Harkaari sells high-end pillows, throws and poofs that are handcrafted in India. Kerratdeep Kaur, CEO, spoke with Home Accents Today about what makes her company unique in the U.S. market and how Harkaari is improving the lives of women in India.
HAT:I was thrilled to stumble across Harkaari in Atlanta. Can you tell me a bit about your company and the mission behind it?
Kerratdeep: Harkaari was born out of a love for creation. Creation not only in terms of products but of skills, employment and the Creator (Almighty).
Almost 30 years ago when my mother entered the manufacturing industry in India, she did so only to create employment and use her knowledge of the arts to create beautiful products.
We started with wooden wall décor items and ventured into textiles a decade later. Another decade passed when we realized that we needed to create something special for the U.S. market. Hence, Harkaari was born.
It is a brand catering to the needs of millennials who are going into home ownership while bridging the gap in the market for affordable high-quality home décor products in North and South America. We want everyone to know that you don’t have to break your back trying to afford a nice decorative pillow or throw blanket to make your home cuter.
The meaning of Harkaari is “every kind of workman blessed by God.”
HAT: Currently Harkaari is manufacturing pillows, throws and poufs. Tell me a bit about how your company stands out amongst competitors?
Kerratdeep: Firstly, we are very competitive in our pricing since we have our own family-owned manufacturing unit out of India. My mother handles the business in India whereas I handle the U.S. office and operations. So, the pricing we provide our consumers is better than most others in the industry.
Secondly, we want to work with everyone whether it is a small mom-and-pop store to an interior designer to a big box retailer without compromising on our ethics. We would not sell the same items to the discounters that we sell to mom and pops and vice versa. Our years of experience have taught us how to work with each segment properly as we want everyone to make money!
We are also trying to cater to the socially responsible consumer as we run our own skill development and capacity building center out of Punjab, India. We train women from the rural areas who have no [experience] in various techniques that we use in the export industry. After providing them with rigorous training, we give them employment opportunities.
As you may or may not be aware, handicrafts in India are based on cottage industry. There are several middle men who don’t pay the end artisans fairly or have extremely poor working environments. We have tried to bypass all this and create a safe set-up for women to come, learn and work.
Our religion, Sikhism, teaches us to give back 10% of our earnings in Sewa (the concept of selfless service that is performed without any expectation of result or award), hence this institute is my family’s way of giving back. Even though the institute is set up as a charity, we still haven’t taken any outside funds and our factory supports it financially.
HAT: I love that you work with your mom. Tell me a bit about your dynamic and both of your roles?
Keeratdeep: In short, my mother primarily handles the India business (factory and manufacturing) and I handle the U.S. sales and operations. She is the creative head of the company and designs most of our products. The way she translates her experience and techniques into a real product that is the need of the customer is a wonder to watch.
I focus more on the marketing strategy within North and South America as well as manage the warehouse out of Bay Shore, N.Y. Deciding price points, clients to work with, management of personnel here in the U.S. is more my forte. My mom handles more of the the European and Middle East market.
I will be honest, back in 2017 when I started working with my mom, I questioned the decision every day. We both had very different visions and techniques of working, but slowly over time, we came to appreciate our differences and admire the experiences that led us both to this moment in time. She appreciates my digital know-how and the hands-on experience of how to work in the U.S. with mom and pops, designers and e-com. I appreciate her years of knowledge of being in the industry and more than anything, her people skills! Our staff in India has been with us for over 20 years; this is the one of the many skills I wish to imbibe from her — how to create a loyal workforce.
With me being in N.Y. and her in Delhi, our daily Facetime calls mostly revolve around work as she is a workaholic, and of course we clash on a daily basis, but I would truly not have it any other way. You learn a lot from working with your parents and patience is the biggest lesson that takes me ahead in life.
HAT: What is next for Harkaari? Any big plans to expand your offering categories?
Kerratdeep: Yes! We have a new range of table linens that will be shown in Vegas and NY NOW as well as on our website at the end of next month. Another product we are launching mid-February are pet beds, and when I tell you that you haven’t seen anything like these beds, I mean it! Your pet will be over the moon!
The launch that I have been particularly excited about is our scented purse pillow range. We have developed a range of pillows for your purses/pocketbooks and are taking pre-orders on those currently. They aim to maintain the shape of your bag as well as keep it smelling fresh for long! No more stuffing with random pieces of paper.
Towards the fall season we will be showcasing wooden mirrors and wall panels, both fabric and wooden. That is all in the plan for this year and everything is going to be super affordable!
We are also starting to work with female designers who have created cute digitals and we can translate them into home décor. An example is our collaboration with designer Jasleen Kaur who has a very quirky touch that has pillows asking us to Manifest that sh*t or an evil eye with colorful touches.
HAT: Can you elaborate on the traditional skills that Harkaari is known for, such as the smocking technique?
Kerratdeep: Currently, Harkaari is known for its velvet products with hand-beading. We use an array of techniques to achieve different looks. There is beadwork and hand-embroidery, computer embroidery, tufting and smocking, to name a few. Smocking and tufting are the techniques we taught to our girls working in Punjab and try to give that production to them.
India is also known for its bead and hand-work which is also a huge part of our range and why we are loved by our customers. Our most popular design, Royal Paisley, is available in several colors and is just a 12×20 size piece but takes 12 hours to make.
Some customers who are looking for something a little more affordable may love our foiled pillows and throw blankets which give off a beautiful regal metallic look.
Since we have customers from all different parts of North & South America, we combined our tufting and beadwork to create a nautical range that has been loved by all beach lovers.