NI­CO­BAR

RAUL RAI, 50 & SIM­RAN LAL, 48

India Today - - COVER STORY - —Prachi Bhuchar

THERE ARE BARS OF MU­SIC

skim­ming the air, cross­ing over from the store into the Nico Caara café that is an ex­ten­sion of the brand Ni­co­bar. Images of the ocean, the sound of the sea in a shell, trop­i­cal liv­ing, ca­banas, lan­guor, are all part of their design ethos. When it was founded in 2016, they wanted to give In­di­ans a life­style design stu­dio that fo­cussed on travel, home, and fashion ac­cents. Raul Rai (an investment banker turned design re­tailer) and his wife Sim­ran Lal (also CEO of Good Earth) co-founded Ni­co­bar and en­vis­aged it as a mod­ern In­dian brand shap­ing cul­ture through thought­ful design. At a time when less is more and peo­ple are de-clut­ter­ing with a pas­sion, how do you create prod­ucts that are util­i­tar­ian and have a con­science? The brand de­cided that it needed to be everlastin­g and based on mix and match so con­sump­tion is lim­ited. Ni­co­bar was founded to give India an alternativ­e to fast fashion but over time there was a sense that one needed to es­tab­lish an In­dian design sig­na­ture out­side the coun­try in or­der to be feted back home. This led to the first Ni­co­bar store be­ing set up at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives this July. Ni­co­bar’s design phi­los­o­phy has two stands; mind­ful design and prod­ucts that have a trop­i­cal, mod­ern design sig­na­ture. Rai says, “We want to do what Ikea did for Swedish life­style, Muji did for Ja­pan, and Ge­of­fery Bawa did for Sri lanka. We want to help in­ter­pret a trop­i­cal, mod­ern life­style.” The kul­har re­mains one of the brand’s most iconic de­signs and can be used to serve sake in Ja­pan or espresso in Italy. Sim­i­larly the In­dian spice box and roti box which Ni­co­bar recre­ated in brass and wood are global as some­one said, “they can be used for dim­sums too.” Other sig­na­tures in­clude brass and steel thalis and the salt and pep­per elephant shak­ers. In cloth­ing, the Nico dress is a design sig­na­ture. Rai says, “Design needs ver­sa­til­ity. Our week­end trouser is in­spired by the dhoti and al­lows the world to sam­ple our cul­ture with­out hav­ing to wear eth­nic clothes.” While Sim­ran Lal does all the design ideation and puts the mood board to­gether, the brand’s biggest strength is its design team which un­der­stands the Ni­co­bar way of life and is happy in­ter­pret­ing that through the prod­ucts. With 14 stores across India and the Maldives, what next for the brand? “We want to be in sa­faris in Africa, Bali, Turkey, Nairobi; places where the brand is in sync with its sur­round­ings,” says Rai.

AT A TIME WHEN LESS IS MORE, HOW DO YOU CREATE PROD­UCTS THAT EN­COUR­AGE SUS­TAIN­ABLE CON­SUMP­TION?

FULL CIR­CLE The iconic Lota wall at the Delhi store; Raul Rai, Co­Founder and CEO, Ni­co­bar; the Ni­co­bar store at Soneva Fushi, Maldives

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