When Rishi and Rajat Jain inherited the family business of stainless steel utensils, they knew they couldn't make a career out of it. After successful trysts with advertising and graphics respectively, the 20-something-year-old brothers came back to the business out of compulsion and decided to do something different.
"The business was doing well with a turnover of about Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million), but we wanted to break away from being bartanwallas so started experimenting with finishes and designs," says Rishi, the older of the two.
The result was a range of matte-finish cocktail shakers and ice buckets, which they introduced around Diwali last year. Realising that this could work best with the youth, they test marketed their range of mugs in various BPOs earlier this year.
The most popular one, they say, is the inclined mug that has been inspired by the leaning tower of Pisa. Other options are sun-sign mugs as well as the more traditional cup-saucer sets in the same finish.
"Next in line," says Rajat, "is a range of beer mugs as well as mugs in ceramic-steel combos."
On the production front, the brothers did some tweaking in the infrastructure and made additional investments of nearly Rs 25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million). The big investment was in terms of changing the staff's mindset. "It takes a while to change people's orientation and needs extra supervision," says Rishi.
Finally, just before Diwali this year, they formally entered the market with the "Gift a mugg" tie-up with Barista, where mugs could be couriered anywhere in the country.
While a bulk of the designing is done by a product designer from National Institute of Design who has joined them, the brothers too are actively involved in the process. They have already ventured into brand extensions through coasters and trays.
Corporates like Infosys, ICICI Prudential and Star Plus, among others, are giving them bulk orders and, predictably, the brothers expect corporates to form a relatively large chunk of their business. The brand will soon start retailing through outlets like Piramyd and Ebony.
What is likely to work in their favour is also the lower pricing of their products as compared to brands like Magpie and Artd'inox that cost 60 per cent more than Hot Muggs. Incidentally, it was their work for Magpie that encouraged them to start their own operations in steel finishes and contemporary designs.
While the brothers are pretty confident that the product range will be received well (they have just set up a second manufacturing facility in Dahanu and hope to sell around 10 lakh pieces in the first year), they haven't completely phased out the utensils part of their business yet."There has been a 40 per cent shift away from our core business, but while the bottomline will come from that (traditional business) the new venture will contribute to our topline," they say.