A critic once described designer Mukul Goyal's work as "a purist's expression of design with a little bit of fun added along the way". As a home accessory designer, he has been known for blending traditional materials like dokra with contemporary expression. His signature brand 'Mukul Goyal' consists of gift items like photo frames, mirrors, lamps and small furniture.
In 1998, he launched his curtain hardware line 'Tattva'. Now he is set to launch three new lines under the 'Tattva' brand. Goyal speaks to Kunal Majumder about the important of hardware designing and his plans for his collections.
Designing hardware is as difficult as any other design form and sometimes more challenging. Hardware is important to our lives. It makes things around us functional. As a designer, I aim to create characters through design – be it towel rings or hangers. And we cannot forget that designs have to relate. A user has to connect with the product. At the end of the day, it reflects the different aspects of people's lives.
What are the new ranges of hardware that you are planning?
We are launching three new curtain hardware ranges. The decorative classical collection is called Tattva Classic. It offers a selection of finials, tiebacks, rings and decorative brackets in brass and copper. The accessories will be in hues of matt gold, matt nickel, antique brass, antique copper and antique nickel.
Tattva Utsav is about grandeur with bold yet clean looks. Even this collection offers a selection of finials, tiebacks, rings and decorative. Brass is used as the raw material while the finishes are in matt gold, matt nickel and antique brass.
Tattva Chrome is the third range at offer. This collection has a sleek and contemporary form. I have used stainless steel and chrome to create finials, tiebacks and rings.
There are plans for a fourth range. We plan to call it Tattva Prêt. This range would target the value segment. We hope to offer the same quality at a more affordable price.
Do you have any plans to expand your hardware range?
All our designs are custom made. I'm not sure about selling merchandise for the sake of expansion. We are a small company and wish to take small steps forward. We plan to make our mark in the bathroom hardware and handles segment.
Has the present economic crisis hit your business?
Our hardware business is not export oriented so there has been no major effect. About 95 per cent of the business is domestics while rest is exported. Yes, prices have gone up. As a brand we have not been able to tap the super premium segment. We are working towards it.
Why do you export so less?
Around 7-8 years back, we used to export a lot. However with the changing economic scenario in the country, the demand has increased here. Plus there is a cost factor involved. Many exporters at times are not willing to give the due credit to the designers. All they want is products in lots at a cheap rate.
What are the raw materials used in your hardware collections?
We mainly use brass, copper and stainless steel but never aluminum.
As someone who has been there in the industry for some years now, what are the trends you have noticed or followed?
I do not believe in trends. I'm against the culture of use and throw. When you buy a product, you build a personal association. You simply cannot throw out something because a third person says that it is out of trend. I think that trends are marketing strategies to create more demand. My designs are like a pair of blue jeans. You don't throw away your jeans after a few uses. It grows on you with time.
Tell us something about your retail strategy. Are you planning to launch a store of your own?
We have been thinking about this for sometime now. However nothing has been worked out till date. Entering into the retail space is an expensive affair and we are not ready as of now. We are present in 50-60 furnishings stores across 22-25 cities around the country.
Our business has evolved completely on 'word-of-mouth'. We have never spent a single rupee on marketing and publicity. Though we have a limited presence, we have never approached any store with our products. Apart from the initial 2-3 stores, rests of the retailers have come to us asking for our products. We let our design speak.
What about your international presence?
As per hardware is concerned, we have recently launched a line of curtain rods called 'Mukul' in Germany. We are eagerly waiting to know the response.
Tell us something about the pricing of your products and target customers.
The price starts at Rs 500 and there is no limit on the other side. As far as customers are concerned, we target the upper middle class and above. Our clients are interested in good products and appreciate interesting designs.
Are you a designer or a businessperson?
(Smiles) We produce art to be used by other people. A designer cannot create something that people may not accept or use. The challenge is to create the perceived value for our products. The price tag has to be lower than the perceived value. We have to ensure that customer thinks he is getting the value for his money.
How receptive is the Indian market to hardware?
In the last few years, the market has become more receptive. Hardware is after all essential element of any home decor. The question is whether one is willing to go for art hardware or simple hardware. I would say hardware has certainly been upgraded and has become a part of the decor. We have just entered the bath hardware section and will have to wait for the response from the market.
How does your range of hardware contribute to the interiors of a space?
When one designs a space, he or she has to keep in mind elements like natural light, curtains, colours etc. Each element contributes to the decor. The main idea is how you do it. A designer needs to select a central point, based on which the interiors are planned. If there are too many elements involved, the space would turn too loud. So hardware would become a part of the space based on the importance given to it.