Capitalist brands are aplenty which are still ruling the market. But as the call to be ‘Vocal for Local’ amplifies, many smaller, homegrown labels are emerging with their unique array of products. Most of these brands focus on sustainability while offering handmade, personally curated items to the conscious consumer.
Tamalika Chattopadhyay from The Siyahi Columns has a knack for finding such small-time labels on Instagram who come up with beautiful products that are rare to find elsewhere. One of her favorites includes Baksaa by 22-year-old Bahar Kalyan, who procure scrap fabric and turn these into pretty scrunchies and scarves. She caught up with the young entrepreneur from Delhi over a candid virtual interview session.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself
Hi! I am Bahar Kalyan, and I own a small business by the name “BAKSAA by Bahar” (@baksaabybahar on Instagram) where I sell handmade scrunchies and scarves made out of scraps and remnants that I buy from local tailors and cut piece shops.
2. What inspired you to start your own business which was something apart from your academics?
I am a 22-year-old who is still trying to figure things out. I am also a Master’s student at the University of Delhi, and that drives me to balance my shop and academics. I never thought that I would be a business owner or an entrepreneur. The thought of starting a business was a terrifying one for me. I had no background whatsoever. I always perceived that starting a business was something mechanical and lifeless.
But then the lockdown hit, and everything blew to bits. I used to be social. I had places where I could express my creativity. Never in my life had I not been involved in channeling my creativity, be it music in school or theatre in college.
During the lockdown, I was all by myself. I was in distress because something felt empty. The world was facing a catastrophe, but I couldn’t point my finger at what had gotten me so down. I was severely lazy. Things that I was previously excited about were no longer accessible or were no longer interesting to me.
I noticed we had some scrap fabric in the house, and my mother had bought a brand new sewing machine. I was eager to use the new machine, and I had the fabric and scrunchies are so cute and fashionable. I asked my mother to teach me to make scrunchies. Soon I was gifting scrunchies to all my friends. I was making scrunchies every day. I was finally happy and content. And hence BAKSAA was born. A place where I could sell all the scrunchies that I made with so much love. The shop was named ‘BAKSAA’ because I always associated accessories with little boxes as in my home we have small boxes in which we store our accessories. Hence, the shop became something personal.
3. Is it just you or do you have people to help you?
I have my mother and sister helping me with the business. They are strong women who helped me make my vision a reality. I wanted to make high-quality scrunchies because nobody associates scrunchies with luxury. They are perceived to be quirky or fun. But I wanted to make scrunchies luxurious, and a form of self-expression. And we are still walking towards that path. We can’t be there instantly as we are still very new and small, and we don’t have as many resources. But we are trying to do as much as we can to make BAKSAA what we envisioned it to be.
4. How did people around you respond when you started your business?
People around me were ecstatic. They are the reason that the business is still afloat. My friends and family help me so much, and I am very grateful for that. They supported me during the times I felt like my business was going nowhere. They supported me whenever I doubted myself. This is all, to say the least. Words would reduce what they have been for this business and me.
5. Share some good memories with customers which keep you motivated
Oh, I cannot even begin to talk about my sweet customers. Some people have stuck with my brand since the very beginning, and I am so grateful. I cannot pick one memory to share because I have so many memories that I cherish and hold so deeply in my heart. Sometimes people come to me out of the blue and appreciate my page, and I smile like a little child because it’s such a joy to be validated by people who need nothing in return. I have met so many sweet people through my business. Which is something I never foresaw.
I never thought I would make personal connections through owning a small business. I guess this is it. That is why shopping from a small business is so wholesome. You get a chance to know the person supplying you with your favorite things. I have also started buying from small businesses. And I dare say that my Somatsyae (a fellow small business by the name @somatsyae.psychic on Instagram) lip balm feels way better than the one that I bought from a big brand. Big corporates aim to merely magnify their profits. Small businesses, on the other hand, are so much more. They are not mechanical things. They are associated with people and, for that matter, sweet people.
6. What would be your message for people who want to start their own venture but are hesitant?
My advice to people who are starting or are meaning to start a small business is to do it. I know this is a textbook cliche. I do not think that I am capable of advising you around technical things because half the time, I don’t even know what I am doing. I launched my page a night before moving houses. I had no knowledge about starting a business. I just did it and figured things out as they came. Other small businesses were helpful and supportive in those scenarios.
There were many mistakes that I made, and the greatest was doubt. I thought that nobody would want to buy from me, “Why would someone want to buy from me?” and every other mistake stem from this very thought. I didn’t make enough units beforehand because I didn’t think they would sell. I didn’t figure out the logistics. I didn’t think about the packaging. I had to figure all of that out in two days because I had a small pile of orders on the very first day.
So, to conclude, do necessary preparations because you don’t know how valuable your product is. You don’t know how beautiful your creation is, and you don’t know how eager people will be to get their hands on them. There will be hiccups, and there will be times when you’ll only break even. But trust yourself, trust your vision, trust the people who are around you. They will always cushion the fall and help you stand back up.