Architecture Photography to Owning Leather Studio: Meet Khyati Dodhia, Founder of TBC
Women entrepreneur in India are growing in numbers, with many taking paths to business segments which continue to be dominated by men.
New Delhi: Women entrepreneur in India are growing in numbers, with many taking paths to business segments which continue to be dominated by men. Such is the story of 33-years-old Khyati Dhodia from Mumbai, whois the founder and creator of The Black Canvas, a Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) brand manufacturing and selling handmade leather products.
A freelance photographer turned to leather products designer, Khyati spoke on her entrepreneurial journey with The Hans India. Her tryst with designing leather began in 2012 when she first tried her hand at making handmade diaries for her friends.
"I started the business when the term D2C was not even coined. To be frank, when I started, I didn't plan to launch a business. I come from a photography background but I've always been into crafting things. So along with the photography, I was making things on the side for personal satisfaction and a few friends requested things for themselves, which is when I got into crafting leather products and later took off as a business," Khyati told Hans India.
She registered the ecommerce business in 2016, and has been operating from a small studio in Mumbai ever since. Her company, The Black Canvas, sells handmade leather journals, along with other allied products such as leather-inspired laptop sleeve, jewellery, leather bookmarks and other stationery items. She says that much preparation and understanding had to be inculcated to turn her passion from hobby to a viable business model. Khyati said that although she has lived near leather industry all her life, she remained unfamiliar with the product for a long time as she belongs to a Jain community family.
"We have never used leather, never really understood the material. So, I literally had to learn everything from the scratch. One thing that helped me is the leather industry in Dharavi which is close to my house," Khyati narrated her journey of understanding and familiarising with leather.
She explained that going to the leather market and talking to people helped her gain some knowledge on the raw material, along with research on the internet. She began working on leather by offering customised handmade articles and then gradually set her footprint in making journals for retail clients and corporate entities.
"TBC is still largely a one-person business. I have a few employees but I still have to manage different aspects to it like social media, marketing, designing, raw material procurement, among other major roles," Khyati said.
With a bachelor's degree in Mass Media, Khyati has majored in advertising, and as per her company's social media presence, has a strong online backing from users on Facebook and Instagram with over 6000 followers on the latter.
On receiving encouragement and support from her family, Khyati says that she received immense guidance and inspiration from her father, who was an engineer, specialising in making heavy machineries. This in turn inspired her to be creative with her craft and take the commercial path with her creative skills. She added that both her mother and father were supportive with her personal and professional choices.
As of 2022, Khyati says that her business has grown manifolds, thanks to surge in people opting for online shopping. After facing hiccups in the initial months, the TBC founder says that customers always re-returned to her business and kept placing orders even when swift delivery was shut down due to rise in Covid cases in Maharashtra.
"Customers were happy to wait till I resumed operations. I think over the period I've built a customer base who are happy with my products and keep coming back to purchase more. Since offline stores and retail markets are shut, it has given a boost to online D2C segment," she said.
She said that her business has taken a 100 percent leap from 2019. Her corporate cliental list includes Stranger and Sons, along with auto brands such as Lamborghini, Audi and Volkswagen. The young entrepreneur has also brought in laser engraving technology to make products stand out in the market.
One of the very few female designers in the leather industry, Khyati says that almost every industry in India is dominated by male and with that comes the initial hesitancy to interact with people.
"Leather is a very male dominated industry. Even though I do take a walk down Dharavi, they do have a (sceptic) first impression when a woman comes by. But once you start interacting with them, they do understand your work and give the respect. In that sense, it has not been very bad once you get past the initial hesitancy," she said.
On the sustainability aspect, Khyati explained that her company is constantly making efforts to minimise plastic dependency and that she will not work with rexine leather as it is not environmentally friendly.