Making a ‘steel’ statement – Deepika Jindal

By Azera Rahman, IANS

New Delhi : Deepika Jindal took up the challenge of moving stainless steel from kitchen shelves to a place of pride in drawing rooms, making a steel statement in aesthetics through her lifestyle brand, Art d’inox.

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Wife of steel baron Ratan Jindal, Deepika admits that being married to a family well accustomed to steel as a medium did help. But the challenge to get the masses to accept stainless steel goods as lifestyle products lay with her.

“You can’t run to your husband for every little doubt. After all, everyone is busy. I had to face a number of challenges when I started out with Art d’inox, especially since I don’t have any training in business. It’s very easy for people to take you for a ride when you don’t know the rules of the game,” Deepika told IANS in an interview.

The concept of Art d’inox was born on one of Deepika’s trips abroad where she saw a lot of things being done with stainless steel.

“When I saw the products, I realised that nothing of this sort was being done in India. Because steel is a difficult and expensive medium to work with, not many designers and manufacturers are ready to use it.

“And then, when people invest they want quick returns, which might take a long time in this case. But I wanted to go ahead with it anyway,” 42-year-old Deepika said.

Working with a set of accessory designers and manufacturers who had not worked with the medium was not easy. Manufacturing a batch of products, which generally takes three to four days now, used to take up to three months when she began her venture in 2002.

Today, batches after batches of stainless steel products — from ashtrays, vases and mugs to lamps, tables and other furniture items — fill up Art d’inox stores.

There are 10 Art d’inox stores spread across the country in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Bangalore and Ahmedabad.

“Next, we are planning to expand to southern cities like Chennai and Hyderabad. Also, we plan to go to mini metros like Jaipur and Punjab.

“The thing is that although people in the south are well accustomed to steel as a medium, when it comes to spending on a lifestyle product in steel they are a little hesitant. Same holds true for Kolkata,” Deepika said.

She is, however, happy that the attitude of people towards steel is slowly changing. Unlike yesteryears when only a handful of designers showed interest in being a part of her team, she is now flooded with applications from fresh graduates of the National Institute of Design (NID) and the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT).

Also, after her exhibition Saptarishi which showcased life-sized sculptors and larger than life figurines in stainless steel in New Delhi in October, Deepika feels that people have slowly started accepting the medium aesthetically.

“The advantage of steel products, be it pure or in sync with other mediums like glass or wood, is that it has a long durability. It doesn’t rust or corrode and has a very contemporary feel to it. It’s stylish,” she said.

A homely person by heart, balancing her hectic schedule with family time has never been difficult for Deepika. “It’s all about prioritising,” she said.

“When I got into this business, my two kids were teenagers. They were in the boarding school and busy with their lives, while my husband was always away on business tours. They really didn’t need me any more.

“Therefore, I could concentrate on my career. But then again, whenever there is a family function or I have to join my husband on one of his trips, I am always there,” she said.

Talking about the quality of Indian lifestyle products, Deepika said that “we are not quite there” but she believes that the style quotient is increasing by the year.

“We have been participating in international fairs and festivals, and unlike earlier years, now Indian products are recognised abroad. We are definitely becoming more and more stylish,” Deepika said.