Interview: Oendrilla Vadithela, a mompreneur and Co-Founder of Vai Ra

Oendrilla Vadithela - Co-Founder of Vai Ra

An interview with Oendrilla Vadithela, a mompreneur and Co-Founder of Vai Ra

Meet Oendrilla Vadithela, a dynamic mompreneur and Co-Founder of Vai Ra, a brand dedicated to sustainability and empowerment. With a passion for eco-friendly fashion, Oendrilla brings creativity and purpose to her entrepreneurial journey, redefining the landscape of conscious consumerism.

Can you share with us the inspiration behind founding Vai Ra, and what motivated you to enter the luxury jewelry market?

Oendrilla Vadithela: I was a brand manager for 10 years, developing marketing strategies for high fashion and luxury brands like Tiffany, L’Oréal, and Alex and Ani. Through this role, I developed friendships with colleagues based in the States and developed a love for solitaire jewelry.

However, I noticed that Indian jewelry brands did not focus on solitaire pieces. The more I noticed my colleagues wearing large, chunky diamonds during Google Meets, the more I craved them.

I visited several big-box retail shops, only to find that these diamonds were expensive. I felt it was impractical for me to make such an investment, preferring to purchase something with a higher return, like a car. So, I shelved the idea.

In 2020, my sister was getting married. We went shopping for the perfect ring on a budget of 30000/-. She managed to get a tiny diamond, which my mother was proud of, believing that its value would increase over time.

Six months later, her engagement ended. When she returned the ring to the shop, she discovered that the diamonds were not as valuable as advertised. She only received the cost of the gold and half the price of the diamond.

This revelation led me to research diamonds further. I found that not only are diamonds a poor investment, but they also harm the environment. Diamond mining can cause earth shifts, water pollution, wildlife impacts, and CO2 emissions. It can even involve child labor and lead to accidents inside the mines.

After COVID, I had a different outlook on life. I was focused on finding solutions to serious problems, and this issue seemed worth exploring. I discovered that in the States, Europe, and Australia, two alternatives to diamonds are ten times cheaper and are very sustainable alternatives: lab diamonds and moissanite. This is how Vai Ra was born.

Sustainability and social responsibility are key focuses for Vai Ra. Could you elaborate on the specific initiatives or practices the brand has implemented to promote sustainability and social responsibility within the luxury jewelry industry?

Oendrilla Vadithela: We operate on a made-to-order model, meaning our products are only produced when there is demand. This approach reduces waste, an issue inherent in the jewelry-making process, even with the right resources. Fast fashion in jewelry leads to substantial CO2 emissions; our model helps prevent this.

We exclusively use lab-grown gemstones such as lab diamonds (CVD and HPHT), moissanite, lab emeralds, lab rubies, and lab sapphires. The energy usage and carbon emissions involved in producing these gems are a thousand times less than their natural counterparts.

We promote a circular economy. Both lab diamonds and moissanites are on a Mohs scale of 10 and 9.25, respectively, meaning they can be reused repeatedly. Gold can also be reused. We offer customers the option to recycle their old gold and diamonds for use in new products. This approach reduces the use of natural resources and decreases annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Although we are a small business, imagine the impact if this approach were taken on a larger scale in India, a treasure trove of resources. Reportedly, in 2023, Indian households held an astonishing 21,000 tonnes of gold. If recirculated, this could significantly boost India’s currency.

Finally, we plant a tree for every order we receive. We believe it’s our responsibility to reduce greenhouse emissions and restore balance to the environment, helping to decrease global warming. While we recognize that we are a small company with a currently limited impact, we hope that our initiative will lead to substantial improvement in the future.

As a mompreneur, how do you balance your responsibilities as a mother with your role as a co-founder of a leading luxury jewelry brand? What advice do you have for other mothers aspiring to start their own businesses?

Oendrilla Vadithela: Caring for a child while working away from home, whether self-employed or working for a company, can be challenging. I’ve experienced both.

When I was employed at an agency, working 12-15 hours a day, my child often felt anxious because she wanted to spend time with me. As I was constantly stressed about project deadlines and escalations, this stress negatively impacted my relationship with my child, causing frequent mood swings. I knew I had to make a change.

As an entrepreneur, my life has been transformed. I control my schedule and deadlines, bringing much-needed flexibility that has made my home life easier. It’s allowed me to engage more with my child, potentially making me a better mother.

I can now cook for my family, help my daughter with her homework, assist with her class schedules, and still manage my tasks.

I recently watched a Shark Tank episode where a couple, both entrepreneurs, reported a dip in their annual growth in 2022-2023 because they had a baby. This is a common issue for many “mompreneurs,”  especially if their children are babies or toddlers. My advice to them is to seek as much help as possible.

