This woman entrepreneur designs affordable home décor products for middle-class households
The struggles and beauty of growing up in a middle-class family with all its trials and tribulations, and even quirks, has to be experienced to be believed.
Ghaziabad-based Prachi Bhatia wanted to accomplish her mother’s dreams of building a home of her own, and this fuelled her drive to pursue her interest in art and craft and become an entrepreneur.
Life took a difficult for her in 2011 when she was diagnosed with vitiligo skin disease and white patches started appearing on her upper lip. “I became conscious of my condition when others started starting at me, and some even went on to suggest giving up eating “white coloured products”, among many other things,” she recalls.
Prachi battled depression and with the support of her friends and family, emerged stronger with the realisation that a person’s strength lies within. One advice from her mother stuck with her, “Make your success so huge that the skin disease looks small."
Creating “inside” the box
While studying for her pre-university course, Prachi started preparing for NIFT entrance exams but secured admission in a branch outside Delhi. Unable to meet the accommodation expenses, she completed a bachelor’s in product design from GD Goenka University in Gurugram and travelled six hours every day to college.
She worked at an export house in Gurugram that specialised in designing home decor products for US and UK based companies. “Whenever we take inspiration from Pinterest to design our homes, the products are not available in India most of the time. But I realised that these are all designed and manufactured in India but are not available here,” she explains.
She noted that while foreigners are open to celebrate all forms of nature, there are many stereotypes that prevent Indian customer from experiencing different products. She wanted to introduce quirky animal-inspired products to customers looking for new and different products at an affordable price range.
Ten months after graduation she also worked as a merchandiser to gain exposure into the manufacturing sector. Prachi made the tough call to become an entrepreneur and start Chokhat in September 2018.
“Chokhat is the entrance to your house and I had the name figured out long ago because entrepreneurship was a clear path. However, hailing from a middle-class family with my family members dependent on me, starting up was a huge decision,” she says.
Based in Ghaziabad, it offers home décor products like trays, ceramic bowls and tea sets, coasters, baskets, and planters, among others, available at a price range between Rs 500 and Rs 3,500.
Prachi says the idea is to make ‘designer products’ accessible to all the working middle-class people.
It is a common expression to encourage creators across the world to think big and think outside the box. Prachi shares a different perspective, “I believe creating outside the box is of no use. If you are really designing for people, design inside the box because that is where they are. Outside the box is not accessible to them.”
The entrepreneur emphasises on knowing the audience needs of design utility and affordability to build a successful brand. All of Chokhat’s products are designed by Prachi, which are then outsourced to manufacturing units in Moradabad and Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Products of Chokhat
Started with an intial investment of Rs 1 lakh, Chokhat has shipped more than 11,000 orders across India so far. Besides its website, the products are available on platforms like Amazon and Etsy.
The business took time to take off. She had her own commitments, repay a student loan, and to support her family and the business, Prachi worked as a freelance graphic designer. The entrepreneur faced a fortunate twist after COVID-19 broke out that helped the brand become profitable in April, 2020.
In the initial months of lockdown when most people were spending more time on social media, she ramped up her online advertisement and orders started pouring. “I was doubting my design and products earlier but this also made me realise I was missing out on reaching the masses,” she says.
One of the biggest challenges has been dealing with the conservative karigars, many of whom refused to design figurines of owls or horses. She has had similar experience with few customers as well. “One of my neighbours bought a bird cage basket to store fruits and returned it two days later. She said that her husband believes a bird cage belongs outside and it would be unlucky to have it inside home,” Prachi shares.
The entrepreneur says she frequently has to travel to far-flung places to collect product samples but she insists she is not complaining. Moving ahead, Prachi wants to design furniture and tap the international export market.