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Kalyani Saha Chawla launches Rezon, a new line of designer silverware products

Serial entrepreneur Kalyani Saha Chawla tells us why she started her designer silverware products line and how positioning yourself correctly can make all the difference

Kalyani Saha Chawla. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Kalyani Saha Chawla. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

The Rezon office in south Delhi’s Okhla Industrial Area brings together several of Kalyani Saha Chawla’s passions. The walls of her air-conditioned office are adorned with art—one of the pieces is The Last Supper by F.N. Souza. Cupboards are lined with non-fiction, with silver artefacts adding charm. Two black and white photographs, one of hers with daughter Tahira and one of her guru, complete the setting. As we wait for her to arrive, a television screen is showing craftsmen carefully beating metal into thin sheets in the workshop next door. These sheets will be shaped into bowls, plates, even lotus petals.

There is a rhythm in the constant hammering that overpowers even the loud radio blaring Bollywood songs inside the workshop.

Chawla arrives wearing a green floral dress and a classic two-hand Breguet watch, constantly marshalling her troops over the phone.

“The traffic is horrible outside," she says. “It’s going to be a long day."

Chawla, who is in her late 40s, launched Rezon, a line of luxury silverware lifestyle products, about a year back. She is exhibiting the line, which is not yet available commercially, across the country.

Chawla, who grew up in Kolkata, studied at Loreto House before moving to Chennai in 1990 to work with The Oberoi Group. Over the years, she has worked at a newspaper as a branch manager, advertising and marketing, opened an eponymous boutique and art gallery in Kolkata, started her own export business in Delhi, worked as vice-president, marketing and communications, at Christian Dior, India, and co-founded fashion brand Lulu & Sky. Rezon is her latest venture. She now manages the export business, art gallery, Lulu & Sky and Rezon while continuing to work with Dior as a consultant.

Currently busy finishing and finalizing some products for an exhibition, Chawla speaks about the silver business and the importance of doing different things. Edited excerpts:

RETRO: Pop colours enamelled on box lids and beautiful shades of stones...looks retro, brightens up the living space, and is a conversation starter.

Tell us about the genesis of Rezon.

Silver is considered auspicious in India and it’s part of many celebrations.

I used to make gifting pieces with leather and silver, so it’s not completely new to me. Rezon started about a year ago. I got into this business when I was already doing so much; I had recently launched Lulu & Sky. So somehow Rezon got overlooked and the business suffered. In the last two months, I have focused on resurrecting Rezon. We (have) made a collection and we are holding exhibitions.

LOTUS: The inspiration came from a 19th century diya and bloomed into centrepieces, table lamps and candle stands.

What makes you different from others?

Quality. My 12 years at Dior have taught me aesthetics and today I can tell you within a minute what’s wrong with a piece.

There are probably three well-known silver companies in the country today that are doing some stunning work but besides that, there is hardly much. Every product we make has two variants—silver-plated and pure silver. We make the products using brass and copper and plate it with pure silver. Prices start from Rs1,200 for a silver-plated and enamelled pair of cufflinks and go up to Rs3.5 lakh for a pure silver centrepiece.

TRI COLOUR: Contemporary and neutral, a collection in hues of silver, rose gold and gold.

Who is your target audience?

The corporate gifting and wedding markets are our priorities.

Right now we don’t have a retail space, which I should have soon. Exhibitions are my focus area right now. After Delhi, I am going to Kolkata, Mumbai and then across more cities.

SECRET GARDEN: Gold-plated insects, flowers, branches and lilies make for a variety of home accessories, from photo frames to decorative boxes.

Tell us about the challenges.

Piracy. A lot of designs get copied very easily. Another problem is people’s attitude. Everyone just wants to make a quick buck and leave. No one’s thinking long term. That makes manufacturing a lot more difficult. Then the business is intensely labour-intensive. Metal sheets are beaten and shaped by hand and it’s a process that can’t be expedited. So patience is a key ingredient.

Is there a “return-to-precious-materials" trend in the luxury market?

It’s about positioning. The way you market and position yourself is very important. Bollywood stars are endorsing vests and talcum powders, look at how it has done wonders for those companies.

India has always been the land of luxury but the exposure for brands was limited even, say, a decade ago. They are a lot more visible now. So, yes, positioning is important. But one also needs to know their target audience and their needs. There has to be a balance.

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