Walk­ing Tree

New Iden­tity, New Be­gin­nings

Solitaire - - TALKING POINT -

‘What’s in a name?’ they say. A rose by any other name would still re­tain its essence and iden­tity. So is the case with Fab Jew­els (pro­mot­ers of Fab­u­lous Un­rounds), a top busi­ness-to-busi­ness (B2B) jew­ellery com­pany that de­cided to change its name to Walk­ing Tree, even as it pur­sued the same val­ues and vi­sion, but with a re­vamped out­look, and a lot more to of­fer by way of con­sumer in­sight-driven re­tail and su­perla­tive de­sign propo­si­tions.

It takes a lot of think­ing through and re­search for a man­u­fac­tur­ing firm to come up with com­plete branded so­lu­tions, and a ma­jor shift in strat­egy.

The Walk­ing Tree group’s cu­rated, con­sumer-driven brands have been born out of a big­ger vi­sion to make jew­ellery more rel­e­vant to to­day’s gen­er­a­tion.

A con­stant need to adapt to the chang­ing mar­kets and de­vel­op­ing their cre­ative mus­cle mov­ing for­ward has helped them launch a cu­rated B2B brand in In­dia called Aes­thete and Shades of Love in China, as well as con­sumer brands Un­said Li­brary in Europe and the re­cently-launched Her Story in In­dia.

ANKIT MEHTA, co-founder, Walk­ing Tree, un­folds the story be­hind their suc­cess­ful jour­ney to SHANOO BIJLANI in a free­wheel­ing talk.

Give us some back­ground about your com­pany.

Walk­ing Tree is backed by two top di­a­mond and jew­ellery houses H. Di­pak and the KBS Group. While H. Di­pak is the world’s largest man­u­fac­turer of princess­cut di­a­monds and a spe­cial­ist of un­round di­a­monds since the 1990s, the KBS Group is one of the pre-em­i­nent man­u­fac­tur­ers and sup­pli­ers of di­a­mond jew­ellery. Ku­nal Shah, from KBS Group, is a co-founder of Walk­ing Tree.

The suc­cess of Fab Jew­els rests on nine years – when it de­cided to bring in a new-age con­tem­po­rary de­sign lan­guage to com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with the next gen by introducin­g the brand Fab­u­lous Un­rounds. The jour­ney be­gan with fancy-cut di­a­monds, and over the years, we learned the nu­ances of de­sign and to man­age in­no­va­tion, from work­ing with new ma­te­ri­als and tech­niques to cre­at­ing cool work­places for cre­ative peo­ple. I guess we were at the right time and the right place. In­dia was at the cusp of go­ing from com­pletely tra­di­tional jew­ellery to some­thing more mod­ern. We built the en­tire de­sign lan­guage for a new kind of jew­ellery that was not tra­di­tion­ally bought by re­tail­ers or sold to con­sumers in In­dia at a sort of mass scale level.

How did the brand name Fab­u­lous Un­rounds come about?

Be­fore we launched Fab­u­lous Un­rounds, we were work­ing on a su­per cre­ative brand that was way ahead of its time. So, we har­nessed that cre­ativ­ity into a more ev­ery­day wear­able prod­uct, and since it was beau­ti­fully crafted and looked fan­tas­tic, it was named Fab­u­lous Un­rounds!

Dur­ing that time, we were cham­pi­oning the cause of fan­cies as a new-gen­er­a­tion cat­e­gory. Drawn by its suc­cess, we started at­tract­ing more tal­ent. We moved to a new of­fice, and that gave birth to our de­sign cen­tre in And­heri, Mum­bai.

Fab Jew­els’ fo­cus has al­ways been de­sign. I guess yours was the only com­pany that had a ded­i­cated mod­ern de­sign cen­tre, which is now named Walk­ing Tree De­sign Stu­dio. Your com­ments.

We cre­ated this mod­ern space, a cen­tre for in­spi­ra­tion, six years ago to keep pace with the growth of Fab­u­lous Un­rounds. We thought that the first step is to give our team a ‘fab­u­lous’ new en­vi­ron­ment be­cause ear­lier, our of­fice was in a garage, lit­er­ally! A cre­ative place, which would al­low our de­sign­ers breath­ing space and a free rein over their imag­i­na­tion.

Tell us about the suc­cess story of Fab Jew­els that was started in 2010, and your shift to China.

By 2012-13, we hit fan­tas­tic num­bers in sales, and we re­alised that this is big­ger than what we had imag­ined. It is then that we de­cided to have trade shows in the Westin Ho­tel, Mum­bai, dur­ing IIJS. From then on, we have grown rapidly and have been do­ing busi­ness with the best re­tail­ers in In­dia, in­clud­ing independen­ts and ma­jors.

Af­ter hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced this kind of a pos­i­tive re­sponse in In­dia,

we cre­ated Un­rounds China, and re­alised that the coun­try of­fered the same busi­ness op­por­tu­nity with fancy-cut di­a­mond jew­ellery.

We have done quite well there, too. It’s still early days, be­cause China has gone through a bit of a tough time. But we have been able to pen­e­trate all good re­tail­ers and started cham­pi­oning the cause of fan­cies with a strong de­sign in­put.

So how did the idea of open­ing a re­tail store in Juhu, Mum­bai, come about?

