'Biggest lesson we learnt in 2020 is to be self-sufficient and self-reliant': Meher Rohatgi, Co-Founder, Atelier Mon - The Daily Guardian
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‘Biggest lesson we learnt in 2020 is to be self-sufficient and self-reliant’: Meher Rohatgi, Co-Founder, Atelier Mon

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Meher Rohatgi
Meher Rohatgi

Meher Rohatgi, Co-Founder, Atelier Mon, recently sat with NewsX for an exclusive interview as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. She spoke to us about her brand, its focus, the growing demand for semi-precious stones jewellery in the country. The impact of Covid-19 on her business and the market was also addressed.

Speaking about the conceptualization and ideation of Atelier Mon, Meher said, “Back in 2008, when I launched the brand, there weren’t many people working with semi-precious gemstones, it was either precious which is a big part of the market or it was artificial jewellery or junk jewellery, as we call it. I was working with semi-precious stones because I felt that gap in the market and I felt that with more and more women in the workplace, they were looking for something fun to wear every day, which didn’t burn a hole in your pocket, but were natural stones and the quality was good and it gives variety. There are so many natural stones out there, it was a great journey and that was the genesis of Atelier Mon back in 2008”.

Talking about the immediate response then, and over the years, Meher said, “When I had just launched, it was a way of educating customers about semi-precious stones and that was very interesting. People didn’t understand because they only knew of sapphires and emeralds but here, we had amethysts, citrine, so what was fun was bringing this into the market and people discovering this whole new type of jewellery. Slowly, there was an appreciation that grew for it and people realized that there’s this whole world of jewellery out there, with variety and can spruce up an outfit. Then, people understood semi-precious stones, so the demand just blew up and that was fabulous too”.

Speaking about the availability of the products of Atelier Mon and where they can be found, Meher said, “My main market was the international market, especially America and we supplied to chains like Anthropologie, Harvey Nichols. We are in about 200 stores, worldwide and over the past two years, I’ve seen a lot of interest in the Indian market and my attention has really shifted to our domestic market. We’ve tied up unique stores like Ogaan, Ensom, Aza and they stock my label. We have our flagship store at Delhi International Airport, Terminal 3 and of course, online. Our website launched around 3 years ago and that has definitely been the main focus”.

Explaining the USP of Atelier Mon and how it’s different, Meher said, “What has been the most important thing for me is to create a brand which works with very high-quality stones, each and every stone is selected by me personally. I wanted to give high-quality stones which were cut beautifully, handcrafted by artisans but at the same time, I wanted to keep it affordable because I wanted this to be a women-led brand, for women and they should have options, not worry about the price, yet have very good quality. So, that is definitely our USP. We have designs for young adults, for working women, designs for 60+, so I like to design something for everyone and every occasion. So, I think that’s our USP”.

Relaying the impact of Covid on her business, how she mitigated that, Meher said, “When it hit in March last year, it was something we didn’t expect and thought it would be a month or two months of lockdown at most. We took it as a break to reassess things, but it went on till September-October. My biggest concern was the employees, I wanted to make sure they were safe. We obviously saw a slowdown in demand as well, everyone’s attention wasn’t on fashion and jewellery, that took a huge backseat. These were completely unprecedented times and around September-October, we saw the demand creeping back and for Christmas, we got back to our usual capacity and demand increased. So, we ended the year on a really good note. The main opportunity that arose last year was, it gave us the time to take a good, hard look at our business model to streamline things. It was a lovely pause, we took that opportunity and decided to be more efficient, look at our supply chains and this is something we never get time to do, so, it was really lovely. The biggest change was that everything went online and our jewellery is affordable and creates a statement. So, with this trend that we’ve got, just put on a nice pair of earrings and you’re ready for your meeting. We saw a good demand to grow for that”.

Referring to the government’s initiative of becoming aatmanirbhar and ‘go vocal for local’, Meher said, “I think the biggest lesson we learnt in 2020 is to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. With borders closing internationally, businesses that were dependent on international demand took a big hit, so that’s what happened to us initially. Luckily, for the past two years, my focus had already started to shift and I saw India as the biggest opportunity and I realized the importance of first, focusing on the domestic market and second, supporting other local brands. That is something we cannot drop, it’s a worldwide trend to shop locally and focusing on your own market while being completely self-reliant so that come what may, you are protected. That is something we’ll see continuing and will be my primary focus. 2020 definitely sealed and locked it in”.

Advising the budding and up-coming entrepreneurs, Meher said, “Always have a positive outlook, every challenge is actually an opportunity and try to find that opportunity. Invest in a really good team, because one of the most important things that I realized over this past year, was that everyone was just hands-on deck and how my team came through, everyone was willing to do everything and go above and beyond. Invest in the right people, relationships and look for those opportunities to better yourself and do a lot of research because nothing can ever take place of good research”.

