On this platform, till date we have shared many inspiring stories of people around us. We have seen how their love for something is helping them touch new heights of success. Coimbatore-based young entrepreneurs Swati Lakshmi and Shruthi Balu belong to such league of people who turned their passion into profession. Both of them studied engineering and could have easily established their careers in this field. However, they chose to do something else – bag designing. The duo started their venture The Suruku Pai Shop in November 2014 and right from the day 1 of their venture Swati and Shruthi are successful bag designers.
Today, Swati Lakshmi and Shruti Balu, the founders of The Suruku Pai Shop, joins us in this interview session to share their inspiring story with our readers.
Hi, welcome to this interview session of conflatingVisions. To begin with, please tell us about the founders and the team behind The Suruku Pai Shop.
Swati Lakshmi is the founder of The Suruku Pai Shop while Shruthi Balu joined in as the co-founder. At present, The Suruku Pai Shop is a 14 member strong organization.
How did the transition from Electronics to Bag Designing took place for both of you? How did you learn the art of bag designing?
Swati started making college totes and purses for her younger sister Shruthi, while she was working with a German-based automobile company. A lot of people loved the bags. The positive vibes from the people around us inspired us to do something in this field. We decided to put up a stall in KCT (Shruti’s college) during a fest. Our totes and purses became the centre of attraction of the event. We were completely sold out that day. Since then, we started getting a lot of orders. Swathi wanted to take it to the next level. She quit her well-paying job to make bags. By the beginning of 2015, we had a full-fledged store and a manufacturing unit with 3 people to start with. And by the end of March 2015, Shruthi joined Swati after completing her B.E.
Making bags were completely out of self-learning. Having an education in Electronics and working in an automobile firm for a few years, stitching bags was completely new and difficult initially for Swati. We did a lot of ground work and a series of trial and error methods for each and every model that we created. The more bags we did, the more we learnt the art of making them. Every time we made bags we got better with our end product. From the beginning, we never wanted to compromise on the finish. So making samples, improvising them on every step was challenging.
Please tell us about your bag designing studio The Suruku Pai Shop.
The Suruku Pai Shop is a one stop shopping destination when it comes to bags. The clients get to customize every single detail with us.
At The Suruku Pai Shop, we make all kinds of return gift bags, personalized purses, totes, clutches, potli’s, diaper bags, fabric baskets, cell phone pouches, saree holding sleeves, passport holders, cosmetic pouches, sling bags, jute bags, and much more. We also do packaging bags for companies depending on their requirements.
We are happy to tell that we have a huge client base nationally as well as internationally.
To start with our orders, the first thing is we work within our client’s budget and basic requirements. The fabrics and materials we use are mostly bought locally. Sometimes we also need to procure the raw materials from different places in Southern India, Delhi and Mumbai. We use the trending in fashion fabrics like kalamkaris, ikkats and block printed fabrics which seem to be very eye catchy. Our main idea was to recreate bags, so we introduced some of our signature products which have been selling like hot cakes. We are majorly doing return gift bags in huge quantities for weddings, parties and functions. We also make bags for several international companies.
What does the name of your venture mean?
Drawstring bags are basically called Suruku Pai’s in the Tamil language. Ideally, it was something that our grandmothers used at earlier times. So we wanted to use that vintage name, remembering something that all our grandmothers used to carry. Now, those bags are back in fashion.
How do you go about planning/choosing the designs for your products?
The first thing is, we work with our clients’ choice. Some of them leave it to our own designs and some send us model pictures of the bags they want us to recreate. We start with the fabrics. Our clients get to choose the fabrics, colours and even the combinations. We design them to our client’s requirements like particular size and shape. Some will just state that they want a particular bag by explaining it or by sending us just a picture. As we are majorly doing in bulk, we make samples of them first. We show them to our clients, improvise them if needed and just basically recreate them.
What are some of the creative bag designs that you have done so far?
Lotus silk potli is one of our signature product that replicates a lotus flower shape on top of the potli. The other creative bag designs that we have done so far include foldover bags and clutches, reversible bags, yoga mat carrying duffle bags, silk clutches, appliquéd bags, block prints on our bags, pleated bags and purses, patch worked fabric baskets, etc.
What are some of the signature products of The Suruku Pai Shop?
- Our silk bags with inbuilt handle. They start with being plain, with prints on, with kalamkari/ikkats and with brocades.
- Quilted silk purses and clutches.
- Lotus silk potlis.
- Netted floral handbags and totes.
- Block printed silk and jute bags.
- Reversible totes.
- Quirky diaper bags and laptop sleeves.
As entrepreneurs, how has been the journey so far for you?
We simply love what we do and we literally look forward to our work every single day. Working and being creative all day is something that defines us. We are happy with where life has taken us from being electronic majors to bag designers.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learnt while running your venture?
Passion and love towards your work can take you to great heights. Constant hard work and dedication pays off at any level.
Describe a typical day in your life.
Well, we start our day’s work with the manufacturing unit. We plan and set tasks for us and for our employees. Both of us split up our works in the morning and we concentrate on that. Talking to our clients and suppliers, working on new designs and creating them, teaching our tailors the methods of every design and the stitching process, purchasing raw materials, keeping track of accounts, attending walk in’s at the store and being active on social media marketing. We are a part of every process, starting from the scratch to the end product. By the end of the every day, we will have numerous deliveries and parcels to ship, mostly out of town. We finish our day with getting back to clients through phone, WhatsApp and Facebook. Our most active time with clients is post evening and it stretches until late night during international conversations.
What are the challenges that you often have to deal with?
When it’s a new design, large numbers and a closer deadline, it’s very very challenging. Somehow we have managed to get through all those orders and deliver them on time. We come up with these mostly on the busiest of wedding seasons when we remain completely booked with orders and sometimes when employees are off duty on busy days.
What are your plans to scale up the growth of The Suruku Pai Shop?
We are planning to produce on a large scale basis with more designs. Plans are also there to make eco-friendly bags at affordable prices. Also, we want to bring some of our printing processes in house.
Anything else you want to share…
We started our marketing on Facebook and still now we get 75% of our orders through this social media platform. If you have a good product and if one can market it the right way, social media can take us to places. This is something that we personally wanted to share with all the budding entrepreneurs.
And one last question of this session, if you have had one wish…
We would wish to see every plastic bag usage being replaced by Eco-Friendly bags.
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