the customers appreciate the services provided by Khenshu. All the products are present at the flagship store, and customers can schedule an appointment with the team for customization requests.
This response from the customers has been doing wonders for them, and they are planning to open another store in Hyderabad in 2020 and then aim for the export market in the U.S. and other cities in India.
Future of Khenshu
With more projects under development, Aishwarya’s vision for the company is to become a leading design house in the world and establish itself globally. With the goals of expanding to all the major cities along with an online platform with a different approach, Khenshu is on the path of success, and they are taking along the artisans and the various art forms with them on this journey.