The Rules That Have Guided India’s Artists for Thousands of Years, Also Guide This Startup’s Growth
Play • 46 min

It began with a table that Zwende co-founder Innu Nevatia couldn’t find. She had this image of the perfect piece of furniture, but it didn’t exist anywhere outside of her head. No one was making quite what she wanted. In the process of scouring the flea markets and pop-up design shows in and around her home base in Bengaluru, India the idea for her startup was born.

“I was meeting all these incredible artists in this quest to find someone to make me a table,” Nevatia says. “And I began to realize there was an opportunity to match the craft of what these artists do with the more modern tastes of today.” So, with her husband, Sujay Suresh, Zwende was launched.

You can think of Zwende as a marketplace that makes it so artists can just make art, rather than, say, wrap packages or find new ways to market their work. And, of course, on the other side of marketplace are people looking to buy that artwork.

For example, Zwende features designers and artists who are taking an ancient art form originally used to create characters for shadow puppet performances, and applying the same techniques to lamp shades, screens, and other decorative art pieces for the home. The twist is that Zwende allows its lamp-shade hunting customers to customize their particular pieces in tens of thousands of different ways. “But we do it within the rules of the art forms that have been practiced for a very, very long time,” Suresh says. “We like to say we are using algorithms developed thousands of years ago.”

The artists only make the items when they get ordered, so there is no excess inventory for them to carry. The data gathered from Zwende retail customer also helps the artists anticipate when there will be a rush for a certain item, or a certain style, and even experiment with entirely new products created purely digitally to see if they resonate before committing time and materials to making them.

Nevatia eventually did find her perfect table, customized by a favorite artist. It sits in the Zwende showroom displaying some of the latest designs, it’s a reminder of what sparked the idea for the startup, and how much more there is yet to do.

For even more on Zwende’s co-founders and the artists they work with check out this episode of Now Go Build with Amazon CTO Dr. Werner Vogels.
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