Manoj K Sharma, Founder of Ashnam Retail, suppliers of home décor products

Manojkumar Sharma-Founder Director-Ashnam

Interview with Manoj K Sharma, Founder of Ashnam Retail, suppliers of home décor products

Manoj K Sharma is the visionary Founder of Ashnam Retail, a renowned supplier of home décor products.

With his keen eye for aesthetics and passion for transforming living spaces, Sharma has built Ashnam Retail into a trusted brand in the industry.

Sharma’s journey in the home décor business began with a deep appreciation for art and design. He recognized the impact that well-curated décor can have on the overall ambiance and mood of a home.

Motivated by this realization, he set out to establish Ashnam Retail as a platform that offers a wide range of high-quality, innovative, and stylish home décor products.

One of the distinguishing factors of Ashnam Retail is its commitment to sourcing products from artisans and manufacturers who share a similar passion for creativity and excellence.

Sharma personally ensures that the suppliers adhere to rigorous quality standards, allowing customers to trust in the durability and longevity of their purchases.

As a socially responsible entrepreneur, Sharma also ensures that Ashnam Retail operates in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The company actively seeks eco-friendly materials and production methods, reducing its carbon footprint and promoting a greener approach to home decoration.

Sharma’s visionary leadership and dedication to excellence have propelled Ashnam Retail to new heights, making it a go-to destination for homeowners, interior designers, and home décor enthusiasts alike.

With his unwavering commitment to quality, innovation, and customer satisfaction, Manoj K Sharma continues to shape the future of the home décor industry through Ashnam Retail.

Tell us a little about yourself

Manoj K Sharma: I grew up in Mumbai and have done my graduation in Bcom. After graduation, I worked with various companies like Kotak Group, etc.

After working for a couple of years, I dabbled in financial solutions for some years until I saw potential in the home décor industry in 2012 and started with Ashnam.

Please tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey.

Manoj K Sharma: In the initial stages of my entrepreneurial journey with Ashnam, I experienced a series of ups and downs. I founded the venture in 2012 and initially operated as a trading company, sourcing gift articles and figurines from a manufacturer in Vasai.

We supplied these products to well-known stores and chain outlets across India. Some of our earliest clients included Archies, Waman Hari Pethe Sons, and the renowned Dagdusheth Halwai Trust.

We created a replica of the Dagdusheth Halwai Ganesha figurine and served clients like PNG Jewellers. We worked on prestigious projects such as refinishing artifacts for Vijaypat Singhania’s private jet.

However, we had to close the business due to disputes with our manufacturing partner. I reassessed my approach and borrowed 5 lakh rupees from my close friend, who later became my wife, to set up an 800 square feet manufacturing facility in Vasai.

In 2017, I married Mona, who then became a co-founder of the business. By 2019, our team had grown to 50 members, and we invested 50 lakh rupees to acquire a 7000 square feet space in Vasai to expand our operations.

Unfortunately, the pandemic posed significant challenges, disrupting our business and causing our workers to return to their native villages in 2020.

In April 2021, I tragically lost my wife to COVID-19. This devastating event left me devastated, and there was a point where I considered shutting down the business.

However, I realized I needed to continue and revive Ashnam as it was my project and my wife’s. I engaged with creditors, suppliers, and the entire team, rallying their support.

Within a remarkably short span of 2 years, we experienced tremendous growth, expanding our team to over 200 people.

In the fiscal year 2023, we achieved a revenue of around seven crore rupees. Today we operate four manufacturing units in Vasai, covering more than 40,000 square feet.

What service(s) or product(s) do you offer at Ashnam Retail?

Manoj K Sharma: Ashnam offers various figurines, home décor products, wall paintings, and gold-leafing items. We are a renowned name in the manufacturing of handcrafted polyresin artifacts.

Our design bank has over 260 unique products and over 2,700 SKUs ranging from INR 599 to INR 1 lakh. The higher end represents signature products of larger dimensions and enhanced appeal.

What is unique about your label brand?

Manoj K Sharma: Our biggest USP is our well-equipped team and in-house resources. We operate in a highly unorganized sector; even the biggest rival brand is unlikely to have a team of over 30 people.

However, I have set Ashnam apart by investing heavily in human resources. We manage the end-to-end manufacturing lifecycle from sketches to the final product in-house.

Ashnam has a team of eight designers comprising four professionals and four trained individuals who create appealing designs from scratch.

What made you choose this type of business?

Manoj K Sharma: Handcrafted décor is a perennial and mas market segment, but highly unorganized. I saw great potential to impact the industry and achieve sustained growth. This vision drew me toward setting up Ashnam.

What was your mission at the outset?

Manoj K Sharma: My mission was to create a differentiating brand in the unorganized sector and bring things like employee welfare, fair wages, and women empowerment to the fore.

Unlike the market average of INR 340 to 360 per day wages to workers, we pay them INR 430 to 450 per day. Further, we have introduced the concept of fixed Sunday offs and paid annual leave of 21 days, which is unheard of in our segment. We also highly support female employees; they comprise about 60% to 65% of our workforce.

How many employees are there in your organization?

Manoj K Sharma: Ashnam started with a handful of employees, but the team has grown to almost 200 in the last two years.

What are your company’s goals?

Manoj K Sharma: Our goals are to expand our presence in offline retail spaces actively. We do white labeling for bands like Metro Cash and Carry, Hometown, At Home, Shoppers Stop, Home Centre, Archies, and Royal Oak, to name a few.

We are also negotiating with players like Archies, Royal Oak, Pepperfry, and others to display products under our brand name.

Alongside white labeling, we also plan to establish ourselves as a brand in the market. The idea is to collaborate with someone who can handle the distribution and dispatches, and we will solely focus on manufacturing.

We also plan to become a D2C brand through e-commerce platforms like Myntra, Amazon, Pepperfry, Nykaa, and Flipkart. The goal is to be listed on the BSE index within three years.

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

Manoj K Sharma: I firmly believe that failures are an essential part of the entrepreneurial journey. I am very thankful for the failures; each time I failed, it taught me a new lesson.

I have learned to be more resilient, patient, consistent, and disciplined. Failure has made me a better person, and I urge all budding entrepreneurs not to be afraid to fail.

What was the inspiration behind turning into an entrepreneur?

Manoj K Sharma: I started my career in the finance industry and, in a couple of years, realized I wasn’t cut out for the same. I initially tried financial services but soon realized I was seeking a challenge and loved challenges.

Key things to consider before starting a startup?

Manoj K Sharma: Starting a business is a challenging endeavor that presents unique difficulties daily. It can also be isolating at times.

During those moments, it’s important to remember that there won’t be anyone else to fix things for you – you must rely on yourself to find the way forward.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

Manoj K Sharma: In my journey as an entrepreneur, I have made many mistakes. Hard for me to point at any one mistake. But my mistakes are my learning guide. Each mistake has helped me evolve and come out stronger.

Your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs

Manoj K Sharma: The most important thing for any entrepreneur is to focus on their goals and solve the market need. They must strive to become the best in the solution they are offering and not be swayed by numbers alone.

While numbers and growth are essential for a startup, it is also important to be consistent and change with the dynamic market and customer needs.

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