Meet the Maker: Anju Jewelry
From its humble beginnings of selling merchandise at craft fairs, Anju Jewelry has grown into a well-known brand focused on sustainability and economic empowerment. Anju’s artisans in India create traditional handcrafted pieces with global appeal. Gift Shop interviewed Gaurav Agarwal, founder of Anju Jewelry, to learn more about its beginnings and transformation into an established jewelry creator.
Gift Shop: What was the inspiration behind starting Anju Jewelry and what is your “wow” factor?
Gaurav Agarwal (GA): Growing up I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I came from a family where everyone was in business for themselves and I knew that was something I wanted to do. Initially we were buying beads from local stores and making jewelry to sell at craft fairs. After a few years the income became enough to sustain us, so I quit my “day” job and put all my energy into growing Anju Jewelry. At that time, while home on a trip to India, we met an artisan group that could not keep consistent work and we decided to partner with them. Our “wow” factor is that we use natural materials and we’ve created a distinct look that revolves around artisan craftsmanship.
GS: How did you decide which artisan group to use for your merchandise?
GA: We chose our first artisan group based on craftsmanship and the social aspect of partnering with them. When we met our first group in 2008, they were unable to keep steady work, so we were able to create a steady employment opportunity for them, which helped the artisans provide for their families. Over several years we’ve discovered additional techniques that our artisan groups were skilled in that we didn’t even know existed. Our basketweave is a newer collection that our mixed metal workers created by marrying the concept of basket weaving into unique jewelry designs.
GS: How many employees do you currently have?
GA: In the U.S. office we have a group of six full-time and four part- time employees. In India, we partner with over six different artisan groups.
GS: How many products did you offer when you started the business, and how many do you carry today?
GA: We carried 30 designs in our first collection and now we actively carry over 3,000 designs.
GS: What is unique about your jewelry?
GA: Our jewelry has a distinctive artisan look so you can see its handcrafted nature. Many of our pieces are also made out of recycled materials.
GS: What types of jewelry do you offer?
GA: We offer necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, and hair accessories. Our pieces are handcrafted from mixed metals, which include copper, brass, stainless steel, sterling silver, and pewter. We use natural stones and fabric sourced from recycled saris.
GS: What are your best-sellers?
GA: Our Aasha collection is handcrafted from recycled saris, and is currently our best seller. Previously, our mixed metal collection had been consistently popular.
GS: Are there any ideas you’ve had for items that just didn’t work as you expected?
GA: Yes, we tried making jewelry with different colored enamel. We thought we could tap into the collegiate market, but our customers preferred the earthy look, so the colors didn’t do as well as we had expected.
GS: Are there current trends in the industry which impact products you sell?
GA: Yes, definitely. People are looking for meaningful products and want to know who is making the jewelry they’re buying. Customers prefer to support socially conscious companies who follow fair trade practices. This impacts us in a positive way because we produce jewelry that is artisan-made and we follow the fair trade practices. This way of life is what allows us to continue partnering with artisans and help bring them more work so we can grow together.
GS: What are your goals for Anju’s future business growth or offerings?
GA: Our goal is to continue launching new and exciting designs while sustaining our current artisan groups. We’d also love to partner with new artisan groups that we haven’t worked with yet.