Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Real Interview!

1. When did the urge to start Terra hit you? Did you wake up one morning and realize your dream?

Sumitra - The fashion industry happened to me by chance as when looking to change jobs, I had the opportunity to take forward what my mother started with a domestic handbag business!

Smita - Fashion design for me was an extension of what I do in graphic design! I enjoy experimenting with different looks and colours, so the opportunity to help design handbags was brilliant!

2. What is Terra and why the name Terra? What makes Terra so unique?

Smita - Terra was a name that came to my mind purely from the nature of the brand! It represents all earthy and natural elements like leather and fine fabrics! Its about being grounded and yet strongly individualistic, thus leading to the thoughts of "terra firma!" Also it's nice that the parent company is RR Leathers, which fits nicely into this name!

Sumitra - Terra is unique by virtue of its styling! The bags are largely handcrafted and the styles we do are not repeated or created in mass! One bag style is usually done in different colours and not repeated! The drape of our bags and sheer light weight nature of the lamb skins we use lend to distinct difference in our product!

3. Can you tell us more about the customization part? Does the bag price depend on the material or the pattern? Is it like "the more customized, the more expensive"?

Sumitra - Price point will depend on various factors and material used as well as pattern development. Both form a large part of the price factor! Having said that we do try to keep it as affordable as we possibly can!

Smita - Customization is an extended service and thus will have a premium attached to it! Yet, the luxury of having a bag tailored to your specific needs is an indulgence that warrants the expense involved for certain bag enthusiasts!

4. How did Terra create a storm in the industry? Do you consider South market a stronghold?

Smita - Your question in itself is flattering! Thank you! Yet, we don't consider our brand to have created a "storm" in the industry just yet...more like a hint of one to come!

Sumitra - The South market is where we have created a stronger presence! We have a loyal database of customers largely from Chennai and Bangalore and are seeing the response pick up across other cities as well!

5. Will you let us know a bit about your studies, background and hobbies including your transition?

Sumitra - I studied Hotel Management and worked at a leading hospitality brand for a few years before taking the helm at Terra! It was not a planned transition for me, but now that it has happened I feel confident and comfortable in my role! Sports, music and travel inspire me and contribute to making me the person I am today! Raring to go, I am filled with ambition both for my brand and myself!

Smita - In my early days of Engineering when my diode diagrams were prettier than the lot, it was a clear giveaway of the designing days to follow! With an Engineering degree and an MBA, I transitioned from technical writing to creative writing and soon to designing! Now with over 7 years in the industry and a 3-year-old graphic design studio Smitten of my own, the story seems to be largely of pursuit of passion! I strongly believe that you must wake up every morning and love the day that lies ahead of you to excel in your field! I try to keep that spirit close to heart!

6. How long did it take you to realise you made it happen business-wise and profit-wise?

Sumitra - Businesses are always reinventing themselves to stay ahead of the curve and I think that's what we place prime importance on at Terra! So it's less about a measure of time and more about the challenge of keeping profitability high!

Smita - The conscious effort is to extend value to the customer as best as possible! With that, profit should come as a natural reward for service and product well rendered!

7. How did your support system react when you made a prestigious debut into media, given your success?

Sumitra and Smita - Our support systems have been tremendous sources of encouragement and pride! We are consciously aware of the strength they add to our lives and work and are quite simply thankful!

8. Did you always want Terra to be a partnership instead of a One-Woman Show?

Sumitra and Smita - Terra is not a partnership on paper yet it is a brand that is created and buffered by a team effort and we intend to keep it that way!

9. What helped you survive the existing competitive market, things that helped you hold your own?

Sumitra and Smita - Like we said earlier, the conscious effort is to extend value to the customer as best possible! With that, profit should come as a natural reward for service and product well rendered!

10. How does it feel to employ people and help earn their bread?

Sumitra and Smita - It feels like a lot of responsibility, which we feel proud to shoulder! Every entrepreneur needs to keep in mind that the strength of a company lies in its employee base and they form important pillars in its functioning! We value our team and ensure that they are well looked after and rewarded! It is not a chip on our shoulders to have provided employment, but more a strong responsibility to continue to contribute in employee growth!

11. Did you ever feel the pressure of competitive market, especially with Hidesign and Calonge down South?

Sumitra and Smita - You know, its such a pat on the shoulder to be compared with such names as these have been brands in the market for years now! That said, we feel each of us have a special niche in the market and are thus enjoying a very dedicated separate set of customer base each!

12.What do you do on a given day at work? What do you do on a given day at home, say like a holiday?

Smita - Work days are a riot and how! Charged, exciting and never-stop-for-a-second sort of rushes create a typical work day for me! Days at home, holidays are filled with extra curricular activities and pursuit of hobbies like music, reading and writing!

Sumitra - Work days translate to exhilarating times at the factory and plentiful travel! Home and holidays means quality time with friends and a good smattering of sport, gym and music!

13. What is your take on entrepreneurship in India? Does it base on the factors like volume of work and time or it’s just the luck factor that helps?

Sumitra and Smita - Entrepreneurship anywhere is tough and a personal decision! Once taken, it needs to be backed and pushed with full might and can result in more rewards than any job in the world!

14. Where do you see Terra and yourself in the coming years? Did you set any ultimate goals for Terra?

Sumitra and Smita - We see Terra as a global brand that caters to women and men that are strongly individualistic and game for experiment! We want to see more presence across more stores and the next target is our very own flagship store that is an immediate goal!

15. Your pearls of wisdom to the budding entrepreneurs!

Sumitra and Smita - Do. Do. Do :)

Hope you all enjoy the session! Do check out their website and Face Book page as well! All Terra bags come with luxurious satin fill pillows and cloth carry bags that convert into dust bags to keep them looking fab for years!

(Courtesy: Terra World)

Terra Handbags & Accessories

I was absent for a long time, but this time for a good reason! I can't thank Femina enough for letting me know more about Smita Rajgopal and Sumitra Roy from Terra Handbags & Accessories! Femina's January issue, the one with Aishwarya Rai on cover page had an interview of the million-dollar-smile entrepreneurs!

One might assume it's attitude when they say - "We are not a manufacturer of mass, assembly-line products! We cater to people who want something unique!" In reality, they are warmest and most down-to-earth! How do I know? The moment I approached them for an interview, they were more than ready! They were very kind enough to apologize for the delay in the interview as they were busy with International Leather Fashion Show 2011! Do I need to say more about how approachable they are?

Terra makes handbags with soft lambskin with trims, buckles and other details! You can check out their catalogue to know what's new and trendy! The best part is they customize bags! Your choice of pattern, color, dimension or anything as such! Terra leather bags are pocket-friendly! To those who find it expensive, they came up with Terra Fab range which is a mix of leather and fabric! Doesnt break your bank as well!

Terra so far doesnt retail through stand-alone outlet, but it might sooner! Their merchandise is available at selected stores in Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Lucknow and Hyderabad! Consider yourself lucky if you spot them at any exhibitions and shows! Eager to know more about Terra? Check out my interview with Smita and Sumitra, the most friendly and beautiful divas!