The corporate office I’m visiting is refreshing because it’s a bit of a mess. Most chief executive officers sanitise their cabins before I visit, removing paper and any office detritus. Today, however, I see piles of carpet samples and design magazines strewn everywhere. This is the Jaipur office of Yogesh Chaudhary, director (sales, brand and marketing) of Jaipur Rugs, a global award-winning handwoven luxury carpet company.
“This is a temporary office, we are moving to a new building soon (opposite the present one). Also, I’m the salesperson of the organisation; I always have to be updated. When we need to, we place a carpet on the floor, we all sit down together and go through magazines and samples,” explains Yogesh, 36.
He is the oldest son of N.K. Chaudhary, the founder of the ₹776 crore group of businesses, who continues to look after production and their philanthropic foundation. The company, which has stores in Milan, Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, offers a range of high-end rugs, including modern, traditional, abstract and floral designs. Exports account for 85% of their business. It’s seeing a steady revenue growth, especially owing to a rise in consumer interest in home furnishings during the pandemic.
Yogesh is one of five siblings, all of whom are involved with the company. He chose to drop out of college in 2006 to help his father in the business, which was in financial difficulties at the time, and has since then continued to build his family-owned brand.
A projector, a large TV, a meeting table and chairs are placed in the centre of his spacious cabin. “I like to do team meetings in my room. We do a lot of reviews. They start with one person and then five-six people join. It’s easier to use a projector,” he says. The rest of the space is conventional, with a large wooden desk, some awards and family photographs.
When the new office is ready, I’m sent a more “manicured” picture, showing Yogesh seated behind a large desk, framed by a prominent carpet, displayed as artwork. Its beige tones blend with the browns of the furniture—quite a mature look for a young entrepreneur.
What lies immediately outside Yogesh’s cabin is more interesting. He takes me to a display space where carpets are stacked in neat piles, and draws my attention to the Manchaha collection. These high-end carpets are designed by weavers themselves, not by company designers, using leftover yarn. The pieces are often inspired by the everyday lives of the weavers, and are a good example of conscious luxury, where weaver and customer are visibly connected.
“We are trying to give meaning to ownership. The carpet becomes completely timeless when there’s a connect,” he says.
Some 20,000 Manchaha rugs have been sold till date since the initiative was launched in 2011, to unlock weaver creativity and recycle waste. Yogesh goes a step further and suggests I meet their artisans, some of whom live in a village on the outskirts of Jaipur, a trip which provides insights into the daily workings of this socially conscious enterprise.
Ever since I began working in the field of design and interiors 20 years ago, I have been struck by how so many mid-sized European companies—often multi-generational family businesses—have built global brands in areas such as furniture, lighting and home products. Superior craftsmanship, design excellence and branding are hallmarks of such companies.
But Indian design-led brands are harder to come by in the interiors space, so it is curiosity that brings me to Jaipur Rugs. I want to know how this company has built a sizable international business for itself. I’m also keen to know: is this sustainable, since it’s the new frontier in luxury?
Turns out there are four Ps: People, Product, Personality and Perception.
People is first, especially for a socially oriented company such as Jaipur Rugs.
Respect for the artisan results in consistent product quality. Shanti Devi, a senior weaver I met during the village tour, says she previously worked for another carpet company. Penalties for mistakes and delayed wages were the industry norm. But Jaipur Rugs has been supportive, she says, delivering raw material to her doorstep, bypassing middlepersons and allowing her to grow professionally, take on more responsibility in the weaving community, and earn social respect and greater income. Jaipur Rugs’ empathetic approach to its artisans has also been featured in The Healing Organization: Awakening The Conscience Of Business To Help Save The World, a book by Michael J. Gelb and Rajendra Sisodia.
Yogesh’s people-oriented perspective is derived from his father’s desire to create an enterprise with social impact. “He didn’t want to become a Bill Gates. He has a vision of doing something for society. He wanted to create something different,” where he could improve the lives of the marginalised, he says.
Product is next. “We always say we want to be a sustainable luxury company. We never touch leather, stay away from a lot of manmade fibres. The vision of the brand is to move towards natural and organic,” says Yogesh. Sustainability is not always compatible with moving fast. The company produces as many as 100 designs a month and sees itself as a “fashion” business. But he believes “initiatives such as Manchaha recycle waste yarn”, making luxury environmentally friendly.
‘Personality’ is next. Design-led brands often reflect their owners’ personality. As the samples in Yogesh’s office and the projector suggest, he is unassuming, accessible and passionate about his work, like his father. “There’s too much masculine power in business, driven by greed and fear. It’s not going to be sustainable in the long term. As a brand, we want to show the world that business can be done by heart and not just by your mind, by being driven by compassion and empathy,” he professes.
All of which lead to the final P: Perception. Yogesh says that industry feedback is that Jaipur Rugs has injected “energy into the market with its cool carpets, getting homeowners and designers to spend more on carpets.”
“The whole idea of craftsmanship and luxury is a perception. The Europeans have done a great job of telling that story really well. I think more than anything, as Indians we need to learn how to brand our business. In the next 10 years, I hope that there are hundreds of brands that can go global. And we can be proud to be in Europe and selling to the Europeans as luxury brands, not the other way around,” he says. Maybe the biggest achievement is weaving the four Ps together, in an authentic and consistent way, to build a global brand.
Aparna Piramal Raje meets heads of organisations every month to investigate the connections between their workspace design and working styles.