How this Udaipur-based entrepreneur survived hardships after losing his father, launched a home decor brand that now clocks Rs 3 Cr turnover
Romil Dhakar, Co-founder, Casa Arte Pvt Ltd
While working in London, little did Romil Dhakar knew that his life would take a roller coaster ride, when he would learn of his father’s cancer diagnosis. Romil eventually left his job in London and move back to India, to support his family at the hour of need.
Based out of Udaipur, Romil took up a job in a US-based company.
"I always wanted to come back to my hometown but not in such a situation. I wanted to do something of my own in Udaipur but that required time and research. When I came back from London, nothing laid ahead of me and I continued working on the job.”
Romil Dhakar and Ankit Vaishnav, Co-founders, Casa Arte Pvt Ltd
Romil met Ankit Vaishnav (28), at the company he joined as a manager. And, as sometimes the road of life takes an unexpected turn to end up in the place you are supposed to be, their meeting changed their destiny. Romil and Ankit had the same goals, however, they were restrained due to their financial limitations.
Nonetheless, while discussing their future plans over a cup of tea, one evening, they both decided to start Casa Arte.
"In October 2014 we decided to launch our own home decor brand, and in December, Ankit left the company to study the market. I was still working in the company to make ends meet in my family, as well as, of Ankit’s, as he wasn’t working at that time. I used to work for our brand in the daytime and join the office in the evening,” Romil tells SMBStory.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
SMBStory: How was Casa Arte started? What is the business?
Romil Dhakar: Casa Arte is a lifestyle accessories, furniture, and home décor brand, that uses real gemstones in manufacturing, which are otherwise worn as jewellery for good luck stones. This way we possess the power of the stone in an object which heals the whole home, not just the human body. We call it jewellery for home.
The company was incorporated as a Pvt Ltd in April 2015 and Ankit and I started meeting export houses with our presentation.
"We did not have a factory set up then, however, to crack a deal, we had to be high in spirit. We used to give our presentations on MacBook, donning company t-shirts, presenting them our scale of work and people used to get impressed by that. They used to feel that we are some big company, which in turn was not true.”
One fine day in August 2015, luck turned and we got a call from an exporter. He was visiting us the next day and wanted to see our factory, which by that time didn’t exist.
"This time would have made any other person panic, but we kept our hopes alive. It was like- ‘no factory, no problem’, let’s find another way out”
I called Ankit and asked to locate a factory where we could convince the owner for not being present and allow us to show the work to one of our customers. We managed to pull off a wild bluff and had a successful meeting and a trial order of about Rs 1.5 lakh, followed by an order worth Rs 5 lakh in September.
“Initially I was pouring in money from my salary, but to expand the business, we needed working capital. My mother happily gave me my father’s LIC money to run the business.”
With a beginning as such, Casa Arte, now, manufactures around 1800-2,000 products in a month, with around 40 labourers in its manufacturing unit in Udaipur. The business records an annual turnover of about Rs 3 crore.
SMBS: How did the company diversify into so many categories?
RD: When we started, we initially thought of running an ecommerce business. However, later we decided to start with a B2B business, by offering the unique collections in the bandwagon of gemstones which no one thought of.
We source our gemstones like Agate, Quartz, Amethyst, Jasper, and others from across the globe including Bali, Indonesia, Uruguay, Madagascar and in India from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and more.
We specialise in gemstone lifestyle products, that include, tableware like coasters, bottle openers; homeware like tabletop; bath ware like basins and bathtubs, soap dispenser, vanity sets, and much more. We have achieved all this with a very focused vision. Today, we are one of the top manufacturers in gemstone products, with a major market in Dubai.
Our products are exported to the brands like Neiman Marcus, MOE's Home Collection, in the USA, Leelo Home in Israel, GJ Style in the UK, and more through the top exporters of India including, Noble Art & Craft, Jodhpur, Lakshmi Ideal Interiors, Jaipur, and more.
Casa Arte also participates in various exhibitions and fairs across the globe and this October, it will be displaying its products in Art Basel, Miami, Florida. It also opened its second office in Florida, the United States in 2018.
Casa Arte is also the recipient of Indian SME Awards 2018-19.
SMBS: How are you differentiating from the competition? What are your challenges?
Amethyst bathroom accessories
RD: Earlier, buyers had to deal with low-quality producers, who had been in the market years before we started. They offered products made of low-quality raw material, often using less / thinner stone and back it with glass to make it a tabletop. They also didn’t polish the stone well and used non-compliant epoxy resin.
We made sure our tabletops are 20mm thick, without any glass at the back and made with 100 percent natural gemstone. We also ensure that the polish used, covers the full stone and gives it a shine. There are no artificial coatings on our products, making it compliant with international food safety standards.
All the extensive research helped us create exceptional product quality, which brought in a lot of trust from customers and repeat business.
To talk about the challenges, it comes from the cheaper, unprocessed products present in the market. There are times when to crack a deal, we spend hours with clients educating them on the difference of such products and convincing them on our price, which is higher compared to other products in the market, due to better quality.
SMBS: What is your advice to people who want to set up their business in the same sector?
RD: Irrespective of what sector you are in, I feel, keeping your commitments and delivering on time is one single most important difference-maker. If you have a great product but it takes ages to get delivered, you have lost a significant value. Today, everyone values time and we should keep every offering time bound. If we harness time management success will be a by-product.
Blue agate kitchen
SMBS: What are your future plans?
RD: We have just started; our goal is to be a leading manufacturer of luxury lifestyle products in the world. Soon, we want to scale our partnerships with companies to penetrate gemstones in any commodity you ask for.
(Edited by Suman Singh)