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The Jewel in the Crown~Thirtha Uthappa

Thirtha Uthappa has had a highly successful career in top MNCs, but gave it all up to follow her true passion – design jewellery. Her brand Samaara is truly her crowning achievement – each piece a jewel in the crown of her most successful enterprise

The Womenz Bureau had an opportunity to interview Thirtha Uthappa, Founder, Samaara Jewellery from India and here’s what she shared with us


Please tell us about yourself and your family background.

I belong to the land of Coorg – also known as Scotland of India, where people have predominantly been agriculturists (primarily growing coffee) or proud soldiers of the Indian Armed Forces.

My father took on to the business of diamond cutting and manufacturing which was very unusual for any Kodava back then.

I spent my primary growing years in Surat and Mumbai, seeing carbons being cut and polished into diamonds and that’s where my dream of doing something related to jewellery all started.

I have a Bachelor degree in Commerce from Christ University and I have done my Jewellery Designing course from JD Institute of Fashion Technology, Bengaluru. I worked in the corporate world with companies such as Hewlett Packard, Oracle and KPMG, before taking on to my true passion … creating jewellery! My husband works in the FMCG sector and I have two adorable kids, my daughter 6 and my son 2.5 years.


Tell us about initial days of your career and your experience of working at MNC.

I started my career with Hewlett Packard, managing their retail transition for India for about 3 years before moving to Oracle Solution Services where I was the Quality Assurance Lead. I worked in Oracle for about 3 years and later moved to KPMG as the Lead for Customer Centricity for their advisory business. My 10 years in corporate field provided me with great work experience, team management experience and cultural experience through the travels. I have always been somebody who believes that ‘learning never stops’ and it was this attitude that got me the job at Oracle, where I was the only non-engineer managing and reviewing the work done by engineers. The hunger to learn always helped me learn at the job and excel at it.


What made you leave your well-paid, settled job at MNC and start with Samaara Jewellery?

My tryst with jewellery started when I was a child watching my dad cut and shine diamonds in Mumbai. We were in the bustling city of dreams  which was unlike anything for a Kodava family to settle into.

From a very young age I was fascinated with what my dad did and someday wanted to start designing on my own. I left that dream behind like any middle-class family and perused to study and start working for MNCs to get ‘that dream job in 2002 ‘which wasn’t my real dream 

Life spanned out and I was always thinking of going out and persuing my dream, but a constant salary always kept me back.

However, the inherent passion for customized jewellery was always brewing within me. In 2008 I got married and this dream got stronger. I worked with large IT giants and joined consulting in one of the Big 4s. It was then that over a normal discussion with my husband I mentioned how I was done with corporate world and wanted to chase my passion. I started off taking small orders from friends and family to begin with and this grew to people loving what I created. That also gave me courage to quit my job and take this on full time.


When did you start it and why you named it ‘Samaara’

I started Samaara Jewellery in the year 2014. Samaara is my daughter’s name and it means ‘protected by God’. The name just fits right in terms of the way it sounded and its meaning. Samaara is also a brand name which eludes super premium imagery, has some magnetism to it as well as associates very well with bespoke range. The logo also is a gold fountain which stands out with its iconography suggesting preciousness and design sense.


What was the motivation behind starting ‘Samaara Jewellery’?

As a young child I have been fascinated with the process of cutting and polishing diamonds, as I have grown up seeing jewellery being created through the hands of exceptionally talented kariyagars (artisans). I have always wanted to do something related to jewellery; however I suppose it was just a matter of time for me to realise my true passion and take the plunge. The more and more I saw women ‘make do’ with their selection of jewellery, more and more the urge to create something customized for them, considering all their requirements.



Thirtha Uthappa with Samaraa Jewellery 


Tell us about Samarra Jewellery’s USP and offerings.

Samaara Jewellery focuses on creating bespoke customized pieces of jewellery just the way the client had imagined it. The idea is to help conceptualize the design in line with what the client has in their minds and deliver a final product that is just that.

All of the jewellery created at Samaara  is custom-made pieces. Each piece has the client requirements embedded in them w.r.t to the design, gemstones, budget, or any other specific details. Every single piece is unique and has its own identity. It is designer jewellery which is specific to a single customer.

Samaara Jewellery is completely asset light which makes it possible to provide these prices to customers unlike showrooms and online stores who has heavy investments into fixed assets, marketing, stores, inventory, etc.


