India’s Iconic Design Brand Good Earth Takes On London And Looks To The Digital Future

Inside a Good Earth store in India. Photo courtesy of Good Earth.

Reposted from Forbes

 

Twenty years ago, what is now one of India’s longest-standing homegrown female enterprises, the iconic Good Earth design house, began in what may only be described as a happy accident. Today, the luxurious Indian cultural and craft based brand is making international waves at London’s V&A, along with pushing a digital kick that could be huge, says CEO Simran Lal.

It all began when Lal’s mother, Anita, a studio potter, saw a gap in the market between the dying art of India’s village potters and the urban consumer looking for high-quality home products with an Indian aesthetic. So, in 1996, Anita Lal, now the company’s Creative Director, opened her first retail store in Mumbai because she couldn’t find any outlet in India to showcase the luxury goods her craftspeople were manufacturing.

 

Since then, Good Earth has come to represent India’s rich and colorful tradition of luxurious craftsmanship. The tasteful offerings in home décor, wellness, children’s products and apparel, all tell tales of a part of the country’s vast history while supporting, and often reviving, craft economies. This year’s collection, ‘Samarqand’, was inspired by the Central Asian Silk Route, which also ran through India.
Today they’re sailing international waters after being approached by the prestigious V&A museum in London, to support them in their “Fabric of India” exhibition (on until 10 January, 2016), on top of securing a pop-up store in Selfridges until Christmas.

“I’ve always seen Good Earth as a jewel-like organization,” says Lal, who joined the company as Head of Retail in 2002, but took over as CEO four years ago, “it’s not going to be so large and impersonal, we want to keep it special – the customers are so passionate about us.”

 

Good Earth CEO Simran Lal. Photo courtesy of Good Earth.
Good Earth CEO Simran Lal. Photo courtesy of Good Earth.

 

The decision to collaborate on the V&A’s Fabric of India exhibition was a shift from Good Earth’s typically rather discreet retail sensibilities. “It was a great way to mark our twentieth year, there was perfect synergy in our value systems,” says Lal, “we ended up creating specially crafted products for the V&A, inspired by their archives.”

This design-focused outlook is what makes it so unusual for the brand to be expanding into the digital realm – their biggest focus at the moment, says Lal, who adds that this is a segment of heavy investment for the company.

Good Earth’s retail presence in India has to date included nine stores somewhat sparsely spread across New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai; their only other presence is currently in Ankara, Turkey, with a new store opening anticipated in Istanbul by the end of this year.

 

Inside a Good Earth store in India. Photo courtesy of Good Earth.
Inside a Good Earth store in India. Photo courtesy of Good Earth.

 

Citing great consumer passion and a number of stories of well-wishers writing in, Good Earth’s digital lead Raul Rai says they felt the company was barely scratching the surface in terms of future consumer potential.

“How do we reach a global audience, retail is a tactile experience” says Rai, “how do we recreate that online?”

In 18 months of having a live e-commerce portal, 65 percent of Good Earth’s online revenue has come from outside India; with 40 to 50 countries hitting the website daily, says Rai.

“This website is like our flagship to the world,” says Lal, “international is a slow thing, but we want to do it well.”

While Good Earth, a unit of parent company, automaker Eicher Goodearth, is now a $22.3 million company on its own, Lal says they aim to retain the small, inclusive, family-like structure they’ve created internally – something the notoriously aggressive male-led Indian corporate scene is not known for.

 

Good Earth’s Anar Paradis mug; all proceeds from the sale of this go to the Good Earth Education Foundation. Photo courtesy of Good Earth.
Good Earth’s Anar Paradis mug; all proceeds from the sale of this go to the Good
Earth Education Foundation. Photo courtesy of Good Earth.

 

“We’ve attracted a lot of very good quality women working here,” says says, “almost all of the top positions are filled by women.”

It’s this that has led them to pledge the entire proceeds this year from the sale of their ‘Anar Paradis’ mug toward educating underprivileged young girls in India.

 

This article was first published in Forbes.

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