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I WANTED TO BUILD A PLATFORM THAT COULD HELP OVER A MILLION PEOPLE: RANGANATH THOTA

Fueladream.com is the only crowdfunding platform in the world that funds social causes, products and creative ideas, said its founder and CEO Ranganath Thota during an exclusive interview with NewsX.

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Ranganath Thota is the Founder & CEO of FuelAdream and is doing social entrepreneurship via this platform. Thota in an exclusive interview with NewsX India A-list said “The objective is to try and build something that could help over a million people and the only way you could do it is through this concept called Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding means the act of several people coming together to fund something that they believe in.”

The switch from a media person to a social entrepreneur was because of a turning point that happened six years ago. Thota said, “I used to be in the corporate world for about 30 years where I worked across consumer products, media, worked in India, China, South-east Asia. About six years back, I realised I was making a lot of money and it was not as gratifying as I thought it should be. I realised that helping others was more satisfying and meaningful. I sold everything and decided to start this crowdfunding platform. I read about it for half an hour, discovered what it is and moved to Bangalore six years back.”

When asked what sets it apart from other competitors, he said, “What we discovered is that when people fund creative and innovative ideas, they are overwhelmed and passionate about it and that’s why they support it. Similarly when they fund something for a social need, then they have compassion. You have compassion at one end and passion at the other. But in many cases, people are the same. So, for example, we could fund the education for a child and also something as an electric bike.”

Speaking about one of his innovations, Thota said, “For example, there is a smart wallet with a chip in it that connects to the phone. If you lose your wallet you can call it with your phone and if you lose your phone you can call it with your wallet. You can use the phone camera and take pictures using the wallet. This project was funded four years ago. But the same person will help people with cataract surgery and education. So the same person can be driven by compassion and passion.”

He added, “The second thing is about giving behaviours. In social media, we talk about the food we eat, the holidays we take and the pictures we like but we never talk about giving. It is never understood. But there is a huge science in consumer behaviour related to giving which is very different. Crowdfunding also has a science and has four key elements that go into it. It includes storytelling, technology, consumer behaviour and most importantly, communication. Unless you know all this, you cannot do crowdfunding. The other thing we do is teach crowdfunding to a large number of people. They could be corporate people, students, etc.”

When asked about how he builds rapport, Thota said, “Nine out of ten people don’t know how to crowdfund even if their intention is good. They need a lot of hand rolling and that is where I and my team support them. The other important thing is raising funds. There are a lot of things that we need to understand about the projects that need fundraising. A lot of people come to us with great projects but what they don’t realise is that if they raise five times the amount that they are planning to, they actually cannot execute it. Unlike other platforms where you can start a campaign in an hour, with us it takes two days.”

Talking about the success rate he said, “typically it is about 70%. But if some projects don’t work well it is simply because the person doing it doesn’t manage it well, it is not like the story is not good.”

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ISRAEL MINISTER TO DISCUSS PEGASUS IN FRANCE VISIT

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JERUSALEM: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz will meet his French counterpart in Paris this week for talks that will include an “update” on the Pegasus spyware scandal, his office said Tuesday. A Ministry statement said Gantz will leave Wednesday for talks with French Defence Minister Florence Parly on topics including the crisis in Lebanon, nuclear negotiations with Iran and the Pegasus malware made by the Israeli firm NSO, which was allegedly used to target President Emmanuel Macron. Pegasus, which is able to switch on a phone’s camera or microphone and harvest its data, is at the centre of a storm after a list of about 50,000 potential surveillance targets was leaked to human rights groups. Amnesty International and French media nonprofit Forbidden Stories collaborated with a clutch of media companies, including the Washington Post, the Guardian and Le Monde, to analyse and publish the list. Macron had to change his phone and number. Israel’s defence ministry must approve NSO exports given the sensitive nature of the sector. Israel’s defence establishment has set up a committee to review the firm’s business, including the process through which export licenses are granted. Pegasus’s list of alleged targets includes at least 180 journalists, 600 politicians, 85 human rights activists and 65 business leaders. NSO insists its software is only intended for use in fighting terrorism and other crimes and says it exports to 45 countries.

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NORTH, SOUTH KOREA AGREE TO RESTORE SEVERED COMMUNICATION LINKS

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SEOUL: North and South Korea restored their cross-border communication lines that had been severed for over a year, the South Korean presidential office said on Tuesday.

An official statement said that the two Koreas decided to resume their direct communication hotlines as of 10:00 am local time. This comes 13 months after North Korea cut off all communication lines with South Korea in protest over Seoul’s supposed failure to stop activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the communist nation, Yonhap reported.

