With the coming onslaught of The Coalition–an incredible effort to provide structure and hope to creative entrepreneurs in India–we’ve been delving deeper into the world of these anomalous creatures. The ones who work just off-centre, striving to create something that hasn’t been done before in a space that hasn’t been thoroughly analyzed and scripted either. It takes a very particular kind of personality to even attempt such an endeavour and it turns out Mumbai has a fair few of its own.
Amongst the plethora of creative start up companies however, there are a few that defiantly stand out in the ideas they propagate itself. Whether it’s an enterprise that uses old metal scraps to make unique accessories or one that paints superhero themes on your drab shoes- these Mumbai-based companies are worth knowing about and some even deign to tell us a little bit about their journey/challenges. Here are our top picks of start ups you should know in Mumbai. While we’ve only indulged in basic introductions here, we’ll be continuing a more detailed profiling of some of these companies leading up to The Coalition.
I. SS HOMME
One of the first of its kind in India–A clothing brand simply made for men; SS Homme offers a bespoke service dealing in formal wear to suit each customer’s preference. All the way from classic Bandhgala shirts to jackets to customized ties and bow ties. By laying emphasis on the cut, fabric, design and fine tailoring, the clothes are distinct in quality and style and between its 20-something co-founders, Sarah Sheikh & Sandeep Gonsalves, they seem to be on a perfectly tailored track to success. The extreme attention to detail is of utmost importance to the duo and that particular quality shines through with every product they out out.
Gonsalves admits the challenges have been aplenty whether it’s ‘introducing classic European silhouettes to an Indian audience that’s used to Bling,’ or ‘dealing with clients & executives from multinational conglomerates and catering to highly specific needs.’ Even still, the maturity of having started their own company shows through as he quickly adds “the learning process never stops. We are still learning new facets of our business till today. However, perseverance and tenacity along with the predilection to take calculated risks has helped us along the way.”
Bringing a distinctiveness- or rather “eccentric” sense of style to video production, Motion Eccentrica, is a production house run from Los Angeles by Mikhail Mehra (co-founder of OJI) who started it while still in college. Built on a solo team of highly creative talent ME is able to handle all aspects of production whether it’s a music video, short film, documentary, corporate video or commercial. Having previously been associated with clients like UFK, GetDarker, Coca Cola and mau5trap, the company has featured artists like Skream, Benga, Skrillex, the 12th Planet and a few others as well. No easy feat for all of two years in an overflowing industry space. At 23, Mehra’s already built two companies in a highly competitive space and manages to bring a freshness, a midas touch of sorts, to whatever he chooses to focus on.
Bound by a common passion for timelessness, childhood friends Tehzeeb Merchant and Manaal Oomerbhoy founded a design studio together to create unique pieces of jewellery driven by the idea that beauty can be found in anything, even old disused objects. Having been exposed to the three major creative capitals of the world (Mumbai, London and New York), this team brings a varied aesthetic to their designs by discovering beauty in unconventional objects and not letting their products be restricted by the limitations of time, season or trend.
Inspired by Mumbai’s rich history, their modernist approach to Art Deco and design combines the decorative past with the functional present- using skilled artisans to create exclusive hand-made products. It’s difficult to explain just why their pieces stand out so much, but a quick look will ascertain exactly why.
IV. SHARK & INK
Amalgamating the world of passion and business into a fluid project, 26-year-old Arjun Shah’s Shark & Ink is an answer for all music maladies ranging from curation, building sustainable properties or formats, music programming, artist bookings and promotional marketing for gigs and events. Still in its nascent stages, Shah reminds us that some of the best startups fall into place when you’re really not planning for it.
“To be quite honest, Shark & Ink was born circumstantially. I had resigned from my job and a friend had just opened a new bar. He asked me to help him program music and in the process; this entity arose. with the help of friends who werent afraid to be vocal and recommend us; calls started coming in and with each conversion, we moulded ourselves into a business.”
As far as challenges go in an unscripted business world though, he does admit that “the administrative and financial bit has definitely been the biggest task. it’s something I had no idea about and simply had to learn on the way.”
V. MAKIN’ BACON
There’s a saying somewhere- “You can’t go wrong with bacon”, a principle that resonates with Roycin and Taronish, the founders of Makin’ Bacon. The idea evolved from their deep bond over food- and today their stall does rounds of music festivals, the last one being at the Sunburn Festival, Goa. Having only been alive for a few months, not to mention having never intended to have snowballed into such a large entity already, the company is still figuring out their bearings but their repertoire already precedes them.
For Roycin, money is one of the greatest challenges to sustain a business.
“The creative part is easy- designing and stuff I can do myself. But the money and investing is the difficult part.” Opening a stall however, was never part of an “agenda”.
“It all sort of happened organically, a couple of friends suggested I do it, and I never thought I would, but I did. Now if it works or if it doesn’t- either ways it’s a good lesson to be learnt.”
VI. ALPHA CUBE
The brainchild of a brother-sister duo, Alpha Cube, is a brand focused on designing custom shoes, apparel and merchandising needs. Bound by a common love for art and design, Zainali and Azra Jetha were determined to tap into that passion and “make their life a little funkier.”
After being inspired to give boring old canvas shoes the makeover that they needed- the siblings discovered a distinct way to bring out the customers personality in their products. From funky tribals & tattoos to the cartoons & super heroes- they enjoy designing on shoes, t-shirts, denims, bags & almost about anything that can painted on!
