When the love for your craft runs deep in your veins, even an obstacle turns into a learning experience and you find yourself moving forward in the direction of your dreams. Meet Madhu Chandrika, founder of Earthen Symphony, a Bangalore based art entrepreneur.
If art was your chosen study field about two decades ago, then parental objection almost always came as part of the package. So when she signed up to be an art graduate from Chitrakala Parishad, she knew it was a decision that would squarely rest on her shoulders, and that added up to her adventurous journey in the final year, towards finding a way to fund her own project. Brainstorming with friends and strong willed about doing this on her own, they soon found themselves at a potter’s place in a village near Andhra Pradesh.
Madhu recalls “The potter was a friend’s resource and this connection was enough for us to have lights going off in our heads. It was very exciting as clay would be the medium of expression and we could think of making some innovative things using it.”
Says Madhu, “A few weeks on, we were headed back home in a truck full of pots that we had painstakingly got the potter to create using our ideas. Unusual pots in terms of shape, size and height – each piece unique as a fingerprint. The exciting journey back as 20 year olds, in the back of the truck, gave us a huge adrenaline rush! We got these unloaded into an empty apartment which belonged to a friend’s father. The next month went in only cleaning, scrubbing and embellishing the pots using all that we had learnt in art school. A month later we were exhibiting at an upmarket space and did not sell any of the pots as single pieces. We clustered them into sets of 3 or 4 pieces with an interesting story. Four days on and we were a complete sell out! While buyers came from all walks of life, what caught our eye was the fast growing IT sector in the city and their requirement to dot their swanky offices with some off-beat art pieces. We just realised, this would be a perfect fit for us. And this is how Earthen Symphony was born 25 years ago and I have never looked back ever since.”
Which part of your work is most exciting for you?
The act of creation is very exciting. It all starts off like a seed sown in the soil. From here the changes it undergoes to become an entire plant, with its unique identification is the most beautiful experience of creating it. In addition to this, every person in the team mirrors my passion and it shows in the work that gets done. That to me is most satisfying.
How do you get your labour resources?
I am very happy to create employment for people. They do not need any skills to join me. I train them my way from scratch. The advantage with hiring raw recruits is that you don’t need them to unlearn any of their previous skills to serve better in their current role. Almost 70% of my employees are with me from the beginning of my journey as an entrepreneur.
What’s the secret ingredient behind such low attrition?
I think it is the culture of mutual respect that is very evident at work. My husband and I live by this value and I guess it comes through naturally in how we show up each day. While he takes care of all the installations and procurement, I look into other aspects of work. Interaction with our team of designers and unskilled labour is always held with an understanding that each one holds responsibility towards their team and department and strives to ensure all the work processes are carried out as intended. The high level of responsibility and accountability along with mutual respect makes for a great recipe to keeping our team together.
What measures do you take to ensure the team stays happy?
For one we pay them higher than industry standards and pay them on time. And secondly we do so without deducting salaries and by providing the support of ESI and PF, as a way to bolster their future too. When anyone is facing financial challenges, we try and pitch in to help them overcome those times. This way our teams feel very supported both financially and emotionally. Knowing that you work in a space and with people who are there for you is what makes them feel safe and happy.
How about your customers? Do you have repeat clients or do you need to look for new clients all the time?
Almost 75% of our clients are repeat customers. The rest come through references. They know, like and trust our work and have experienced our commitment to deliverables. This makes them super comfortable to work with us. Every client is treated equally regardless of the order value. My team upholds the same value too and this ensures we deliver our absolute best every single time.
What kind of gifts do you offer to your team or your clients?
Every year we do come up with a unique range of in-house gifts like beautiful tea coasters, diyas and other utility products – each with a unique Earthen Symphony imprint in the way it is made and designed. We showcase our best projects by featuring them in a calendar we bring out annually. Both of these are very well received by our clients.
Another interesting feature about working with us comes from our detailed understanding of client needs for very highly customized gifts. For eg., special and exquisite gifts for CEOs visiting from different countries is a much sought after category. Our patience in understanding the personality of the person, his passion and hobby help us create a unique gift that goes a long way in nurturing mutually beneficial long term relationships.
From the time of concept and design, to the final time of production and installation, the journey each project goes through, must make it very joyful for you to see the masterpiece on the wall finally. How does it make you feel? Elated, or have there been times where you felt you could’ve done better.
To see the installation is a wow factor for me. Gives me a deep sense of gratification and pride. We don’t leave any stone unturned at the production stage. Until I am completely satisfied with every aspect of detailing, colour, finish and so on, it does not leave the factory for installation.
Every artwork we do is a masterpiece by itself. There is no repetition of the design or the artwork ever again. This policy demands and ensures that we give our 100% always.
What’s the future for the gifting industry in your opinion?
Gifting as a gesture is the perfect humanizing possibility. Especially when it is customized and well thought of. One should feel that they had the person in mind before choosing the gift. It could be bought from anywhere, but needs to be apt for that person. In this way the time and effort put into buying a gift, makes it the right gift.
What’s your view on life during Covid times
Thanks to Covid and the lockdowns, one thing has become very clear in these times, that life needn’t be this fast. We can take it at a much slower pace and be fully present in the now, taking in the pleasures and little joys that come our way everyday. What has also become very evident is the amount of catastrophic damage we have caused to our planet. It is heartwarming to see though, that the younger generation is taking many leaps in the direction of saving Mother Earth and her resources. They are a lot more responsible and open to changes. These times surely have pushed to surface many positives of life – quality of life depends on how we live it each day. And as far as business is concerned, I firmly believe we are on the road to recovery and things will pick up soon.
When we cross paths with women entrepreneurs who are pursuing unusual careers, we see how it leaves an inspiring footprint on many more aspiring entrepreneurs. And this realisation is what keeps us going each day, to bring you more and more such stories that empower you with new ideas to bring joy at the workplace.
You can follow Madhu on Linkedin
The above is a result of a candid conversation between Madhu (Earthen Symphony) and Mala (Chief Happiness Officer, HWP)