This mother-daughter duo’s home decor brand creates and curates pieces from artisans across India

After a long stint at supply chain and logistics platform Delhivery, Ayessha Gurung decided to start Junekeri Homesa homegrown brand that specializes in handcrafted goods for the home.

The change was not incidental. Ayessha says the ‘Aha’ moment happened when she was setting up her first house in Delhi.

ayessha

“I realized there was an exodus of generic home decor that would never make my home truly mine. I quit the corporate world and went into business with my mother (Sudha) where we spend a large amount of time traveling to work directly with artisans / collectives across the country to bring heirloom-quality pieces that add value and soul to the modern Indian home , ”She tells HerStory.

Started in 2020, the name Junekeri refers to jugnu, or a firefly. Ayessha says the brand draws its creativity from the fascinating creature to create and curate functional and beautiful pieces.

She explains, “Every piece from the collection carries a cultural history of the community it originates from and is crafted using locally sourced materials and time-honored skills. The brand expresses itself in the form of contemporary designs built to stand the test of time by blending traditional craftsmanship with modern designs. ”

To this end, Ayessha draws passion from the calm mountain life in Gangtok, where she grew up, and inserted life and soul into it from the vibrant desert hues of Rajasthan, where she attended boarding school at Mayo College. She believes Junekeri is a reflection of her upbringing, translating experiences and memories into colorful textiles and beautiful home décor accents.

After studying Arts at Miranda House, Delhi University, Ayessha moved to Singapore to pursue an MBA. The formative years of her career were spent in the luxury lifestyle space after which she was at Delhivery where she was responsible for setting up the communications function.

Working with artisans across India

As a D2C homegrown brand that specializes in home textiles and interior objects, all Junekeri products are made in small batches as the founders work directly with artisans at fair prices.

“There are no middlemen. We, therefore, have no links in the supply chain, meaning that no money is wasted on agents and we can pay them more than we would be able to if we were working through third parties, ”Ayessha says.

Before they launched Junekeri, the mother-daughter duo spent a considerable amount of time traveling to the remotest villages in the northeast, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and West Bengal to find crafting families and workshops

“Junekeri strives to bridge the gap between ethically produced goods and contemporary design. Employing a craft cluster approach, Junekeri partners with independent entrepreneurs, master artisans, and women-led collectives. Our products are made to last using traditional craft techniques that help ensure both craft preservation and job creation, ”she adds.

Junekeri began as an exploration of the handcrafted and soon evolved into a range of homeware and textiles. Ayessha says its designs and colors are informed and inspired by traditional craft, vintage textiles, nature, and the Bauhaus movement.

“All our products are individually handwoven and hand-embroidered on traditional wooden looms in remote villages across India that do not use electricity. Because we use locally-sourced natural fibers, subtle variations can be seen resulting in beautiful and one-off perfectly imperfect goods, ”she adds.

Ayessha also believes the time taken for sourcing, crafting, drying, and finishing with precision cannot be rushed. For the dyeing process, artisans use dyes that are locally available and derived from the leaf of the wild indigo plant, the bark of the azeu tree, and red from the root of the morinda plant. Sometimes to obtain the yellow color, they also use the roots of the turmeric plant. The fabric dyeing process can take anywhere between three and five days to weeks depending on its size.

Its textiles are crafted in locally grown cotton organic Kala cotton and desi oon featuring traditional patterns and techniques but the size and color combinations are tweaked to appeal to the relevant customer.

Junekeri started out as an Instagram first business before transitioning into its own web store.

“Through Instagram, we were able to reach customers, including select celebrity clients like Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, across different pin codes in India and across the globe. We cater to an audience who appreciate quality handcrafted goods and are conscious about the products that they bring into their homes, ”she says.

Like most D2C brands, Junekeri is digital-first and thereby takes a margin on the products that it sells to customers directly while maintaining fair prices for its network of artisans.

In the homegrown D2C space Ayessha likes the t-shirts at March Tee. She believes there is much to learn from the competition while building one’s own brand.

Currently bootstrapped, with the founders’ savings, Junekeri clocks a GMV of Rs 1.5 crore per month. The startup is looking to raise a seed / angel round in the next two quarters.

“We’ve grown organically to close to 8,000 followers on Instagram over the past eight months purely through word of mouth and repeat orders. Like most D2C brands, the initial proof of concept and validation took time but we’ve seen a steady increase in orders month on month, ”she says.

Ayessha and Sudha are looking forward to expanding Junekeri’s categories and deepening partnerships with like-minded craftsmen / collectives.