“I have never really belonged to the places I have been in, I have always made my place wherever I have reached.”
Rashmi Singh has always been a dreamer, driven by hunger to learn something new and not easily satisfied. This has kept her going and pushed her to take the road less travelled.
“I feel where the heart is willing you tend to find ways. I have always taken the plunge, so that ten years down the line I don’t say ‘I wish I had’ instead I should say, ‘I am glad I did.’”
Today she is equally engrossed in connecting artists with customers through her venture Moya. However, she is not new to entrepreneurship as Moya is not her first venture.
HerStory spoke with Rashmi to know about her ventures, what drives her and her personal connect with art and crafts.
The girl from Patna
Rashmi’s journey has not been easy. She hails from a middle class family from Patna. Her father is a self-made man, the only qualified son from a zamindar family. Her father worked hard and expected the same from his children. He was an engineer by profession with the Bihar Govt. and spent all his working years in remote villages and towns like Rajgir, Nalanda, Arrah, Buxar etc. but stationed his family in Patna so that Rashmi and her siblings could get a good education.
All through our school years we have spent our lives wearing the same party clothes for at least one year till it stopped fitting and the same school shoes with it! Small things like a dairy milk chocolate, sugar coated Nice biscuits and Maggi were a luxury and were kept as treats if we performed well in school. When I look back now, it does seem like a dream to have come such a long way!
In the long run, she feels happy about this journey, as it has helped her to stay grounded and value what she has.
Rashmi did her schooling and graduation in English from Patna. After her graduation she did a Diploma in Fashion Design from NIFD, Patna and in 2005 she completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Apparel
Design and Merchandising from NID, Ahmedabad. Between 2006 -2010 she worked with Madura Garments, her last role being that of an Assistant Design Manager for Madura Garments, Bangalore.Her first venture
Rashmi launched her first venture, Homespoon in 2010 that was into corporate catering. “It was a unique idea at that point of time and within four months of starting up it was profitable too but I closed it because I realized that I had lost myself as I no longer loved cooking! But I do not regret taking that plunge as it gave me the experience and the insight that I was not meant for it.”
“Art for me is a reflection of the self, the self that unites with the stories around, the cultures we belong to, the history that we inherit, the world that we live in, it all comes together in a self expression of the artist. And design for me is something with a purpose, it has to solve a problem and with a purpose,” says Rashmi. This is what is reflected through Moya too.
Moya is an Irish word, which simply means “Great”, reveals Rashmi. From apparels, lifestyle products and home furnishings, all products depict regional arts from different regions of India with an eclectic mix of pattern and material with a vintage touch to it. Rashmi’s focus is currently on two major crafts — Madhubani from Bihar and Leather Puppetry from Andhra and she also has some weaving and block print clusters in Andhra and Kolkata.
Rashmi started Moya in September of 2014. Getting access to artist clusters and communicating with them and guiding them to produce designs of one’s choice and material has been a challenge. Rashmi has to travel extensively to meet artists. “God has been kind to me and I have established a network of people that keep the ball rolling for Moya,” says Rashmi with pride.
One of her biggest challenges has been finance. Payments to artisans need to be made in advance and she adds, “Whatever we make is put back in the business.” She is working towards funding and is hopeful that it will come through soon.
Sustainable business model
Rashmi says, “That what they have built with Moya is a sustainable business model wherein they get support to run their own small businesses and create a self-sufficient environment improving people’s lives. And the traditions and skills of the region can continue to be handed down.”
The artists get support via design intervention, and supply of tools and machinery desired to achieve their output.
A designer at heart, Rashmi says, that often ‘thinking business’ is tough and hence, she is looking for possible collaboration.
“Being a woman entrepreneur,” she says, “is difficult as people do not take you seriously especially if you are in the non corporate world. My work leads me to travel to remote places alone with strangers all around, and sometimes it has been challenging for me to put myself in such situations.”
Rashmi believes that if a man steps into the entrepreneurial space he can spend 24 hours being clueless about what his family is doing, “But a woman can probably never do that! We are not brought up that way; we always have to go that extra mile to achieve something personally.”
“It’s always this AND that too and never this or that” for a woman. Rashmi works almost 19 hours a day and to ensure that she unwinds she takes off on Sunday and disconnects with work, phones and emails.
Down the road
Five years down the line, Rashmi sees Studio Moya as a lifestyle solution in crafts in a bespoke narrative. “While the way to go is online, I feel experience is the best influence and hence physical stores are a must. At a larger level, Studio Moya would also be offering custom solutions to clients where they would be able to design their own products. Experiential influence through workshops and craft tours will also inculcate interest in the younger generations to work in the industry. As a business, our artisans are our backbone, I wish to bring them to the forefront and hence I am working on a model where the artists will have their names on the products crafted by them.”
Rashmi is all set to achieve her dream and these words by late Dr. Kalam, she heard in her college days, urge her to keep going —
A dream is not that what you see while sleeping but it’s something that doesn’t let you sleep.