Friday, February 8, 2019

#636 : Women In Business - Happiness is Handcrafted by Archna Sudarshan : Interview


Up-scaling is probably only of the favorite activities of women from my previous generation. I've seen my mom turn our old skirts to fully functional pretty cloth bags for shopping.  People have become a bit more nature conscious these days making way for recycled and ups-scaled items into their homes.

I stumbled upon Archna's Instagram handle - Happiness is handcrafted, where she sells beautiful art items which are made from bottles (decoupage) and other scrap. Here is a snippet of my conversation with her.

Me : So what made you take up this business?

Archna : So - this initiative didn’t start as a business up-scaling things has been an integral part for dad and me since my childhood. When I had projects at school to make models, we wouldn’t buy raw materials from a store, instead try use materials from home waste. 

For example, once I had to make a skyscraper. We could have done it with cardboard and get done with it, Instead my dad encouraged me to make the building with empty shampoo bottles - this would be way back in 1996-1997, my third grade. Though it wasn’t appreciated at school, I had this satisfaction that I could make waste products beautiful.

Likewise I did my graduation in architecture and the first year had many exercises with art from waste - 
- made wind-chimes with newspapers, shoe laces and broken anklets
- collages with magazine sheets
- Jewelry with coconut Shells 
- slippers with straws, etc
It was reminiscing my childhood and the beautiful times dad and I shared making such projects.

Now being a design consultant for architecture and interiors - designing spaces having personalized touch has been my forte.

The 2 above points put together makes my interior space exciting. Mostly I work with jute ropes, wool, glass bottles - be it honey jar, pickle jar or liquor bottles.

Glass as such is a wonderful material and what an amazing way to articulate it and make it a designer piece of the home interior!!

Also, I started making personalized gifts for family and friends using these bottles which gained a lot of appreciation. Thus making my passion also my home Business and creating drama with up-scaling 😇

Me:  Investing time and money into a business is not an easy decision, especially if you are a woman, the society tends to treat us with kid gloves. Though that is a changing one step at a time, there is a long way to go. Enlighten us on the trials and tribulations you faced when you decided to get into this business.

Archna : Getting into this business has had its ups and downs just like any other business, with time being such an important factor.

Bring a handcrafter - time is of most essence. The time and energy that goes into making a product is enormous and I really wish people do realize it and appreciate it.

Also managing home, work and passion has been crazy but beautiful. Everything is what I love doing - so it’s been an amazing journey so far.  With my backbone being my husband, encouraging me to be more creative - be it interiors or handicrafts, helping me collect materials and not term me a hoarder, help with ideas and give feedback and be my support system with house hold chores, there’s nothing more I could ask for.

Money wise - it’s majorly the supplies needed, which cost wise is high in our country also with much lesser options (it’s getting better now) compared to other places, but it’s all about how you manage it.

Also this being a home business, there ain’t any major investment but for the storage spaces for all supplies and products with their packaging materials and that occupies a whole lot of space 😌

Many have realized the importance of supporting handmade artists but there’s a long way to go.


Me : Your business is online predominantly. Do you have some offline sales as well?

Archna : Yes I do make offline sales as well - but that’s usually with word of mouth, within family and friend’s circle, apartment-mates, existing client referrals, etc.


Me :  The small business scenario in India – How would you describe it from your experience, what are the procedures you had to follow to bring your product out. 

Archna : So there wasn’t a particular system I followed. It was all just trial and error.

Many products which I made for family and friends were gifted to them and only till about recently (until about 2-3 years ago) I realized I do not have pictures of them. Back then I didn’t have the idea to sell them - that’s something I truly regretted.

But of-late I’ve learnt from those mistakes and making progress.

Also, in order to get recognition - I had to make one each of all the products I had made in the past just to take pictures and post it online.

The bright side of it is that, few of them are displayed at my home, making my place colorful.
Also when someone visits my home, these products excite them and I get orders, either for the same product or something similar with customization.

Instagram has been the primary source of online sales - if not sales in a big way, at least recognition and contacts . I do have plans in the future to sign up with recognized organisations for online sales, taking it one step at a time.


Me : Pillars of support! Immaterial of gender, we all need support to embark on a venture, who were yours?

Archna : Nagarajan - Dad being the first - to teach me or even get me into the idea of up-scaling or up-cycling 

Bhuvana - Mom - being supportive of all the excitement, disappointment, mess I’ve made and everything under the roof

Sudarshan - my teenage love and now my husband 
The support, encouragement, the push, the critics, all of it through the last 15 years and forever to go - makes me what I am today.

Gowri - my mother in law
She is the primary support to help me procure raw materials here in Chennai and go around with me to markets or suggest where I can get what.

My girls - friends, sisters and sisters in law - who are always around to be happy for me and get excited with every product I make.

My regular courier service guys - who know how delicate these products are and take good care of them while packaging and shipping, in however possible ways.

This is just the start and there’s  a long long way to go.

Me:  Words of wisdom for women aspiring to start their own business.

Archna : It might be scary, may think it’s impossible, could be a doubtful move - but it’s just fine
Jump into it.

We are here to make the impossible - possible 

Create whatever starts a revolution in your heart

Be strong enough to stand alone.

Smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it!

Thank you Archna for taking time out to have this conversation!


Please do reach out to her via her Instagram Handle - Happiness is Handcrafted or her Mail ID!








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2 comments:

  1. Great, Archana. Congrats.All the best for your progress and success. I would like to buy something from your handcrafted items.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Archana, the above comment was mine.Savitri Venkataraman from Pune

    ReplyDelete