In a tête-à-tête with TomorrowMakers, Mansi Gupta, Founder and CEO of Tjori, talks about the inspiration behind her startup, the challenges she faced along the way, and her vision for the brand.

Mansi Gupta: Unlocking Tjori to bring an Indian treasure trove to the world

Online store Tjori is bringing unique Indian handicrafts to the global market. It is not only drawing attention to India’s unique cultural history globally, but also supporting and sustaining local karigars, and preventing various traditional art forms from dying. The idea for Tjori was germinated when Mansi Gupta, the CEO and Founder, was studying at Wharton Business School. It was then that she took a trip to Morocco and saw the beautiful local handicrafts on display. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

What makes you who you are?

Someone once told me, ‘faith can move mountains.’ This made me realise that the faith I carry with myself makes me who I am. The undeniable faith in God and his powers carves my identity. Although I don't just believe in one’s identity; what matters is the legacy you leave behind. That's what you are remembered for and that’s what is important!

What inspired you to start Tjori? Why did you pick this name?

The inspiration to begin Tjori came to me during my Wharton days where I realised the need to bring the Indian arts and crafts to a global market. The name TJORI means a treasure trove and this unique Hindi name jelled with the whole idea of bringing Indian treasures to the world.

What sets Tjori apart from similar businesses in the handicraft space?

Tjori is a modern lifestyle brand that brings the best of Indian art and craft with a touch of the contemporary world. The brand focuses on affordable luxury, and at the same time believes in fast fashion. We launch 4-5 collections every week in order to bring something new to our customers almost daily, which I believe a very few brands are doing and almost no one is doing this in the ethnic space!

What are some of the challenges you faced when starting up? 

Every start-up faces its own set of challenges. One memorable issue we faced during the early days was that our website was down on the very first day due to the overwhelming response we got from our customers. We clearly didn’t anticipate this! We quickly reworked our technology platform and came back stronger. Ever since, we have been very particular about the kind of technology we use.

While Indian handicrafts/ethnic wear would be novel in the US, the Indian market is crowded with the same. How was your experience expanding your business to India?

The brand’s aura isn’t that of any traditional reseller of existing Indian handicraft. Instead, we gave the Indian arts and craft a modern retake with a touch of contemporary silhouettes. We adhere to the trends of the modern world, while bringing good old Indian art into the picture. I believe this makes us stand out from the crowd and helped us expand. As a matter of fact, the response for Indian handicraft and ethnic wear is quite high in India.

Has the pandemic affected your business? How are you tackling it? Have you pivoted your business?

The pandemic affected the world and we also were caught in the storm, but because of some good decisions of the past we got through it. Being present in the Ayurvedic and organic wellness space, we got the strength and agility to launch sanitisers, which was the need of the hour. With the growing pandemic, we launched face masks and finally now with times getting better, we slot these essentials into our catalogue under a new brand category called ‘Raksha’, which will help us fight such challenges today and in the distant future as well. 

How do you ensure that artisans/karigars are looked after in such trying times?

With the uncertainty of the lockdown and the adversity the pandemic would cause on our artisans and karigars, we decided to run absolutely lucrative sales in order to help sustain the business and help the artisans through these tough and uncertain times. The overwhelming response from the people really helped our karigars to keep the cash flowing and life moving. 

How has your experience been as a mompreneur? Are there any tips you would like to share?

Being an entrepreneur isn’t very different from being a parent; you raise your company like it’s your baby. For me, since I had Tjori first, it was easier when Ryan came along. The elder sibling is always understanding, but no parent ever has favourites. Rather, they try to balance out the love and care between the two and that is exactly what I did! So being a mompreneur isn’t so different or difficult. The only advice I would like to give is to make sure you maintain the right kind of balance between your personal life and your professional life, and that will in turn keep you stable and help you grow.

What is your vision for Tjori in the next five years?

My vision for Tjori is to take this homegrown brand and bring it into the mainstream and contemporary lifestyle space, and reach out to everyone all over the world to ensure they at least have one thing Tjori with them at all times!