How to make luxury a brand identity?
Swetha Dandamudi did not ask this question when she began her jewellery designing brand, SruthiLaya. Fresh out of her MBA, she joined the corporate world as an employee of Tata Consultancy Services, but longed to do something artistic and creative. She had begun to explore her creativity by making her own wedding jewellery. She wanted them to be just to her liking, and realised that to accomplish such a feat, the only path before her was to design the pieces herself. So she sketched them out, contacted traders of diamonds and precious metals, and got it made. This experience made her realise that there was a market for people who wanted their jewellery custom made, and decided that she could fill in that demand.
The beginning of her business were humble, where her friends and family commissioned work from her. Soon, news of her immaculate designs spread through word of mouth across the city of Hyderabad, and she had a hefty client list that could sustain a business. Thus ShruthiLaya launched with an outlet in Jubilee Hills, as a jewellery designer brand with a primary focus on custom making pieces according to the vision of the clients.
The idea of it being a luxury brand came gradually. Swetha was an intuitive business person with a clear understanding of market trends. She realised that as COVID 19 brought the world to standstill, there was a renewed focus on consumer goods. The sector of the population with enough disposable income wanted quality goods that were packaged and marketed well, and the luxury tag spoke to them.
Hers was a jewellery brand, an item that was both everyday and luxurious in nature. So she defined it as a premium goods store through the assured quality of her work, and a focus on customer vision, and satisfaction.
Sketching out Success
Swetha had a consummate vision for her business. The name itself reflected her philosophy of work. Sruthi and Laya were two components of the music that connected the structure with the movement, respectively. She interpreted them as tradition and trend in relation to her brand, and tried to have her designs reflect that ethos.
For Swetha tradition is not orthodoxy, but a belief in the community and family values that underpin our existence in a constantly mobile world. She draws inspiration from nature, with patterns of plants and birds populating her jewellery. She also has a large collection of deities designed as lockets and pendants. But she studs them with gemstones, adding a dash of vibrant colour to it, giving her designs a modern, trendy finish.
She draws inspiration from the French term atelier which roughly translates to an artist’s workshop in the set up of her shop front. So her tradition inspired jewellery are showcased to her clients through a modern visage. Instead of the usual showcases full of available designs, SruthiLaya displays some basic designs which customers may draw inspiration from in order to design their pieces in earnest.
Once they have chosen a basic structure, Swetha sketches designs out on paper in accordance with the customer’s ideas, and once approved, they are commissioned to be realised.
SruthiLaya and Swetha are pioneers in both the custom jewellery and luxury branding. They anticipated the demand for personalized premium gifts that would find a boom with the limited social contact and mobility of the COVID times. Additionally, the affordable price point of the goods makes it easy for people to commission goods as return gifts at weddings, or rakhi presents. The lower price range of jewellery is at the 20k mark, while custom made pieces sell for as much as 40 to 50 lakh rupees.
Most customers who reach out to SruthiLaya are usually looking for jewellery made to order, designed by Swetha herself. She supplements their imagination with look books, which act as venture points for the client. These books proved invaluable during COVID times, when interpersonal contact was heavily restricted. The business also became dependent on video calls for the communication between the client and store, which has since continued into the post pandemic era as well.
Swetha has recently launched an extension of her business through a new brand store in luxury home decor called Hetvi, which is situated on the 3rd floor of the same building where SruthiLaya is situated. Its focus is wider, including home and glass ware, crockery sets and other gifting materials from high end brands like Versace, Rosenthal, Roberto Cavalli and Missioni. In this venture as well, she has focused on the popular fascination with the luxury branding that attracts a multitude of customers.
Swetha Dandamudi maintains an interesting balance between her entrepreneur and artist self, channelling her designer persona through her keen business sense. Thus her innovation is not limited to the artistic creation of new jewellery, but also in practices like redesigning old jewellery with a trendy touch, and attempting to create an overlap of clients between the two separate store fronts. This gives a new interpretation to the unique nomenclature of her store, where Sruthi represents the artistic tenets which are driven through the movements of Laya, which represent the market necessities and demands.
SruthiLaya Atelier is thus a workshop in all senses of the term, working to redesign jewellery by the wishes of customers, as well as redefining the way we think of jewellery stores and luxury branding in the first place.