By Nikhil Joseph:
When we started our company in 2014, my co-founder Madhu was a trained fashion designer while I was a mechanical engineer with a passion for photography. We had either been part of exhibitions or art projects and were of the opinion that here in India, art from upcoming artists didn’t have a consolidated and curated platform. Design, too, was growing at a very stagnant pace.
This state of things inspired us to launch The Postbox, a product design company making niche products that would retail on our own e-commerce platform. Madhu was just 21 and I was 24.
Since both of us are fascinated by storytelling, our approach is to collaborate with graphic artists and product designers to create products that tell stories. So, from the cutting chai glasses handwoven with cane and inspired by the famous cutting chai of Bombay to the urban spaces laptop, inspired by the symmetrical, earthy hues of San Francisco, all our products come with their own unique narrative.
Which is why we don’t plan to launch 1,000 products in the next six months. We’ll launch maybe 10 to 15. But every artist or product designer we launch on the platform, goes through a process of ideation, of conversation over design and their values.
As for the name itself – The Postbox evokes an element of nostalgia – of the joy of having received something significant, while also marking the end of a wait to hear from a loved one.
At first, the biggest problem was that people didn’t take us seriously since we were young. But eventually, they understood how serious we are. Another challenge was maintaining cash flow levels when bootstrapped, but this one had an upside – the importance of sustainability was ingrained in us from the outset.
The toughest thing, however, has been when customers are frustrated that we haven’t delivered their product on time. Usually, this happens because our artisans have delayed production schedules. Working and communicating with artisans, itself is a unique challenge.
Their very survival in India is threatened today. But we find that educating them on various aspects like financial management and innovation, helps us build a level of trust, which is critical when it comes to scaling supply to meet demands. Not many companies consider this important, but we are determined to help artisans evolve their craft, into something that is relevant to today’s times.
Telling our brand story was as important to us as those told by our products. So, from the start, we used Instagram, a great visual medium to talk about the inspiration behind the products we launch. In fact, today we launch every product first on Instagram, as we believe that it is the future of brands talking to consumers.
We also spend a considerable amount of money marketing through social media and a majority of our orders happen through social media. But this doesn’t mean we splurge; being a bootstrapped startup, the moves are calculated and frugal.
Interestingly, today, though we sit in Chennai, most of our client base is in Delhi NCR and Mumbai, which has been possible only due to validation through social media. In the last 12 months, we’ve grown four times of what we were through the initial phase. Additionally, there has been a shift from being perceived as a product design company to actually being identified as one. In fact, we have been approached by design firms to design for projects, which they have been assigned to do!
Though at the core, we’re a brand creating niche products from India, our vision is multifaceted. We want to be able to influence and inspire society to perceive and treat design as a service and way of life. We want to be able to build a strong community of artisans and artists who work on pushing their boundaries. We want to build a company that is scalable, yet, niche.
Most of all, though, we want to be a brand, which gets India recognised as a destination, which can make culturally rich, yet, contemporary products with a universal appeal.
Images posted by The Postbox on Facebook.