Who wouldn’t mind shining lacquer ware welcoming people to one’s home? Or what about flaunting that exquisitely unique Vietnamese tableware dredged up from the back alleys and local markets of the country?
Well, this is the thought behind Ananya Jhalani’s recently launched business Dale + Co. As offbeat as its name, the products offered by them are functional pieces of supreme artistry exuding uniqueness and novelty, scoured and curated especially for you.
The soul of the business lies in collecting global handicrafts to bring worldwide crafstmanship to India.
Dale + Co. wants to make available indigenous handcrafted products from various countries to each one of you while sitting at home, without causing a dent in your pockets.
With a taste for the desi Nimboo-paani and dreams of skydiving one day, Ananya opens up about herself and her brainchild Dale + Co. to TYS.
Q. Tell us a little more about yourself! What can we find you doing in your free time?
A cup of masala- chai in my hands with my eyes glued to the laptop screen following the movements of the protagonist of whatever show I’m watching is my ideal state. But my days are not so free now. Life has taken a complete turn-around to what it used to be a year ago. From slogging at a 9-5 job to now having 16 hours working days where things don’t stop at all, I have become a jack-of-all-trades.
I was in a very different field before I diverged to running a business. I was a consultant at a firm, but even then I wanted to do something of my own, something that was unique yet encompassed the ‘me’ element. So, at long last I decided to quit my job and take a family vacation to Vietnam to explore my options for the future.
Currently my days are super busy. I have to find suppliers to import my goods, get them cleared, stocked and packaged, put them up on online stores for sale and showcase them at exhibitions. It has been a whirlwind of one-and-a-half months since I’ve launched the brand, but I love every bit of it.
Q. How did Dale + Co. come into being? Was it a planned endeavour?
To be honest, there was no plan but I was always keen on international business. My family is in this line of work so I knew that I wanted to do something related to this. Dale + Co. is the perfect venture for me as it involves having to do something creative, working internationally and yet run the business end of things.
The idea of Dale + Co. took birth while I was vacationing in Vietnam.
I came across such fabulous handcrafted items that a thought took root in my mind since then. I realised that things like these would do really well in India and many people didn’t have access to such stuff, stuff that has utility along with being aesthetically appealing. That was pretty much how it all started.
Q. We’re very keen to know how you came up with the name Dale + Co. for your business.
The name is actually a very interesting story. It’s been inspired by my two dogs, Dale and Cooper. Dale was a Welsh Springer Spaniel, who passed away last year, and Cooper is a Golden Retriever. So the Co. in Dale + Co. is actually a pun on Cooper’s name.
I think my mom, sister and I are quite a formidable team put together. When we would go on any family vacations, we would always pick out things from very obscure places. Be it whatever part of the world, we would come back loaded with glistening items and accessories that would be original to the place there. I think that has definitely played a major part in how I view things and has been the inspiration behind Dale + Co.
Q. Has the Wharton Grad experience somehow helped you in setting up and running the business?
I think it definitely did. I did a major in Marketing and Management at Wharton which has helped me in analysing consumer behaviour and taught me how to target the niche set of audience for my products. I also took a retail class while there which has certainly helped me a lot in managing the business. My degree has undoubtedly helped me understand the business side of things better but there are certain life lessons one always learns in school outside the curriculum. More than anything else, what I acquired while living on my own was the skill of time management and being independent which are important milestones in the journey of any person.
Q. Is there any particular reason behind your focus on Vietnamese products?
The reason why I started from Vietnam is because I’d gone there during a time when I needed to put my life into perspective. But more importantly, it is because I really liked the wares that I came across there. The Vietnamese are a talented bunch of people and all the items in my collection are hand- crafted.
Q. Tell us a bit more about your Vietnamese collection.
I have focused on lacquer ware from Vietnam. The entire collection is divided into three categories, each named after the three largest cities in Vietnam: Hanoi, Saigon (another name for Ho Chi Minh city) and Halong. Each category is based on the type of work and craft that has gone into making it. The Hanoi collection comprises of products that have the silver leaf inlaid work in them and that signature the double happiness symbol, which is an Oriental symbol for good luck and charm. The Saigon collection consists of everything that is hand-painted and the Halong collection features the traditional Vietnamese craft of crackled eggshell inlaying along with items made of bamboo.
Q. Dale + Co. involves a lot of travelling. What are the places you wish to discover in the future?
Ah, it is a list that I’ve given some thought to. South Africa, Philippines and Cambodia. I think these are some of the destinations I’ll be going to and sourcing my items from. Visiting Alaska has been on my bucket list for a long time, but it’s still a far cry at the moment!
For my entire collection, whenever I ordered something, I always kept in mind that ‘I am the consumer’. For me it is imperative that the items are, firstly, usable, and secondly have an innate aesthetic appeal. If you see, when I was doing the photo shoot for my website, I made sure that I showcased the setting of each of these products. If there is a box, then one can use it for x, y, z purposes and in x, y, z ways. For me, that is what home accents comprise, the functionality and the aesthetic. They make a space look grander, and add a unique touch to drab interiors.
Individualism for me is of prime importance. There are hundreds of people doing the same thing but very few doing a different thing. To set oneself apart and demarcate one’s territory, individual expression is the key. This is the inspiration behind Dale + Co.
Q. Are you working on any new projects at the moment? What kind of work will we be seeing in the future?
Currently, I am focusing on my Vietnamese collection. But next year I may have one or two interesting countries in the pipeline. The products that I source might not necessarily be tableware, as is the case with this collection. I’ll look at slightly different things in my next project but they’ll all be related to utility, aesthetic and home accents.
Don’t forget to treat yourself to these Vietnamese beauties at Daleandco.