You need someone to look after your child when you’re unavailable. Try to complete as much work as possible when your child is asleep. Most importantly, mothers need to stay active and healthy. Eat well and exercise daily to cope with the pressures.

Vai Ra is known for its unique and intricate designs. What inspires the creative direction of the brand, and how do you ensure that each piece reflects the brand’s identity and values?

Oendrilla Vadithela: Our creative ideas begin and end with the customer. We design what the customer likes. When we started Vai Ra, we had only 100 modern solitaire designs that we thought customers might appreciate. We then introduced flexibility for customers to alter the designs to their liking, which opened up a world of possibilities.

Many of our customers are working professionals or mothers. For example, a mother desired a prongless ring to prevent poking her newborn baby. Another wished for a necklace featuring her family members’ birthstones. We also served a surgeon who required a ring compatible with surgical gloves, so we crafted a low-profile setting for her. An artist wanted a unique tension setting to embody her creativity.

Essentially, we design jewelry for everyday wear, tailored to each individual’s needs. Every piece reflects their dreams and personalities.

In what ways does Vai Ra engage with and support local communities or artisans? Can you share any impactful collaborations or partnerships that the brand has undertaken to promote social empowerment?

Oendrilla Vadithela: Our business focuses on craftsmanship and durability, supported by our skilled artisans. To counter the industry trend of high production costs, we use advanced technology in jewelry creation and train our artisans accordingly. This keeps costs reasonable and ensures fair payment for our workers. We never discount production costs to protect their earnings.

We procure packaging from local businesses, supporting the local economy. Additionally, we partnered with Sankalptaru to plant a tree for every order placed.

The luxury jewelry market can be competitive and ever-changing. How does Vai Ra stay innovative and relevant in such a dynamic industry landscape?

Oendrilla Vadithela: In the ever-evolving world of business, a commitment to innovation and a deep understanding of market mentality are of paramount importance. This principle of continuous innovation and customer-centricity has been at the core of our operations since our inception.

When we initially embarked on our journey, our focus was solely on moissanite. Nevertheless, as we continued to engage with our customers and listen to their inquiries, we observed an increasing demand for lab diamonds. Acknowledging this shift in customer preference, we expanded our product line to include lab diamonds in 2023.

Furthermore, we recognized that our clientele sought a diverse array of options in their selections. In response to this, we saw an opportunity to differentiate our offerings and further cater to our customers’ unique tastes and preferences. Consequently, we made the strategic decision to include colored gemstones in our portfolio.

This decision was driven by our understanding that variety in color adds a personal touch to our products, allowing our customers to express their individuality. We believe in staying alert and responsive to our customers’ evolving preferences, as this allows us to tailor our offerings to meet their needs better.

Our goal is to continue to innovate and adapt in line with market trends and customer demands, ensuring we remain a trusted choice for our customers.

What challenges have you encountered as a co-founder of Vai Ra, and how have you overcome them? Are there any lessons learned that you would like to share with other entrepreneurs?

Oendrilla Vadithela: I’ve made numerous mistakes, ranging from selecting the right manufacturers to being overly eager about increasing sales, and even pressuring customers to seal deals. However, I’ve learned that such tactics often push customers away. It’s crucial to learn from your mistakes. Always strive to broaden your knowledge by reading as much as possible.

Competition is a given. Instead of fretting over every move of your competitors, focus your energy on creating value for your customers. Show up every day, give your best, and try to capture as much of the market as possible. Aim to differentiate your offerings and build credibility for your brand, but always remember that the customer is paramount.

While building your brand, adopt agile practices to stay adaptable to changing times. This is easier said than done. Several companies have found themselves in denial and bankruptcy because they were oblivious to the ever-changing market. Nokia and Blockbuster serve as prime examples.

Looking ahead, what are Vai Ra’s future plans or goals in terms of expansion, product development, or furthering its commitment to sustainability and social responsibility?

Oendrilla Vadithela: In the future, our vision is to evolve into a scalable business that can adapt and grow according to market demands and trends. We believe in the tangible experience that our customers should have, the ability to touch and feel the product before making a purchasing decision.

Therefore, we aspire to expand our operations offline as well. We see our physical presence as a valuable addition to the online platform, bridging the gap between virtual and real-world shopping experiences.

Alongside this, we also understand the importance of customer service in shaping the consumer experience. Our aim is to provide robust customer service, ensuring that every interaction our customers have with us is smooth, efficient, and beneficial.

We want our customers to feel valued, and we aim to achieve this by offering prompt and effective solutions to their problems and queries.

Innovative, driven, and committed to making a difference, Oendrilla Vadithela exemplifies the spirit of entrepreneurship in today’s world. Through Vai Ra, she inspires change, proving that sustainability and style can coexist harmoniously.

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