While we were al­ready lead­ers in fancy-shaped di­a­monds, our jew­ellery de­signs also came into their own. It was then that we be­gan to make se­ri­ous in­vest­ments in de­sign – in the tal­ent and in the process. With a proper de­sign stu­dio, we re­alised that just re­strict­ing our­selves to fan­cies didn’t make sense. We be­gan ex­plor­ing other cat­e­gories like jadau, gem-set jew­ellery, and jew­ellery set with rounds. It was but nat­u­ral that we should not let go of that last mile of pre­sent­ing our prod­uct to the con­sumer and that’s how our ex­pe­ri­ence cen­tre in Juhu came about.

The Juhu store be­came our test­ing ground. We needed at least one part of our busi­ness to talk di­rectly to the con­sumer, test our cre­ativ­ity in the purest way, learn from that, and then ap­proach our re­tail ven­dors with ac­tual con­sumer data that would be in­valu­able in help­ing them make in­formed de­ci­sions. This would only serve to make our B2B of­fer­ings stronger. Our in­ten­tion was never to di­rectly com­pete with our re­tail part­ners, but we were look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties in re­tail that our re­tail ven­dors were not look­ing at.

In the Juhu ex­pe­ri­ence cen­tre, the ground floor was re­served for our wide range of B2B of­fer­ings, while the sec­ond floor show­cased new con­sumer-driven ideas. These con­sumer sto­ries be­came po­ems of emo­tion, which even­tu­ally got trans­lated into a piece of jew­ellery. Af­ter about a year and a half, and meet­ing a wide range of con­sumers, we re­alised that there was a huge op­por­tu­nity to re­po­si­tion the jew­ellery for the next gen­er­a­tion of con­sumers, in­stead of it be­ing just a state­ment of wealth or lux­ury. These pow­er­ful and unique con­sumer

in­sights led to the birth of our two con­sumer brands – Her Story in In­dia, and Un­said Li­brary in An­twerp, Bel­gium.

Why in Europe?

We thought if we could crack it in Europe, then em­u­lat­ing it in In­dia, China or Amer­ica would be easy. So we pushed our­selves in the slightly tougher mar­ket be­cause we thought there was a global op­por­tu­nity. Un­said Li­brary is not your typ­i­cal re­tail store – a cus­tomer walks into a well-de­signed li­brary, picks a piece of jew­ellery, picks a post­card, se­lects the pack­ag­ing, sits down and writes her thoughts. It’s fo­cused on the emo­tion of gift­ing.

How dif­fer­ent is the con­cept of Her Story from Un­said Li­brary?

We are ex­plor­ing two very dif­fer­ent con­sumer propo­si­tions – gift­ing and find­ing an ex­pres­sion of your­self and who you are through jew­ellery. Her Story is about pre­cious self- ex­pres­sion and Un­said Li­brary is a pre­cious gift­ing brand.

How did Walk­ing Tree come about?

When we re­alised that we needed a larger and more en­com­pass­ing name for all that we were do­ing, we thought of call­ing the com­pany Walk­ing Tree. The name rep­re­sents the si­mul­ta­ne­ous and com­ple­men­tary val­ues of root­ed­ness and agility that we ex­em­plify and strive for in the com­pany.

The de­sign stu­dio and the back­end that we have built, is some­thing that we be­lieve is the strong­est in the coun­try. And that makes ev­ery­thing we are now at­tempt­ing to do a part of an ex­cit­ing jour­ney.

How has the re­sponse been to Her Story?

Her Story has been quite a jour­ney. Through our ex­pe­ri­ences, we dis­cov­ered that women re­spond to mean­ing­ful lux­ury. Our Al­ta­mount Road bou­tique in Mum­bai, which opened in Fe­bru­ary this year, has be­come a spot of warmth and con­ver­sa­tion around jew­ellery. We have seen women who have bought from col­lec­tions based on their per­son­al­i­ties with­out be­ing pre-empted or led, and we are look­ing for­ward to the up­com­ing sea­son to truly un­der­stand how big this can be.

So com­ing back to the Walk­ing Tree busi­ness, how many ver­ti­cals do you have?

Walk­ing Tree is ge­o­graph­i­cally in three lo­ca­tions, In­dia, China and Europe. The com­pany has two main ver­ti­cals: the con­sumer brands (Her Story and Un­said Li­brary) and Walk­ing Tree De­sign Stu­dio.

Walk­ing Tree De­sign Stu­dio is our new face to the trade. The de­sign stu­dio pow­ers B2B busi­nesses, sig­na­ture and pri­vate la­bel brands across In­dia and China. Our most re­cent B2B la­bel Aes­thete, which is a luxe of­fer­ing for con­nois­seurs, is ready, and will be In­dia’s first sig­na­ture la­bel, while our pre­mium in­ter­na­tional bridal la­bel, Shades of Love, is avail­able in China.

Fab­u­lous Un­rounds is con­tin­u­ing the way it was, but all the new cat­e­gories that we are pre­sent­ing as com­plete la­bels will be cu­rated and we will be ty­ing up with top re­tail part­ners. We will of­fer them shop-in-shop mar­ket­ing col­lat­er­als, de­sign, and cre­atives. We be­lieve that the mar­ket is more ready for it – as the re­tail­ers are look­ing for fresh­ness, su­pe­ri­or­ity in de­sign and crafts­man­ship, along with an en­tire brand­ing so­lu­tion.

Un­said Li­brary

ANKIT MEHTA, Co-founder, Walk­ing Tree De­sign Stu­dio

Aes­thete

Aes­thete

In­te­ri­ors of Walk­ing Tree In­dia

Walk­ing Tree In­dia of­fice.

Un­said Li­brary

Spirit of the Wild Cas­cade ear­rings, Her Story

Heart of Blue drop ear­rings, Her Story

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