Pooja Juneja: An En­trepreneurial De­signer

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Jewellery de­signer POOJA JUNEJA’S de­signs are mostly in­spired by na­ture and blend In­dian and global in­flu­ences skil­fully. Ed­u­cated at the Kazuko Araki School of De­sign, Ja­pan, and trained as a gem­mol­o­gist from In­ter­na­tional Ge­mo­log­i­cal In­sti­tute ( IGI), Pooja is one of the mem­bers of the all- In­dia panel of de­sign­ers for MMTC and a vis­it­ing fac­ulty at NIFT. Was jewellery de­sign­ing your first pas­sion?

De­sign­ing was def­i­nitely my pas­sion right from the time I can rec­ol­lect. From par­tic­i­pat­ing to win­ning all the in­ter­class and in­ter­school craft com­pe­ti­tions, de­sign came to me nat­u­rally. Be­long­ing to an aca­dem­i­cally in­clined fam­ily, the pres­sure to keep up to my fam­ily’s ex­pec­ta­tions was im­mense. In spite of a Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in Math­e­mat­ics and an MBA, I found my call­ing in the jewellery trade.

What in­spired you to en­ter this field?

I en­tered the field of de­sign­ing by de­fault, but in hind­sight I feel I was born to be a part of the jewellery in­dus­try. While study­ing cre­ative de­sign­ing in Tokyo, I got an op­por­tu­nity to de­sign ac­ces­sories for my men­tor Kazuko Araki’s fash­ion show un­der her guid­ance. The col­lec­tion was so well ap­pre­ci­ated that I haven’t ever looked back.

Was the jewellery de­sign­ing help­ful?

I got se­lected in the cre­ativ­ity course un­der the guid­ance of Ja­pan’s ac­com­plished de­signer Kazuko Araki. The said part of my study in Ja­pan in­cluded mar­ket re­search, de­sign­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing se­lected pieces. A golden rule Ja­pan taught me was to never com­pro­mise on the qual­ity of the prod­uct man­u­fac­tured. And that’s the guide­line I fol­low even to­day.

Tell us more about it.

I got se­lected in Kazuko Araki School of De­sign, Ja­pan, and I started my en­trepreneurial jour­ney by de­sign­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing and sell­ing my own semi-pre­cious jewellery while I was study­ing.

Com­ing back to In­dia gave me a re­al­ity check. I be­gan work­ing in Chandni Chowk, the hub of jewellery trade in Delhi. Here I was no­body; I was a laugh­ing stock for peo­ple who thought of me as a spoilt kid try­ing out an ex­pen­sive hobby. Nev­er­the­less the at­ti­tude did not bother me for long and I bounced back even stronger.

I en­rolled my­self in In­ter­na­tional Ge­mo­log­i­cal In­sti­tute (IGI) for a course in gem­mol­ogy, topped the course and got the op­por­tu­nity to teach in the in­sti­tute it­self. The ca­reer I chose and the so­ci­ety we live in is very male-dom­i­nated and I had this urge to break the glass­ceil­ing and prove that women, too, can be a part of this trade. I left no

stone un­turned to give it my best. A year later, I founded my brand, Pooja Juneja De­sign Stu­dio.

What is the most im­por­tant as­pect of your work?

My mantra is ‘Mak­ing the sim­ple, awe­somely sim­ple, yet el­e­gant and classy’. That ac­cord­ing to me is cre­ativ­ity. Mak­ing wear­able jewellery is my forte. I also make trans­formable jewellery like neck­laces that can be worn as bracelets and so on. Soli­taires with change­able jack­ets are very pop­u­lar with our cus­tomers.

As my busi­ness grew, I was for­tu­nate to be se­lected as a ven­dor and one of the panel de­sign­ers for Met­als and Min­er­als Trad­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (MMTC), the only Cen­tral gov­ern­ment com­pany deal­ing in pre­cious jewellery. This was a step­ping stone in my ca­reer – not only did my pro­duc­tion in­crease, I was also given a set of strong qual­ity checks to pass. It’s been al­most nine years of as­so­ci­a­tion with MMTC.

How many pieces do you create in a year?

We try to pro­duce around 100 new pieces for the col­lec­tion launch. Our prod­ucts are priced be­tween R20,000 and R30 lakh.

Does your as­so­ci­a­tion with NIFT help you in your de­sign­ing?

Def­i­nitely! Be­ing as­so­ci­ated with NIFT gives me an edge. I try to men­tor stu­dents ev­ery year. It’s the big­gest les­son I’ve learnt from my teacher and guide Kazuko Araki, who says, ‘You gain more when you give hon­estly’. She is 65 to­day, and con­tin­ues teach­ing cre­ative de­sign in Saitama, Ja­pan.

In­no­va­tion is the key to be­ing suc­cess­ful in the com­pet­i­tive de­sign world to­day. It’s very sat­is­fy­ing to sur­prise your pa­trons with de­signs that are be­yond their ex­pec­ta­tion.

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