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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

75 Y.O. Grannypreneur Janaki On How She Opened The Doors Of ‘Amma Ki Almaari’ For The World

  • IWB Post
  •  October 9, 2018

Her love for embroidery surfaced quite early in her childhood, but it wasn’t until three years ago, when, at the age of 73, she stepped into the world of entrepreneurship, completely oblivious to what it had in store for her knitted and embroidered products.

For the longest time, she gifted her close-to-heart, knitted articles to family and friends. But after her husband’s demise, with the advise and constant support of her daughter, she took the plunge and opened the doors of her vintage almaari for the world.

Chatty Janaki is fondly known as Janaki amma, which speaks of her native connect with Andhra Pradesh. Mother to six children, it was Chatty Girija, amma‘s youngest daughter, who helped her find the audience and participate in exhibitions and flea markets, in Mumbai. An advertising professional, Girija runs a digital advertising agency herself, and a year ago, she and her partner, helped amma launch her own website ‘Amma Ki Almaari’.

“I find happiness in what I do, and that is what success means for me. At 73, I decided to embark on a journey that helped me find my calling, and now through the platform of ‘amma ki almaari’, I am determined to give fellow ammas’ talents its due respect.” Spoke the enthusiastic grannypreneur.

Come let’s get a quick look of her much talked about almaari:

Amma Ki Almaari

Let’s begin with your first tryst with knitting and embroidery. Tell me about how it all began.

In school, we used to have classes of knitting, embroidery, and crochet, so my interest developed early on. I dropped after class X but my mother and older sisters used to a lot of crochet work and try different forms of knitting, and I would join them. I even did a government-recognized course and attended several workshops, but that was all before marriage.

And did you continue knitting after marriage?

Not really, but I kept it in habit. I used to take out time to do some embroidery now and then. I knit table runners, my daughters’ frocks, and sweaters for all my children, which remain safe in my cupboard until today. My grandkids often tease me for keeping my knitting essentials and finished articles, safe in my glass cupboard. And that pretty much sums up the story behind the coinage of the name, ‘amma ki almaari’.

Ah, I see. We’ll talk more about it, but tell me, is there any special pattern or embroidery that you hold closest?

I like flower patterns, and amongst all the knitting forms, I enjoy doing crochet work the most. I loved making small items and gifted them to family and friends for the longest time.

Amma Ki Almaari 

I, too, love flower designs! So if I peep into your cupboard, will I find some of your self-created articles? 

Yes, you sure will. I have this giant flower-embroidered bag that I carry whenever I have to go for my Mahila Mandal meetings. And I even use many of my knitted table runners and mats during functions and festivals.

That’s nice. So let’s walk towards the ‘Amma Ki Almaari’ now. How did it shape into its current form?

After my husband passed away, I did not want to lead an idle life, so I got back knitting in my daily routine. As I shared with you, I always maintained a stock of my knitted and embroidered items and gifted to family and friends throughout my life, but this time my daughter, Girija, suggested I do things differently. An advertising professional, she runs a digital marketing agency, ‘Version Next Digital’, and it was her idea that we find an audience for my products beyond the family. And so we began to participate in exhibitions and flea markets, and also host exhibitions at homes in societies.

Amma Ki Almaari

And how did its virtual existence come into functioning? Is amma tech-savvy, too?

Ha-ha. With time my knitted products began to gain popularity, and that’s when Girija thought of taking the next big step. She and her business partner, Uday Salvi, decided to create the website ‘Amma ki Almaari’.

I am not that good dealing with technology, so again it is Girijia that helps me with it. Uday and she manage the brand and marketing. Things are still in the early stage, but we are aiming to add more products and expand the business.

What new did this chapter of life help you discover about your daughter? Is she a part of your design brainstorming sessions as well? 

It is a new and different experience for the both of us, but I am glad that things are phasing out well. I find myself in a happy and content state today, and Girija has a big role to play in that. And yes, not only with regard to the business perspective, she even helps me explore design ideas to be able to cater the different audiences.

On that note, Janaki amma, what word of advice do you have for the women reading about your life story?

