Manisha Rao turned entrepreneur with The Luxe Café last year. Manisha’s passion for luxury has persisted over many years: as a child, she was fascinated with royalty, fine clothes, and all things resplendent. This passion continued unabated through her teenage years and college days too.
Manisha was born and brought up in a middle-class service family in Gurgaon, and her dad was in the police, which was a transferable job. As children, she and her two siblings were always on the move within Haryana due to her dad’s postings. However, while still in school, their mother decided to save them from the “torment of shifting base every alternate year,” and settled with her three kids in Gurgaon.
Manisha studied in Gurgaon and did her undergrad from Indraprastha University in Delhi in mass-communication. She landed her first job with Financial Chronicle, promoted by the Deccan Chronicle group. “While still trying to find my feet in the organisation, my editor, Shubhrangshu Roy, sensed my deep passion for the world of luxury. He entrusted me the responsibility of launching a supplement dedicated solely to luxury, FC Roar.”
Her initial inhibitions on pulling off this supplement were swept away when the first issue hit the stands in September 2008. “The confidence it gave me was unprecedented. In fact, it was this confidence that came in extremely handy when I decided to turn an entrepreneur and founded The Luxe Cafe last year.”
The Luxe Café, a webzine (website and magazine) Manisha’s labour of love, “is a virtual platform for those looking for more trends, insights, advice, news and views on everything from home to fashion and food and travel to lifestyle. “
Luxury for Manisha, “lies in the finer details of life. The vintageFrench lace edging on my living room tablecloth is imbued with it. It can be found in the hand-embroidered chiffon saris made-to-order in Jaipur and Jodhpur, and even extends to my passion for growing health plants in my kitchen garden… or even just spending a lazy Sunday reading.”
She further adds,
While one cannot deny the association of material well-being with the pursuit of luxury in a very obvious way, the meaning of luxury has to expand and be more connected to the sense of wellness and confidence that one feels in their lives.
Not one to follow fashion trends, this 29-year-old’s mantra is to keep it simple and stylish.What attracts her to this industry is the freedom of choices clubbed with richness and range of perspectives available to an individual.
Be it relevant information, personalization, outreach or exclusivity, Manisha, given her interest in fashion and arts, felt left out of the scene as just a mere customer. This is what inspired her to come up with The Luxe Cafe.Her target audience is essentially those who are looking for finer pleasures in life.
However, this audience is not simply restricted to the upper strata of society, with high net worth. Things are changing, and more and more consumers are moving towards informed choices. This she says “is not just restricted to certain products, but the practices that go into it. So awareness and availability of
organic products is an example in this context. Also, demographics are changing when it comes to the consumer, who is no more just the typical big-city resident and jet-setter, but also the brand conscious buyer from tier two towns willing to invest in a piece of art or luxury goods.”The Luxe Café also looks at luxury brands to offer them the spotlight, and bring them closer to their existing and aspiring buyers.
She further adds, “While on a practical level, luxury could be construed as an expression of innate aesthetics and acquired worldview, the industry itself such a dynamic space, given how it is evolving,and is also simultaneously mapping the evolution of society – and that I find to be very interesting.”
A major challenge for Manisha was building a website design that matched the brand architecture. A lot of research and finesse went into designing the website to make sure it manifested as a seamless, non-obtrusive interface that allows a reader to get his/her fill of visually appealing, text-rich digital content. Based out of Delhi, her team comprises of ten plus members, along with a few freelancers.“My team of experienced designers and content strategists helped me realize my dream of creating a beautiful space,mobile-friendly and smartly curated for modern consumption patterns,which is also unique in the Indian context, and which is tailored to keep the readers occupied with a range of content on-the-go,” she says.
Though the webzine is a year old,Manisha sees so much scope for its development. According to her, there are so many trends to include, and so many different readers to bring closer,that it not only keeps her on her toes, but also motivates her day in and day out.