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The Spice of Swaabhi
 
We Poonekars and our love for food is no secret. And a food connoisseur like a typical ‘Puneri’ is not at all easy to impress.

Born in a family running a business into food industry, I have grown up studying the importance of gastronomy.

In addition to this, having a joint family invited a huge spread of likes and dislikes of food resulting into a great variety and food discussions at the table. Though I was personally more interested in simply gobbling my favorite food, both my parents always knew the science of good eating. When a food culture is instilled in your family, one automatically gets trained in acknowledging the importance of the blends, flavours, presentation and the love of food inventions.

 
My close encounter with food however, happened more often, after I got married and started cooking myself.

While cooking, a woman literally tends to enter a different world; it’s her space, her playground, her hands putting love into food and her mind free to become a butterfly. Being hungry for creativity and innovation, I used to harp on this time imagining designs for my jewellery brand Swaabhi. And then one day I imagined blending these two worlds.

In India, a woman tends to spend a heavy portion of her day in the company of food ingredients, and then why not create jewellery with help of nature’s beautiful designs found right in the kitchen! Why not cherish her beautiful association with these ingredients so that she could proudly flaunt it even when not inside the kitchen! Here spluttered the ‘innovative Tadkaa’ of Swaabhi’s spice collection. 

I knew it that very moment, that this would not be an easy task to execute this idea. But as usual my creative bug got excited with this new challenge. Nature offers unlimited variety to inspire us, but I got most intrigued by the spices in my kitchen because of their varied nature, shapes, structures and great values. I knew what was coming next for Swaabhi’s designer jewellery. When I first took this concept to my manufacturer, he started laughing! He sheepishly remarked “Looks like you are lacking to get enough kitchen work at home”. Batting that remark away with a smile, I had a nice chat with him and sold my concept well, to the extent of getting him excited to work on something new. The real fun started right at the designing stage, whether 3D or 2D. Should it be an Indian look or modern? Which polish would be ideal? And many such other questions constantly crossed my path.

Here is a spicy story from the designer jewellery kitchen of Swaabhi, the journey of concept to creation:

I started my first design for this concept using a combination of clove and coriander seed. The first prototype was out after 3 whole months. And guess what, it was far from my liking! It was so bulky and seemed like it was a ‘forced’ design form. I had to restart the entire process of designing again and this time I started with a single ingredient. This time has decided to read and understand the ingredients in detail.

Cardamom

This third most expensive spice after vanilla and saffron requires a labor 
intensive hand 
picking process. It contains antioxidants, helps in lowering blood pressure, has cancer fighting compounds and prevents bad breath and cavities. After washing, drying is the most important process for Cardomom as it has an impact on the final quality. This process takes more than a week from harvest till use.

I started this first design in which I wanted to show the detailing of the pod from inside. I literally kept a cardamom with one petal off in front of me and started sketching. After multiple production attempts of round and flat, big and delicate designs, I made light weight ear studs and this entire process took me 8 months for execution!

Clove / Laung

These unopened flower buds of Clove tree may look very tiny, but are equally gigantic when it comes to nutrition and health benefits. They’re packed with antioxidants and are good sources of minerals (especially manganese), omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and vitamins. Clove is used as a pain killer, relieves upper respiratory infections, reduces inflammations and also improves digestion. Its drying process takes about 4-5 days before it can be used.
When I designed clove I designed its round ball to be diamond studded, finding the right size of stones to make it look studded yet not too flashy was a challenge which we finally conquered.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon has been used as a medicine in traditional Ayurvedic 
and Chinese medicine for centuries. Known for its benefits linked to digestion and gastrointestinal complaints, cinnamon has long been used as a home remedy for heartburn, indigestion, and nausea. It can also lower your bad cholesterol – LDL. Cinnamon is essentially a peel from the tree bark and takes experienced peelers to maintain the thickness. Cinnamon quills take 3-4 days of processing before it can be used.

To attain a good design composition, I paired bay leaf with cinnamon and used both, gold and silver polishes. Was quite satisfied with this decision after seeing the prototype.

Bay Leaf

Bay leaves offer us a healthy dose of vitamins A, C, magnesium, calcium, manganese, potassium, and iron. Apart from soothing joint pains and easing body aches, it also improves the hair health and digestive health. Biggest leaves have the best flavor and fragrance.
 