I don’t have any such advice to give, but all I’d say is that regardless of age, women can and should think about giving wings to their dreams. Find what you seek interest in, or take up an art form that you’ve long been interested in, and just do it. I see women of my age, who now have daughters-in-law at home, taking complete retirement from the kitchen and other household work, and I don’t understand why. It doesn’t matter if you’re 60 or 75, if your body supports you, please be active and never shut your doors for new ideas and experimenting.

Amma Ki Almaari

Speaking of exploring new terrains, I am getting reminded of the beautiful Instagram posts displaying your knit articles. Tell me a little more about the range of products you are currently marketing? 

I have always liked experimenting with my knitting patterns and articles, and as I met more people, I realized that there was a vast opportunity to dive into. Currently, we have a range of products like handmade jewelry, office accessories, and also, embroidered bags for college going girls. And among utility articles, there are gadget garments, table runners, cushion covers, wood art, and variety of customized creations.

Amma ki Almaari exclusive goodie bag gifting for individuals and corporates. Place your festive order today. Call 9820570597. www.ammakialmaari.com. #ammakialmaari #ammasart #silverplated #handcrafted #lifestyle #premiumgifting #homedecor

14 Likes, 1 Comments – Amma ki Almaari (@ammakialmaari) on Instagram: “Amma ki Almaari exclusive goodie bag gifting for individuals and corporates. Place your festive…”

Wow! And I’m curious to know about your family’s participation; are others as involved as Girija?

I have six daughters, two sons, and twelve grandkids, and though they are all settled in different countries and cities, but we are a close-knit family. And if Girija helped me by being here in Mumbai itself, all others have contributed in some or the other way possible, be it with ideas, or expanding the customer base. Last year, my grandson was visiting me from Chicago, and intrigued by the designs, he took back some bags and bracelets for his friends. They’re all studying or working, but it gives me immense joy to see them appreciate and become a part of their amma’s endeavor. 

Amma Ki Almaari

So good to know. And I read somewhere that along with knititng, you are also fond of travelling? 

Yes, I love to travel. Every year at least once I visit my native place in Andhra Pradesh, either for some festival, or to visit one of my daughters who resides in the same state. I recently went to Thailand with my women’s group and had a great time. And I have travelled to USA almost five times now, to meet my son and his family. In my last trip there, my son who helped me create the design of toran (door hanging) with maple leaf pattern, the idea of which originated from the Canadian flag that has maple leaves on it.

So cool! If I ask you to think about the craziest thing you’ve done in life, what would it be?

This design and business venture that I am working on since the last three years, I’d say. Never had I thought I would do something like this. With absolutely no exposure or knowledge of the entrepreneurial world, I took a step ahead, and I really thank my daughter to have brought up my talent. I experience the feeling of innate happiness every single time someone appreciates and acknowledges my work and efforts. And if you ask me the craziest thing that I’ve knitted, it would be the crochet blanket that took me two and a half years to complete. It was amazing fun, I gathered from her tone.

Amma Ki Almaari

Ha-ha. And other than knitting, what else are you currently involved in?

I watch a lot of cookery shows on TV, and also experiment different recipes. I like to think of it as another form of art. Whether it is knitting, cooking or any xyz thing you have interest in, the most important thing is to be confident about it and to pursue it with the same attitude. And I tell the same to everyone, especially to two-three of my closest friends, with whom I often share and discuss my ideas and views.

Lastly, what are the parameters of ‘success’ for amma?

I find happiness in what I do, and that is what success means for me, her voiced firmed. At 73, I decided to embark on a journey that helped me find my calling, and now through the platform of amma ki almaari I am determined to give fellow ammas’ talents its due respect. I take pride in being an amma and to be known as the same, but I did not want it to become a label that would help me encash my art and skill. I don’t want my products to be perceived as “amma’s art” alone, my design should speak for its own.

Janaki amma’s daughter, Girija’s venture, The Version Next Digital (VND) has already started reaching out to ‘ammas’ from different states and walks of life. Regardless of their age, background and art form, they invite them to create their own ‘almaaris’ alongside Janaki amma’s, and join the e-commerce venture to market their created products.

For more, visit their websiteFacebook and Instagram.

 

First published on Jan 5, 2018.

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