Indian to the Core…
By : | December 23, 2013

…and yet, very global. Goodearth, India’s biggest lifestyle and home d├ęcor brand, is expanding its footprints abroad, with a few stores and a major digital push. Simran Lal, Goodearth’s indefatigable CEO, tells us how the store has helped revive and modernise the Indian aesthetic.

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Simran Lal, CEO, Good Earth

How and when was Goodearth set-up?

Goodearth is a great example of what we call ‘breaking all the rules’ way of doing things! Anita Lal, my mother, started Goodearth nearly 18 years ago. There is a verse which goes like this: “Wise men say, only fools rush in.”

Not to call my mother any such thing – in fact, it is the best thing she ever did and that is exactly what successful entrepreneurs do – they take risks, they go with their instincts and have lots of passion. So that is how Goodearth was born. We were based in Delhi, but we opened our first retail store in Mumbai – again, quite counter-intuitive but in the long run it has worked out really well for us because our Mumbai base has become so strong.

Mom had a deep passion to revive crafts – she was, at that time, working with the village potters who had lost their livelihood because of the plastic ‘matka’. And she worked with them and created wonderful contemporary terracotta urns based on the traditional skill of the potter. And that is, till today, the hallmark of Goodearth – contemporary, original designs using traditional crafts.

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Periyar Tea Set

What does Goodearth as a brand stand for?

As India’s leading design house, Goodearth celebrates the culture and history of a rich and diverse land. With our unique mix of vibrant colour and serenity, our designs capture the essence of Indian style in which opposites and contradictions coexist naturally and easily.

Each year, we design and create a comprehensive collection that tells the story of a particular tradition or culture from our own point of view. Our designs are original, contemporary, whimsical, and rooted in traditions and sustainable craft skills.

How and when did Goodearth enter global markets as a brand?

That happened quite naturally and organically. Over the past many years, we have garnered a lot of interest from the international community. Expats in India are a huge fan base and what inevitably happens is they give gifts from Goodearth to their family and friends around the world. And those people, who are touched, always contact us for more. This word of mouth reputation has also grown in the design community around the world and we now find ourselves on the ‘must visit when in India’ lists of the most stylish people around the world.

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Cushion Lehar Isfahan

Today we get many emails every day, asking us to ship our products internationally or to open Goodearth in one or the other part of the world. What makes it so exciting for us is the huge passion that is generated among our fans about the brand that they are so keen to have a bit of or to recreate it in their country.

We have in fact extended Goodearth successfully to Singapore as a shop in shop with a partner there who felt our contemporary designs perfectly compliment the antique furniture that she retails. Many boutique owners from Turkey to Spain to France have imported our designs for their audiences over the past many years.

Can you give us a break up of your turnover in India against your turnover internationally?

At this point, our Indian sales still make up around 90 per cent of our turnover (which is around Rs 110 crores), but we are expecting that to change significantly with our new ecommerce site. It will be our store for the world. Apart from that, we are very seriously vetting potential partners around the world and are keenly looking to opening our stores internationally. With all the international inquiries that we have been getting over the past many years, we find that our customer base, small and niche as it is, exists in every country in the world. They are people who are united by the love of this aesthetic, of crafts and of the lifestyle that we believe in.

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Baradari Petit Four Tray Set

What is the marketing strategy you are employing to capture new markets in India and abroad?

We have built our brand on the strength of our designs, our retail experience and our passion, and that remains our core marketing strategy. Having said that, to remain current in today’s crazy world of information technology, we plan to work closely with partnerships, alliances and, of course, with the digital media. We will be launching our blog that will allow us to tell our stories – the stories of our inspirations, our product history, craft skills that have lead to the creation of a product. We have so many stories to tell.

Do you have a different set of products for India and different for the international markets?

After 17 years, we have an extensive library that includes archive designs which have been discontinued to make space for new designs on the shop floor. For our digital storefront, we’re presenting our iconic archival designs.

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Sher Bachhe Muslin Toddler Quilt

What makes you international and capable of competing in international markets?

The huge passion that our fans have for our brand and our products always amazes us. You should see some of the emails we get – it is so heartwarming to know that people really do get our brand, what we stand for, what we have worked so hard to build and not compromise at all. I think people do get that. Internationally, people see our deep rootedness in a culture that has provided such amazing wisdom to the world – yoga, being a shining example of a holistic worldview. Our products resonate with people because we are Indian, yet contemporary – we fit into homes around the world without standing out as being kitschy and ‘too Indian’. We feel that with the kind of international response we get, we should be able to compete in international markets. Having said that, we always keep our fingers crossed and hope that it will work as well as we imagined!

We also try never to be too complacent – we are very critical of ourselves and are constantly looking on how to improve ourselves, more because it is our ambition to be the best we can be.

Serai-Glasses

Serai Glasses Set

Any other special product features or strategies you want to speak about.

Among the special project that we have nearly completed is the restoration and interior styling of the Rajmahal Palace in Jaipur. It was the home of the Jaipur family and, over the years, has been visited by many international celebrities, from Queen Elizabeth to Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana. Apart from creating original designs for all the wallpapers and furnishings for the palace, we have put together the entire look and feel – from fragrant soaps to the plush towels, fine China for their restaurants to the landscaping with traditional trees.