SISTERS make the best friends, it’s said. But here’s an example of two sisters and besties who are also rather successful business partners. Kaabia and Sasha Grewal, one year apart, could very well be twins. They look alike, sound alike, and finish each other’s sentences.
“We both knew we wanted to work with each other right from the time when we were in school,” Kaabia, 36, tells me. “And we knew we wanted to make jewelery. We always wanted jewelery we could wear at parties, not put away in a locker.” The sisters grew up in Ludhiana to their parents they thank for a liberal upbringing. “We wanted to break barriers, we wanted to do something new,” Sasha, 35, adds. A formal four-year training course at the Indian Institute of Gems and Jewelery (IIGJ) followed since they decided they needed to learn the nuts and bolts of jewelery making, and not just draw designs on paper.
They launched their jewelery label, Outhouse, a decade ago. It already has five boutiques across India (Two in Delhi, one each in Kolkata and Mumbai, one newly opened in Goa) and is opening their sixth store in Hyderabad shortly.
Outhouse is not for the faint-hearted. Its designs are contemporary, bold and even outrageous. “People pay great value to precious metals and stones, but we decided that the time was right for people to appreciate design-led jewelery too. We are still very skill-based, so craftsmanship and quality are important to us,” Sasha says. Outhouse is among India’s first bridge to luxury fashion jewelery labels, and has slowly and steadily founded its own tribe.
“Our pieces are conversation starters for sure,” Sasha laughs. “But there’s so much soul behind our design. It’s for the woman who is empowered, and likes her jewelery to empower her too. We don’t beat around the bush, our pieces speak loud and clear. So yes, our jewelery is definitely for the strong and accomplished woman,” says Sasha.
“I especially love it when women come in and are concerned about an item but buy something smaller and daintier as an experiment,” Kaabia says. “Once the compliments start coming, they then turn into braver and more regular customers. I love that we are able to bring about a transformation in women, to make them more confident. And that they evolve with us, after all a woman is a different person at 25 and at 35.”
Outhouse finds favor with several celebrities, in India and abroad. Beyonce has worn their pieces and shops for them for her personal wardrobe too. As do Kourtney Kardashian and Alia Bhatt. Their small men’s range is adored by Shah Rukh Khan, Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor.
Both sisters are creative and cool young women, but have learned some business smarts along the way. “Being a creative person and an entrepreneur is walking a tightrope,” Sasha explains. “You are fire-fighting every day, and keeping your vision on track. You still need to focus on business plans, growth, new markets and profitability. We have learned the importance of being a business woman. For example, I learned sales only once I realized I had to know everything.”
“We turned profitable by our second year itself,” Kaabia says. “Of course much of what we made went back into the business, but growth was very important for us.” Sasha informs the business has been growing by 30-40 percent each year, and they hope to accelerate it into a global brand soon. “We also believe in hiring great top management, which is very important for the business.”
Outhouse launched its ecommerce business in 2019, and got an ecommerce manager on board. “We realized the true potential when the right people came on board. Now our stores and online businesses bring us equal revenue,” Kaabia shares. “E-commerce also makes us a global player.”
The Goa store, launched in chic Assagao last week, is inspired by the Cyclades, a group of islands south of Greece. “I think we both had a spiritual awakening when we went to Greece,” the girls laughed.
“We wanted to have that coastal energy, no straight lines, one room flowing into another, a lot of wicker and bamboo everywhere,” Sasha said. “Our iconic bags are well-mounted, and we have a story wall that’s inspired by our personalities.” There’s also some earthenware for sale that shares their brand story. Outhouse launched a series of party purses in 2016, and are already a rather popular accessories label.
Sasha now lives in New Delhi, while Kaabia is married and moved to Mumbai and has two young sons. But their days echo each other despite being in different cities. “We both start our days with prayer. It centers us, and makes us feel alive. We work very hard during the week. I didn’t take any time out when I had my babies, I just enjoyed my work so much,” Kaabia says.
And they like to party on weekends. The Grewal girls throw fabulous dinners, and costume ball parties, and bring fantasy to their Instagram profiles. “Partying is an important part of life too. If we don’t celebrate ourselves, why are we even here?” Sasha asks. “We love doing things well, and we love doing things in style. And that reflects in our professional and personal lives too. There are no shortcuts with us.”
The Indian fashion jewelery market has grown in the last decade, they say girls. Sasha wore a cape made of two or three thousand tourmalines, at the recent opening of the NMACC in Mumbai, and received many compliments as well as orders.
Namrata Zakaria is a seasoned writer and editor, and a chronicler of social and cultural trends. Her first book, on late fashion designer Wendell Rodricks’ Moda Goa museum, is due to be published shortly. Zakaria is especially known for his insider’s take on fashion, luxury and social entrepreneurship in India. Her writing is appreciated for shaping opinions, busting myths, making reputations and sometimes breaking the odd career. Zakaria is also involved in putting together philanthropic efforts in the field of economic and environmental sustainability.
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