Since Bay leaf provided a good base shape for designs I decided to next pair it with Star Anise.

Star Anise

Apart from being a great source of Vitamin C, this spice also helps fight 
influenza and cough. It’s used in treating sleep disorders and also is a boon for pregnant women to combat pregnancy related diseases. They are picked unripe and later sun-dried until their color change to reddish-brown, seeds are removed before storing.

This spice has a very attractive shape and I initially wanted to set stones in all the petals, however this would have made the size too big so I added sticks to the shape and studded the tips with one stone each. It totally brought a smile on my face once I saw the final design.

MessuaFerrea (Nag-kesar)


Nagkesar is a very famous Ayurvedic herb used in treating fever, vomiting, urinary tract disorders, migraine etc. It is used in powder form along with other spices, and put into many herbal jams including the famous ‘Chyawanprash’.

I was clear that this spice design had to be created in 3D, when I added a diamond studded ball to represent its bulb, it looked so attractive, I knew I would keep one for myself !

After working on these unique spices I realized, Indian kitchen is absolutely incomplete without kitchen regulars like ginger, Garlic, Chilly, Coriander and Curry leaves. I decided to play along with these. I decided I will use the basic designs as is and deck it up with stones only if it complemented the look. It took us ages to finalize the coriander design. When we got the entire production ready, I realized I was just not ok with how my ginger looked! Then we used enamel paint to enhance its texture which finally got it an approval from my finicky artist inside me. 


With this initial success on hand, I decided to revisit my initial designs with combination of spices. Now I had a better idea of the sizes, shape compositions and textures I had to use to make my designs look ‘delicious’. I started with the ‘spice bucket’ concept where I choose peculiar combinations of spices used in Indian recipes. The ‘numerouno’ entry was that of Saffron, Cashews and Almonds. I recall that later one of my customers aptly named it ‘Tadkaa Bucket’.

Tadkaa Bucket photos


The designs were taking shape and forms and were continuously being sent for production to the manufacturer. One day he called me and said “Maam, aapkafull kitchen ready hai! (Maam your entire kitchen is ready!). I had finally got him to do something he was so skeptical about. It was nothing less than a feat for me. This entire trial and error game of getting my concept into production took almost 1.5 years!! And this was just the beginning of the real game. We now had to market our new range to all customers and the big question as always was if they would like it!? I learnt during this time that even if you come up with and execute your out of the box thinking, it’s a huge risk to simply invest and produce a huge inventory. To start with I had got only 6 pieces of each of my designs in gold and silver finishes.

We started our first marketing digitally. It definitely raised a great 
curiosity amongst people to know how could a jewellery brand connect with kitchen spices. But it was not enough to trigger this curiosity; the main exam was to hit good sales. A touch and feel somehow, always wins over picture marketing. With this in mind, Swaabhi came up with an innovative event for the food lover Punekars. In association with Kalpak Caterers and Wadeshwar group we arranged a 3 day food and jewellery festival which we named ‘Tadkaa’. By God’s grace we had a great footfall of people who were intrigued by this concept as well as people who joined their spouses for the love of food. When people came in and saw this new designer concept of jewellery, they looked very fascinated. Their expressions full of surprise, excitement, appreciation was the real treasure for Swaabhi’s entire team who put their heart and soul and believed in this concept right from its infant stages.
Not only were we sold out with the ready pieces, we also took orders with an SLA of 15 days for delivery. But Murphy’s law always works, due to a family mishap with my manufacturer, all our orders got delayed. While most of our customers extended a huge cooperation, few got really furious and we repaid them the full amount due to helplessness. We had some 110 orders to finish and it took almost 2 months to dispatch. Without the support and patience of our valued customers, this success was impossible.

Later, the journey of Tadkaa collection was promoted majorly through our studio sales and online orders.

I had read in a lot of books about how successful scientists and entrepreneurs gave birth to an idea which was ridiculed, laughed at and later praised and applauded by the same set of people. But this was the first time in my life that I was not ‘people’ and I learnt the humongous power of belief and perseverance successful people would have needed to reach their success. Once you are able to experience it, magic happens and Life is spiced up, just like ‘SwaabhiTadkaa’. Because variety is the spice of Swaabhi!