Since June last year, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) cut off ties in protest against Seoul’s inability to stop civic activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the DPRK.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged personal letters several times since April to communicate about issues on the restored inter-Korean relations, the statement said.

Moon and Kim agreed first to restore the severed inter-Korean communication lines, the statement read. The two leaders also agreed to restore mutual trust and enhance inter-Korean ties at the earliest.

Seoul said the resumed inter-Korean communication lines would play a positive role in the improvement and the development of inter-Korean relations.

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PAK TO COMPLETE FENCING OF BORDER WITH AFGHAN BY 14 AUG

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has announced that the fencing work along the Afghan border would be completed by August 14 amid fears of a new refugee crisis due to the large-scale violence in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has already ruled out taking any more refugees due to the ongoing refugee crisis at the Afghan border, The Express Tribune reported. This comes as the UN has said it is witnessing “very intensive movements” of internally displaced Afghans towards the country’s borders as violence escalates.

Earlier this month, UN Deputy Special Representative Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov said: “We are also seeing very intensive movements of the population to the areas, adjusting to the orders, where Iranian and Pakistan borders are now largely closed, and the people are using the illegal border crossing trying to move through those borders.”

During a presser on Monday, Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had said that the fencing along the Afghan border would be completed by 14 August. He said that 46% to 48% of fencing on the border with Iran had also been completed.

The Minister said there have been thousands of foreigners living in Pakistan over the last many years without renewal of visas. Rashid also asked these foreigners to leave Pakistan before August 14 or get their visas renewed through an online application.

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AFGHAN VP SALEH CALLS PAK ARMY ‘STRATEGIC MASTER’ OF TERROR INVASION IN AFGHANISTAN

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Afghanistan’s first Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Tuesday lashed out at Pakistan saying that its army is the “architect and strategic master” of the ongoing terror invasion of Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and preventing the Afghan forces from carrying out military operations against them. Amid the ongoing Taliban offensive, the Afghan Vice President said the propaganda stunts “will not change the reality” of Pakistan. “The propaganda stunts will not change the reality and improve Pakistan’s image in my country. The reality is that Pakistan Army is the architect, strategic master and low profile supplier of the ongoing full-scale terror invasion in my country,” Saleh tweeted.

Quoting a Pakistan author, the Afghan Vice President said the Pakistan army may be able to deceive the public but they cannot fool the intelligence services and strategist circles.

“The reputable Pak author respected Ayesha Siddiqa says GHQ may be able to deceive the public but they cannot fool the intelligence services and strategist circles. Team Bajwa now betting on the UK to promote the Taliban — to get to the US indirectly,” he added.

The ties between the two sides have deteriorated since the daughter of the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan was briefly kidnapped on her way home in Islamabad on 16 July. Thereafter, Kabul recalled its ambassador from Islamabad, demanding punishment for those responsible.

Meanwhile, Afghan former intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil has said that at least 1,000 Pakistani terrorists enter into Afghanistan every day through Spin Boldak border district, which was captured by the Taliban last week.

In a post on Facebook, Nabil on Saturday warned that the country’s defences are in shreds and that disaster will be inevitable if the government did not retake Spin Boldak crossing, a major port of entry between Afghanistan and Pakistan. “If this situation falls on deaf ears and the Taliban are not ousted from Spin Boldak, more Pakistani militias and terrorists in Taliban uniform would freely come into Afghanistan,” Afghanistan Times quoted his post.

He also claimed that Pakistani terrorists and militias are taking preparation for war and direct incursion on Afghanistan soil.

Nabil said that terrorist training and recruitment centres have been reactivated in Pakistan and money is collected from those countries which have an interest in the spread of extremism in the region to achieve their goals.

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US COMBAT FORCES TO LEAVE IRAQ BY YEAR END

There will be no US forces with a combat role in Iraq by 31 December, the US and Iraqi governments said in a joint statement.

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After the strategic dialogue held in Washington on Monday, the US and Iraqi governments said in a joint statement that there will be no US forces with a combat role in Iraq by 31 December 2021, the US and Iraqi governments said in a joint statement.

The delegations include — Iraq’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Fuad Hussein and the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken. They co-chaired the final session of the Strategic Dialogue, initiated on 11 June 2020, in accordance with the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement for a Relationship of Friendship and Cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq (SFA), as per a statement issued by US Department of State. The Iraqi delegation also included representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The joint statement said that the two countries reaffirmed the importance of these discussions, which focused on strengthening the long-term strategic partnership defined by the SFA and on key issues of mutual concern: regional stability, public health, climate change, energy efficiency, energy independence, humanitarian aid, human rights, economic cooperation, and cultural and educational exchanges, among other issues. Iraq provided a detailed account of its efforts to promote the safe and voluntary return of internally displaced persons to their home regions, and the US pledged its continued support in this regard.

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