What led you to the lighting industry?
Lighting to me is a story. A story that fortifies one’s style and personality in his/her space. I have worked in diverse verticals of retail and wholesale consumer goods and strongly feel that in every visible square inch the most important factor that amplifies the interior dynamics is the right lighting.
It was of great interest to me when I used to work on designs of lamps and furniture. But I used to get distracted from other categories and think of working on a new lamp design. Other than my deep interest in lighting, which was a cascading effect, I saw a huge potential in the industry primarily because it is unexplored and understated. Majority of the customers would delegate this task to their interior designers or architects. Hence, there are handful of players and designers who specialise specifically in this category.
Could you tell us about your initial days when you started off?
I was completely blank when I assembled my first lamp in the summer of 2015 and was elated when it lit. But since I started from scratch, I literally got tossed off from places didn’t even imagine.
Bootstrapped with no industry experience, lack of IT knowledge and no employees it was certainly one of the biggest challenges I faced while starting an e-commerce business. It was difficult to negotiate with suppliers or manufacturers to work on low numbers and match my thought process of implementing the right design.
Today, with over 700 happy customers, theblacksteel. com takes pride in successfully delivering commercial and luxury residential projects to the best properties in the world. We are very selective with our product range and this is why our customer opt us over others.
What drove you to start your own business?
There were two important factors here. It is a bit unfair to do a comparative analysis but after working for 7 years in the service industry, one’s decision making ability and entrepreneurial spirit gets pushed down to some extent. I synergised this as a bounce effect to start something of my own.
Secondly, I was very keen in industrial style of interiors. Prior to starting my business, I went online to search for industrial lamps and I was very surprised to see there are no domestic e-commerce platforms where I can order from. I felt there was a huge gap and if there is a chance that someone can bring such products to India, then why shouldn’t I make it happen?
Could you talk about few of your key projects?
For residential projects, we have worked with international and domestic clients to offer them all sorts of variations. Apart from India, we have successfully fulfilled residential projects in Europe, US, and Canada. The longest distance that our product has travelled is 14,655 kms to a customer in Ciudad De Mexico.
For commercial projects, we have worked with hotel chains, retail brands, restaurants and corporate offices. There is a lot of back and forth since the units are high and we can’t afford to go wrong with the design aesthetic and quality. We have in-house QC team that is taking care of every single piece moving out of the factory and ensures that every product is top notch in every aspect.
We have worked with many major players in the industry and we are meticulous in delivering what our customers expect from us.
What inspires you to pursue specific projects?
Every individual I’ve met has a precise and innovative requirement about the lamp they want and this is my driving force. Back when my career started, I was surrounded with fashion and lifestyle products. From selling world’s best polo T-shirts to working in luxury watch-making conglomerates, I learnt, there is a huge detailed process that followed in designing, manufacturing and sales of a product.
I think I was lucky to be a part of such a thorough process. It encouraged me to create something that will be an extension to my customer’s persona. There is a clear inclination towards intricate craftsmanship and our customers would continue to notice that in future.
Can you explain a bit about the creative process related to lighting for various sectors that you do?
We are currently working on 8 collections featuring about 10-15 designs per collection. On the offering is a mix of in-house designs and a thoughtfully curated e-commerce webstore. More than 60 per cent of our products are designed in-house and because we do not have technical expertise to manufacture few products, we source it. For example, Filament Edison bulbs which are a very important element in our designs but considering we cannot manufacture, we curate a collection of bulbs for our customers to shortlist. It is the popularity of our in-house designed products that is making most of the sales and by the end of this fiscal we are planning to decrease the curated collection as much as possible.
Any message for the budding lighting designers?
As aspiring lighting designer, be unlimited with your creativity because customers embrace designs that stand out. Be bold enough to say ‘no’ if you aren’t sure about delivering the requirement. You will be respected for an unfulfilled no, and not for a failed yes.