VII. 10 AM
Adding a fun balance of quirk and sophistication to interior design, 10AM is the perfect “go-to” for interesting décor options and creative ideas for all kinds of events- be it an occasion, a festival, a themed party, corporate gifting, a wedding or anything else. Founded by young design enthusiast, Anjali Malhotra, the company enjoys “personalizing gifts, providing unique and thoughtfully designed lifestyle products while maintaining attention to detail along every step of the way.”
VIII. JOSMO STUDIOS
Josmo furniture studio gives a rather literal meaning to shaping your ideas.
In essence, the work philosophy lies within transforming radical ideas into purposeful furniture – pieces that, in fact, speak to you. The personalized pieces are custom made to fit together, but more importantly, to fit you. Josmo was founded by 28-year-old Anjali Mody, a self-confessed furniture fanatic, who graduated from The Rhode Island School Of Design in ’09 with a BFA in Industrial Design. Its ethos having been born right here in Bombay, bears all the markings of ingenuity only in the wake of functionality; something only truly urban spirits will turn the spotlight on and something Mody has managed to do incredibly well in the two odd years since her company’s founding. Incidentally, this isn’t the only creative startup Mody has her fingers in; she’s also a creative partner/ co-founder of SKARMA, a a creative hub that houses a design studio and is a think tank for inspired and innovative projects.
IX. NORBLACK NORWHITE
As far as fashion endeavours go, there really isn’t anything like NorBlack NorWhite around; not for miles and miles and we mean this in a way that transcends aesthetics. Raised in Toronto, co-founders Amrit Kumar & Mriga Kapadiya found their way back to their roots in 2009 and set up camp in Mumbai–attempting to and succeeding in setting up a unique fashion line all of their own. Their philosophies swing freely between vintage goodness and a deep appreciation for Indian textiles, not to mention a need to keep them alive. And over the years, the accolades have come tumbling in, one validation after the other. Even Frida Gianinni, creative director at Gucci admitted she liked ‘NBNW more than the others because I see more uniqueness and more originality in this label’s work,’ even as she touted them as her favourite young designers from India.
Still, as two young women setting up a creative business with a strong vision, they’ve had their own fair share if challenges.
“Walking into the bank to deal with our accounts, we wouldn’t be taken seriously as two young women running a business” and “being women from India but not from India, travelling the country to get our own work done, many people are confused by us, but these conversations are the starting point of breaking stereotypes and helping people understand others just like us,” are just some of the issues they’ve faced while learning to structure their business.
X. TATTVA BOARDS
Still in very nascent stages, Tattva was Assembled with a sense of the elements of nature. They offer quality hand-shaped long boards and the company continues to conduct research and physical tests- using trial and error to figure out the different shapes and materials to make high quality boards. Founded by surfer, skater, almost-carpenter, beach-bummer and nature enthusiast, Spandan Banerjee; at just 24 he’s taken it upon himself to master the art of crafting these boards with his own hands and puts immense love into each and every product. While the business is still shaping itself, the heart of it is very much intact, promising a bright future even as the skating sub-culture of the country grows.
Ironically, this is the place that is currently employing the above-mentioned Banerjee as a surf instructor but we’ll try not to deviate. Embodying a symbiotic relationship with nature, Vaayu Ocean Adventures exists in Goa however, it was co-founded by Mumbai-native/ San Diego returned pro-kite surfer Rahul Malaney & his environmental evangelist girlfriend, Jill Ferguson so we’re tallying this one up as one of our own.
Through their iniative, Vaayu hopes to inspire the community to channel the energy of nature through the exciting sports of Kitesurfing, Surfing, Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Sailing. From providing professional lessons to top quality rentals. They also hope to accomplish getting more people integrated with the natural world. Besides having a fully functioning ocean adventure sports store in north Goa, VOA delivers IKO certified instructors and exclusively uses the latest Liquid Force Kiteboarding gear for lessons and rentals. Currently, they’re in their 2nd full-fledged season of running in Goa’s Mandrem beach and have even opened up art residency programmes as well as teepees/cottages for those who’d rather indulge in the whole Vaayu lifestyle/package.
There’s been a growing trend of interactive visuals behind all things aurally electronic these days and many might consider Wolves to be major catalysts of the same. A live visual project made up of childhood friends Jash Reen & Joshua D’Mello, the duo never thought a shared penchant for geek-like curiosity might lead to such an ambitious project.
“We never started off with a career in mind. We’ve been conducting all sorts of experiments & messing around with computers since we were kids and that organically grew into something bigger as people started to see what we could do,” Reen admits.
Over the span of just a little over a year, Wolves teeth have been noticeably sharpened as the opportunities being offered to them finally show signs of matching up to larger-than-life ideas that go well beyond more basic projection mapping gigs. Even still, there are unshakeable challenges that go hand-in-hand with the territory.
“Mapping in general is associated with large scale events but our independent scene is more confined to smaller clubs so it’s been difficult to convince people to adapt to this kind of technology because it isn’t traditional. Often, it becomes difficult to actually be given enough time & space to conceptualise with the club owners.”
This year will see them add a cross-medium collaborative ‘art project’ with esteemed music producer Sandunes to their repertoire as well as they continue to exude a childlike enthusiasm for what they do.
“The growth potential is massive and we can’t wait to conduct bigger, crazier experiments.”
Words: Shreya Vaidya & Mandovi Menon