This entrepreneur duo is helping millennials up their fashion game with fusion-style maang tikkas and other jewellery twists
Steven Jhangiani and Hansika Jethani, based in Mumbai and Singapore respectively, started Funky Maharani to give a contemporary twist to traditional maang tikkas, priced between Rs 890 and Rs 3,050.
The maang tikka is easily one of the most beautiful pieces of traditional Indian jewellery worn by women of all ages on their forehead during festive seasons.
What caught serial entrepreneur Steven Jhangiani's eye was that increasingly, this particular jewellery piece was only being sported in movies and wedding ceremonies. In fact, his own wife Sapna Jhangiani's maang tikka had been lying in the safe after being used just once during their wedding.
It got him wondering, what would make this jewellery piece, believed to have made its first appearance when our ancestors began creating jewellery over 5000 years ago, more mainstream?
In January 2020, Steven hit upon the idea of giving a contemporary twist to traditional Indian motifs, which became the foundation for Funky Maharani.
Starting up amidst the pandemic
Steven decided to team up with his cousin-in-law Hansika Jethnani, a photography graduate from University of Arts London. However, starting a venture during the pandemic, especially as Steven was based in Singapore and Hansika in Mumbai, was not an easy experience, but the duo believed in hitting the ground running. The business came to life via a WhatsApp communication thread between them, a designer, artisans, and a third party working on packaging from Delhi.
As they lacked the technical know-how about jewellery designing to translate their vision into reality, Hansika began working with a freelance jewellery designer to work on their ideas.
Now working with a small team of artisans in Surat, Funky Maharani offers a wide collection of maang tikkas, jhumkas, and anklets, most of which are made from recycled brass.
They count millennials, queer people, and women who love experimenting with non-traditional jewellery as their target customers.
Navigating the market
Priced between Rs 890 and Rs 3050 rupees, the founders claim to have sold about 52 maang tikkas between October 2020 and May 2021. Even once the products were ready, a challenge that lay ahead of them was ensuring that these products were reaching the right customers.
“We've had to rely a lot on social media marketing. Even so, with a pandemic going on, it wasn’t the best time to talk about fashion products being launched in the market in a lighthearted way. There were graver issues going on,” Steven says.
The duo strongly believe in customers getting a feel of their jewellery rather than just looking at images online. Between November 2020 and March 2021, when the first wave of COVID-19 cases had seen a low,
Hansika managed to display their products at several pop-up stores in Mumbai and Goa. One such pop-up store at a night market in Goa proved to be extremely promotional as throngs of people from all over India were visiting the coastal state on a staycation at the time.
With the second wave of the pandemic, things have changed. “As of now, we keep going, knowing that eventually the pandemic will be over and there will be some kind of normalcy,” adds Hansika, optimistically.
Although focused on selling and expanding in India, the designs have attracted many first- and second-generation Indians abroad. This has spurred the duo to tap international markets like the US and Canada among others. “I think at the end of the day, we would really like to see people from all walks of life, and different cultures, be able to enjoy our creation,” shares Hansika.
The first-time entrepreneur claims there is little competition when it comes to their flagship product like the maang tikka, and hopes to tap the huge accessorising market in India, which was valued at around Rs 280 billion in 2017, and expected to reach Rs 850 billion in 2023, according to Statista.
Edited by Anju Narayanan