Maalicious, An Indian jewelry brand which helps economically empower female artisans

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It is something that most people want and will never say no to. From millennials to people in their middle ages, from brides to groom, this is something that forms a part of every big occasion in someone’s lives. And not only a big occasion, it has become a huge part of people’s everyday lives as well. Yes, we are talking about jewelry here. Jewelry that makes you feel good, which in turn increases your confidence.

But won’t you feel even better if we told you that the jewelry that you are wearing is the reason behind the livelihood of numerous independent women artisans who put their heart and soul into building it. For them, it’s not just a piece of ornament but their lives, their dreams and their way to live it. And that is what exactly Maalicious is trying to help these independent women artisans with.

We at Bangalore Insider got to have a conversation with Poonam, the founder of Maalicious on how she decided to start her venture, the challenges she faced, and what keeps her going every single day. Here are the excerpts of the interview

Poonam Founder of Maalicious

Give a brief info about your startup?

Maalicious was born out of a desire to innovate and create quintessential jewelry that is steeped in a rich dose of Indian tradition. Although we officially kicked off in Feb 2019, I’ve been researching, sketching, dreaming and learning for over 2 years now. We offer a platform to economically empower female artisans in India and are looking to use part of our profits to empower women through micro financing or startup funding, and create a circular economy. It was humbling to see us featured in the September and October issue of the British Vogue 2019.


What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?

I started this as my creative outlet. I loved jewelry and it was hard to find pieces that both tell a story and is of excellent quality. We at Maalicious aim to give our customers a timeless piece of tradition that they can pass on. Our pieces are durable and hand made, and some of our pieces are made of terra-cotta making them sustainable.


Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?

I have lived in New York for the last 10 years, and have been working for the technology arms of a couple of investment banks. I have also founded a non profit called CLIMB against sexual abuse that’s committed to breaking the silence on sexual violence. I have used experience from both these initiatives into Maalicious.


Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?

Maalicious is a global startup. We started out in NYC but are now set up to ship worldwide from 3 locations, and provide free shipping over INR 3500.  NYC sits at the helm of modern fashion, and being based out of there helps me keep a pulse on the latest trends. India, on the other hand has immense talent and craftsmanship. I feel lucky to have access to both countries.


As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?

Sales. I enjoy the creative process of designing, illustrating, picking the stones, researching the stories to tell and finally getting them made. But all that means nothing if the pieces don’t sell.


Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?

Jewelry is one of those items where, unlike a car or TV, you tend to get a lot of. Today’s women are happy to pick up multiple pieces of unique jewelry as long as it compliments their style. With that in mind, I don’t see other jewelry makers as competitors but rather as other brands who have the same vested interests. How we are different is that we are focused on empowering women artisans and want to support as many women as we can.


How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?

It’s been quite a ride the last few years. I was working full time in NY and was also pregnant through most of my startup’s early life, as I delivered a baby boy in March. So it’s a fine balance between being a mother and running a startup. But nothing is impossible. It’s about aggressive prioritization and knowing what’s required to be completed on that particular day.


Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.

No, I have not yet looked into external funding, and have bootstrapped my way through, giving me the freedom to move at a pace that’s comfortable for me. I will be looking to raise funding in the near future as we expand our collection later this year. I am also looking for mentors in various fields like fashion, clothing and photography!


What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?

It’s probably the fact that people think I am lucky. To start a brand or any initiative, sheer hard work and ambition is required. I have started many other things that have failed but it’s the experience you gain out of it that gives you the vision for the next thing in your life.


What gets you excited about this company?

There are a lot of things that I could list. The creative process that goes from a sketch to the final product is quite exciting. On a daily basis, any kind of appreciation or visibility is really gratifying as well. We were just featured in British Vogue under their ‘Ethical edit’ page which is huge for a small brand like ours.


Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.

I have a human alarm, my son, who makes sure I start my day early. After that it’s usually a conversation with my artisans to check on progress and solve any technical issues. I am actively pursuing new artisans, and of late have spent time in the by-lanes of Mysore’s old markets, meeting and working on new designs with jewellery makers and others. Any free time throughout the day is spent on Instagram and social media, both for learning and spreading awareness. Almost all my Instagram models are close family and friends, so coaxing them to pose is my favorite part as I get to spend time with them as well! Every few days we also have outdoor photo shoots planned. My nights are mainly reserved for notes, research and new illustrations.


Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?

Serendipity. My first artisan was the lady who had made a terra-cotta wall plate for a close family member. Other artisans were people who I reached out to, cold calling or by barging into their lives. It has taken me two years to find the right team. The quality of our products is a fitting testament to the ability of my team.




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