This entrepreneur started a handicraft surfaces business with Rs 30K to build a brand worth Rs 135 Cr

Sanjeev Aggarwal started Orvi in 2014 to blend India’s craftsmanship with technology and bring traditional aesthetics that have fallen by the wayside to the fore. Associated with more than 60 in-house artisans, the company rakes in 135 crore annual turnover.
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Hailing from a typical Marwari business family in Jaipur, it was natural for Sanjeev Aggarwal to run a business after completing education. In 1993, using his savings of Rs 30,000, he started a business exporting stones to different countries procuring material from quarries located in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and southern parts of India. He named the company Stone Age Pvt Ltd. But, focussing only on material exports didn’t satiate his entrepreneurial hunger. He wanted to do something different.

In conversation with SMBStory, he says,

“Having grown up in vibrant India and due to my travels around the world, I have had the privilege of experiencing some of history's finest architecture that has, sometimes, been neglected. . Seeing first-hand, the details, precision, and beauty that craftsmen have created within these spaces for centuries, inspired me to do something into this space.”

In 2014, Sanjeev started Orvi Surfaces for creating innovative surfaces, with a fine blend of craftsmanship and technology.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

SMBStory: What is Orvi Surfaces and how do you blend craftsmanship with technology?

Sanjeev Aggarwal: Orvi Surfaces creates innovative surfaces, blending craftsmanship and technology with tradition, and western aesthetics with artisanal techniques from Asia and beyond. Working with more than 60 in-house artisans, Orvi uses varied traditional craft techniques from across the world including stone carving, hand sculpting, intricate metal inlay, stone in-stone inlay, raku firing etc., to create bespoke and timeless surfaces using exquisite materials like natural stone, wood, metal, liquid metal, ceramics and glass.

As a brand, the team at Orvi is always working towards creating innovative and uniquely beautiful surfaces for all parts of the building - both for interior and exterior applications. By combining traditional craft techniques with 21st century technology, we're building an environment where we champion these skills for the next generation of craftsmen and recreate some of the surfaces, shapes, patterns, and designs that have begun to disappear. Our surfaces embrace traditions of yesterday, the design and architectural talent of today, and the technology and consumer demand of tomorrow. 

At Orvi, bespoke services and projects are an integral part of our approach. 

Experience has taught us that every client is unique, every designer has their own ideas, and every project comes with its own specific challenges and opportunities. Exploring those possibilities is an exciting and fruitful process for everyone involved and the ability to work closely and creatively with external designers and architects, to adapt existing product lines or create completely new models are fundamental to the way we operate.

SMBStory: What is the market size of your sector and how are you differentiating from the competition?

SA: India’s home furnishing is growing by 40 percent annually and is projected to be in excess of US $13 billion by 2025.

At Orvi, we cater to only niche audiences through leading architects in India and abroad. Combining the skills of the past with the technology of today, this dynamic approach results in high-end surfaces of timeless elegance, and for this we have imported CNC machines from China and Italy. 

Orvi Surfaces

Our portfolio of collections presents a diverse menu of distinctive styles and concepts and we specialise into multilaying. From CNC routers and laser cutting instruments to water jets and sandblasting systems, these equipment complement the skill and experience of our craftsmen, never replacing it. Moreover, when the goal is to devise something truly original, we have the experience and expertise to work with our clients in exploring and developing their own bespoke designs.

Our ability to work closely with designers and architects combined with the skills of our expert craftspeople, enable us to explore endless possibilities with natural stone, wood, metal, ceramics and glass.Our Research & Development process is constant and comprehensive. So not only does it guarantee a steady flow of new ideas, it also ensures that no new product is launched until we are fully satisfied it meets our rigorous criteria for durability and quality.

SMBStory: Who are your clients and what are the business challenges you face?

SA: We mostly cater to five star hotels in India and abroad and high-end private residences. We believe that with each challenge, comes a new opportunity to unleash our creativity and create something more beautiful than ever before.

The challenge is to change the mindset of the artisans who have been into the business with a conventional approach and who resist adopting technology. 

The coronavirus pandemic also posed challenges across industries as business activities came to a complete standstill. The small and medium-sized businesses were especially badly hit and incurred huge losses. It did not spare us either and our business wason a slowdown as well. However, instead of pulling back, we invested that time into planning for the future. 

Recently, we joined hands with India Design Fund and initiated a historic coming together of five eminent architects and designers to create bespoke products for an auction. The proceeds went towards a charity that supports migrant labour and artisans. 

We also invested in training our karigars and exposed them to global craft traditions and agile cutting-edge technologies and machines.

SMBStory: What are your future plans?

SA: We look forward to serving our clients who come from all parts of the world. Whether metro cities, Tier II or III towns, people everywhere travel a lot more now, value authenticity, craftsmanship and are highly evolved. We are also soon foraying into launching artefacts. 

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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