A Vasai-based manufacturer is making waves in modern retail with its polyresin artifacts

Ashnam Retail currently supplies its products to Royal Oak, Home Centre, Home Town, Shoppers Stop, and The Bombay Store. It has a design bank of approximately 260 unique articles and 2,740 SKUs.

A Vasai-based manufacturer is making waves in modern retail with its polyresin artifacts

Thursday June 22, 2023,

5 min Read

Key Takeaways

  • Ashnam Retail has a wide range of figurines, home decor products, wall paintings, and silver and gold-plated items in its portfolio.
  • It has a design bank of approximately 260 unique articles and over 2,700 SKUs (stock-keeping units).
  • Experienced artists from institutions like JJ School of Arts train unskilled workers recruited by the company.

Manoj Kumar Sharma, the founder of Vasai-based artifacts manufacturing company, Ashnam Retail, has faced several challenges since he began the venture in 2012. 

The most heart-wrenching setback occurred in 2021 when his wife and co-founder, Mona Sanghvi, passed away. This profound personal loss not only left Sharma shattered but also affected the business. 

Yet, with unwavering determination, he has rebuilt Ashnam. 

Today, Ashnam has a wide range of figurines, home decor products, wall paintings, and silver and gold-plated items in its portfolio. It specialises in manufacturing handcrafted polyresin–a highly durable plastic material–artifacts.

It has a design bank of approximately 260 unique articles and over 2,700 SKUs (stock-keeping units). The price of the products ranges from Rs 599 to Rs 1 lakh, with the higher end representing signature products that possess larger dimensions and enhanced appeal.

Ashnam Product

Ashnam's Ganesha figurine

Ashnam currently supplies its products to various modern retail chains, including Royal Oak, Home Centre, Home Town, Shoppers Stop, and The Bombay Store. In addition, it serves clients in the silver and gold plated artifacts segment, such as Ekani, Dmart Exclusive, Satyam Collection, and Satgurus.

Over the years, Ashnam has engaged in diverse projects, including creating personalised gifts for notable personalities. It designed a Krishna idol, which was recently presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It also undertook the task of refinishing artifacts for Vijaypat Singhania's private jet. In the past, it had also worked on a silver bat gifted to Sachin Tendulkar by Mukesh Ambani to celebrate his 200th test match series.

The journey 

In its early days, Ashnam operated as a trading company, sourcing silver and gold-plated gift articles and figurines from a manufacturer in Vasai, and supplying those to renowned stores and chains across India. 

“Our very first clients included Archies, Waman Hari Pethe Sons, and the famous Dagdusheth Halwai Trust. We had developed an exact replica of Dagdusheth Halwai Ganesha figurine,” Sharma tells SMBStory. Other clients included Tanishq, BlueStone Jewellery, and PNG Jewellers.

However, in 2016, the trading business had to be shut down due to disputes with its manufacturing partner. This setback forced Sharma to reconsider his approach. 

"My wife, who was a close friend at that time, showed immense faith in me and lent me Rs 5 lakh to restart the business," says Sharma. 

Ashnam

Ashnam's product

Determined to turn things around, Sharma set up an 800-sq-ft manufacturing facility in Vasai and recruited a small team. In 2017, Sharma and Sanghvi got married. Sanghvi, an architect by profession, also joined the business as a co-founder, bringing creative insights to the company and playing a crucial role in establishing its foundation.

“In 2019, the team size grew to 50. When things were going smoothly, I took another place of 7,000 square feet in Vasai investing Rs 50 lakh,” says Sharma.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 disrupted operations, forcing a temporary shutdown and causing the workers to return to their villages.

In April 2021, another tragedy struck as Sharma's wife succumbed to COVID-19. The loss left him shattered and pushed the business to a significant decline. “The sales went down, and I even thought of shutting down the company altogether,” says the founder.

“Then one day it struck me that this way I was letting my wife down and not living up to my own purpose. That's when I made up my mind to revive Ashnam," he adds.

With renewed determination, he decided to revamp the business. He engaged with creditors, suppliers, and the entire team, rallying their support to restart operations. 

In a span of 23 months, Ashnam expanded its team to nearly 200 people. The company achieved a revenue of over Rs 7 crore in FY23. At present, it possesses four manufacturing units in Vasai, encompassing a total area of 40,000 square feet.

Organised player in an unorganised sector

Ashnam says it sets itself apart from its competitors through its well-equipped team and in-house resources.

“Our biggest competitor will not have a team of more than 30 people. I have invested heavily in human resources to set the company apart. From sketches to the final product, everything is done in-house,” says Sharma. 

Ashnam has a team of eight artists, consisting of four professionals and four trained individuals who have the ability to create designs from scratch. 

According to the founder, there are numerous small manufacturers in various pockets such as Meerut, Khurja, Aligarh, Vasai, Virar, Rajkot, and Mumbai, but they operate in spaces no larger than 1000 sq ft with very small team sizes.

Focus on employees 

Ashnam hires people from remote areas of Nala Sopara, Vasai, and Virar. The company actively recruits unskilled women. Experienced artists from institutions like JJ School of Arts train these workers.

"This industry is highly unorganised. Ashnam is committed to prioritising employee welfare and bringing some positive changes to the sector," says Sharma.

“Unlike the market average of Rs 340 to 360 per day, we ensure that employees are paid between Rs 430 to Rs 450 per day. They enjoy Sundays off and have access to 21 days of annual leave,” he adds.

Currently, the workforce consists of 156 individuals, with an equal gender ratio. As the holiday period concludes, the employee count is expected to reach around 200, with 60 to 65% being female employees.

Future plans

Looking ahead, Ashnam is planning to actively expand its presence in offline retail spaces. Its brand, Siddharas, launched in 2021, is available in all Metro Cash and Carry stores, and negotiations are underway with major retailers like Archies, Royal Oak, Pepperfry, and others to house the brand.  

Along with white labelling, the company has plans to establish itself as a brand in the market. “We are in talks with someone who will take care of distribution and dispatches. Our role will be limited to manufacturing,” says the founder.

“Additionally, we plan to venture into the direct-to-consumer (D2C) segment through ecommerce platforms like Myntra, Amazon, Flipkart, and more,” says Sharma.

In three years, it aims to get listed on BSE SME.


Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

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