Your jewellery designs are very unique and attractive. Where do your ideas for all this spring from?

My inspiration comes from the environment we are in and the design elements around us such as dance forms, nature and the 5 senses. I am also inspired by my customers’ creative thinking when they share their ideas and thoughts regarding the jewellery with me.


Jewellery designing in India seems to be a male-dominated business.  Being a woman did you face any hurdles?

As I am into customized jewellery and every piece is a made-to-order piece, I do have to make constant visits to the workshop to ensure the work and design is being carried out as planned. The workshop is situated in the well-known streets of Bengaluru where for years gold smiths have been working. As a woman, I mostly find myself alone in these places and most of the production details would be handled by men. Through the years, I have learnt to ignore the stares and continue work as just another day. I now even feel happy thinking that I am probably those very few women who venture out into this workspace and feel unique.



Thirtha in action, designing jewellery 


What was it like to get your very first customer? Did you wait for long after starting Samaara?

I always wanted to start Samaara Jewellery, hence I spaced it out over the years that I worked in corporate workplaces. I got my first few orders from colleagues and friends and that helped me build my confidence in understanding how the business part of this worked. In that sense, I already had my first customer the day I started Samaara Jewellery.


Any interesting memory about any of your clients?

In a business like jewellery, ‘trust’ is absolutely crucial and I strive every day for it. I once had a client who heard of me through another client, and reached out to me for getting her wedding jewellery done. The reason I will never forget this client is because she came to me 10 days before her wedding and entrusted me with a few pieces of her antique jewellery which was more than 150 years old. She wanted me to use them and create her wedding jewellery. She mentioned she had taken the same to other reputed jewellers in the city but somehow wasn’t sure if she could ‘trust them’. The faith and trust this client (new) showed in  me was something priceless.


Tell us about Samaara collections. Which one is your favourite?

At Samaara Jewellery, we spend a lot of time creating wearable and detachable pieces of jewellery which can be worn in more than one way and provides the client with absolute value for money. We have created a necklace set which can be worn in 6 different ways and a pendant set that can be worn in more than 8 ways. I personally love these pieces as they provide such great value for money and most importantly so many options of wearing it for my client. My clients have loved this work which ensures that they wear this jewellery in more than 12 different forms and for various occasions without even feeling that it’s the same single pieces of jewellery.



Jewellery designed by Thirtha at Samaara Jewellery


Tell us about your team members.

Excluding me, I have an 8-member team of kariyagars from across India who specialize in different aspects of jewellery, making such as open setting work, close setting work, kundan and much more.


We would like to know about your future plans.

I see Samaara Jewellery as the one-stop-shop for creating beautiful customized and personalized precious jewellery. Making customization available online and accessible to all. Our aim is to be the single largest “direct workshop to customer” jewellery brand that specializes in creating lasting memories through beautifully crafted customized jewellery.

I would also like Samaara Jewellery someday to work towards the betterment of the kariyagar community who make jewellery around the country. This is an art form which needs to be supported and built.


What are your views on Gender Equality and providing equal opportunities to women?

In my view equality among the sexes should be the premises for a developing and progressive nation. Identifying segments where this is lacking and working towards empowering women here becomes very important.

It is important to remove the age-old bias that we have had towards women, and start believing more in their positive capabilities and accomplishments. As a woman I personally feel we should focus less on what we are presently not able to do (due to gender inequality) and focus more on what we are able to do. Channelizing our energies in creating new meaning is far more impactful and paves the path for many to follow.


What is your biggest achievement so far?

It is yet to come.

 

What are you favourite hobbies?

Travelling, designing, movies, music and dance keep me up and alive!


Your message to fellow women out there who are struggling to prove themselves.

We are what we make of ourselves! Starting on any new journey is never an easy task. Look forward to learn as much as possible. Be focussed on the outcome to ensure that the path you take and actions leading to it.

It is OK to fail! Learn and move on. A lot of us have a poor risk appetite, so work on making that better. Take chances.

My biggest learning at the very start of my journey has been to never wait for that right moment when you feel completely ready and prepared to take off. Push yourself out there and you will figure out the ways to get around it.

Think Big and always work outside-in. Set small milestones. On completion of it celebrate and move on to the next one!

Most importantly be proud of who you are and believe in yourself.




 

Thirtha can be reached on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram

 

First Published: 22-Dec-2018- 16:59


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