Meher Rohatgi, Co-Founder, Atelier Mon, recently sat with NewsX for an exclusive interview as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. She spoke to us about her brand, its focus, the growing demand for semi-precious stones jewellery in the country. The impact of Covid-19 on her business and the market was also addressed.

Speaking about the conceptualization and ideation of Atelier Mon, Meher said, “Back in 2008, when I launched the brand, there weren’t many people working with semi-precious gemstones, it was either precious which is a big part of the market or it was artificial jewellery or junk jewellery, as we call it. I was working with semi-precious stones because I felt that gap in the market and I felt that with more and more women in the workplace, they were looking for something fun to wear every day, which didn’t burn a hole in your pocket, but were natural stones and the quality was good and it gives variety. There are so many natural stones out there, it was a great journey and that was the genesis of Atelier Mon back in 2008”.

Talking about the immediate response then, and over the years, Meher said, “When I had just launched, it was a way of educating customers about semi-precious stones and that was very interesting. People didn’t understand because they only knew of sapphires and emeralds but here, we had amethysts, citrine, so what was fun was bringing this into the market and people discovering this whole new type of jewellery. Slowly, there was an appreciation that grew for it and people realized that there’s this whole world of jewellery out there, with variety and can spruce up an outfit. Then, people understood semi-precious stones, so the demand just blew up and that was fabulous too”.

Speaking about the availability of the products of Atelier Mon and where they can be found, Meher said, “My main market was the international market, especially America and we supplied to chains like Anthropologie, Harvey Nichols. We are in about 200 stores, worldwide and over the past two years, I’ve seen a lot of interest in the Indian market and my attention has really shifted to our domestic market. We’ve tied up unique stores like Ogaan, Ensom, Aza and they stock my label. We have our flagship store at Delhi International Airport, Terminal 3 and of course, online. Our website launched around 3 years ago and that has definitely been the main focus”.

Explaining the USP of Atelier Mon and how it’s different, Meher said, “What has been the most important thing for me is to create a brand which works with very high-quality stones, each and every stone is selected by me personally. I wanted to give high-quality stones which were cut beautifully, handcrafted by artisans but at the same time, I wanted to keep it affordable because I wanted this to be a women-led brand, for women and they should have options, not worry about the price, yet have very good quality. So, that is definitely our USP. We have designs for young adults, for working women, designs for 60+, so I like to design something for everyone and every occasion. So, I think that’s our USP”.

Relaying the impact of Covid on her business, how she mitigated that, Meher said, “When it hit in March last year, it was something we didn’t expect and thought it would be a month or two months of lockdown at most. We took it as a break to reassess things, but it went on till September-October. My biggest concern was the employees, I wanted to make sure they were safe. We obviously saw a slowdown in demand as well, everyone’s attention wasn’t on fashion and jewellery, that took a huge backseat. These were completely unprecedented times and around September-October, we saw the demand creeping back and for Christmas, we got back to our usual capacity and demand increased. So, we ended the year on a really good note. The main opportunity that arose last year was, it gave us the time to take a good, hard look at our business model to streamline things. It was a lovely pause, we took that opportunity and decided to be more efficient, look at our supply chains and this is something we never get time to do, so, it was really lovely. The biggest change was that everything went online and our jewellery is affordable and creates a statement. So, with this trend that we’ve got, just put on a nice pair of earrings and you’re ready for your meeting. We saw a good demand to grow for that”.

Referring to the government’s initiative of becoming aatmanirbhar and ‘go vocal for local’, Meher said, “I think the biggest lesson we learnt in 2020 is to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. With borders closing internationally, businesses that were dependent on international demand took a big hit, so that’s what happened to us initially. Luckily, for the past two years, my focus had already started to shift and I saw India as the biggest opportunity and I realized the importance of first, focusing on the domestic market and second, supporting other local brands. That is something we cannot drop, it’s a worldwide trend to shop locally and focusing on your own market while being completely self-reliant so that come what may, you are protected. That is something we’ll see continuing and will be my primary focus. 2020 definitely sealed and locked it in”.

Advising the budding and up-coming entrepreneurs, Meher said, “Always have a positive outlook, every challenge is actually an opportunity and try to find that opportunity. Invest in a really good team, because one of the most important things that I realized over this past year, was that everyone was just hands-on deck and how my team came through, everyone was willing to do everything and go above and beyond. Invest in the right people, relationships and look for those opportunities to better yourself and do a lot of research because nothing can ever take place of good research”.