Jewellery designing for me was once just a hobby, but the delicate process of crafting and designing fascinated me and I was drawn to it. That was around 25 years ago. At that time, jewellery designing was a relatively unknown concept in India and few had mastery over it. At one point, I realised I wanted to take my jewellery design a step further than merely following it as a hobby and decided to do a course on gemmology from Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council. I believe that was one of the best decisions of my life: to truly let go of my fear and work towards my dream. Thereon, my passion and love for art, together with the impetus provided by my encouraging husband, inspired me to take a leap of faith and venture into the jewellery designing business, and there has been no turning back since.
Enterprising bent of mind
I belong to a prominent business family, the Modi Group from Modinagar. Marwaris in general are known for their business acumen and our traditional occupation has mainly been trading. My background gave me immense insight into starting my own line and also the courage to face challenges.
India is and has always been known for its love of gold. People in India have been obsessed with gold jewellery since time immemorial, but I wanted to do something different. This drive to be unique inspired me to create an alternate line of jewellery based on silver.
I started my line in 1988. Initially, there were a lot of criticisms and setbacks. This was largely because I was a woman—women in those days were not allowed to work. But I knew that this was what I wanted to do in life and the resolve kept me motivated to prove people wrong—to show them that women too could become independent and be successful entrepreneurs.
Derived from Rajasthani roots
Art Karat is still the only semi-precious jewellery brand where all the jewellery is made from silver and studded with semi-precious gemstones. Our focus is to create unique bespoke pieces with emphasis on excellent craftsmanship, and I have taken a lot of inspiration from my Rajasthani roots for the designs of my collections.
To add to it, given my love for kundan jewellery, all my designs reflect some aspect of Marwari culture and heritage.
When I started my business, all the craftsmen working for me were from the Marwar region. As such, most of my past collections have been inspired by the rich heritage of Marwar. Take, for example, the Rajwada Collection, in which the designs were inspired by various palaces in Rajasthan. Even today, I draw inspiration from my roots and my latest collection also has a certain Rajasthani element ingrained in it.
My love for paintings and sculptures has also helped me a great deal in terms of drawing influence for my jewellery collections. I have always been intrigued by Pichhwai paintings, which have often been reflected in my designs. I have a lot of happy memories of visiting various temples as a child with my family, and have ever since been in awe of the intricate carvings on the beautiful temple walls. These visits used to make me feel calm and collected.
A change in perspective
The jewellery landscape has changed drastically over the last few decades in India. People are now more open to experimental forms of jewellery and are not scared to try precious and semi-precious pieces. Consequently, the jewellery industry is today booming with a plethora of talented designers who are not afraid to create something unique. Since my clients tend to prefer exclusive pieces, I use vibrant colours in each of my creations. I want women from every age group to be able to relate with my pieces and wear them with pride.
Luckily, I have had the opportunity to work with many interesting people and work for many exciting events, which have influenced me and made me work even harder. Among these include designing jewellery for some of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters such as Devdas, Monsoon Wedding, Zubeidaa, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Jodhaa Akbar and Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. Working on these projects helped me develop new designs and they also gave me a different perspective. I was also excited to see the technicalities that go into the making of a movie, and after all the hard work, to see my jewelleries on the big screen was indeed fulfilling.
Creating the collections
Jewellery designing involves hard work and consequently a lot of time and energy goes into every piece that I work on. At Art Karat, it takes almost six months or so to create a complete new collection. Our previous collections such as Begum, Nizam and Rajwada took almost five years to be put together. For these, it was important for us to be able to find the right craftsmen and the various elements needed to create them, as we believe in detailing and achieving perfection.
We have recently launched our ‘Umrao Jaan’ collection. The costumes and especially the jewellery of that time inspired us to put together the collection, based on the iconic film.
A joint effort
People have often inquired about the name ‘Art Karat’. Well, the term ‘karat’ is a measure of the weight of diamonds and gemstones and also is a measure of the purity of gold or gold jewellery. Since our jewellery is artistically crafted with silver and precious stones, the term karat is seen here in the context of art in a particular piece. Also the starting letters of the brand—‘A’ and ‘K’—stand for the initials of my name (Asha) and my husband’s name (Kamal).
My husband, Kamal Modi, has been the greatest motivating factor and driving force behind my designing career. For us, Art Karat is not just a business but a part of our daily lives. He is the chairman of the Art Karat Group and Companies, my son Saket is the CEO while my daughter Shivani heads the gold and diamond division of the company.
I believe one should be forward-thinking and be able to adjust and cope with the latest developments of the society in order to succeed. But one must respect elders and family values and never forget their roots, their place of origin. I have always encouraged my children to follow their dreams, but to remember what their roots are.
India is now on its way to emerging as a commercial powerhouse. The jewellery industry has seen a tremendous boost and a lot of jewellery design houses have come up over the last few years. People are more open to changes as compared to the time when I launched my line.
A sense of achievement
Among Marwaris, work always comes first; our work ethics are really strong. But this was once believed to be true only for men. I wanted to change this mindset and show the society that women are no less. It is a pleasure to see that there has been an increase in the number of women entrepreneurs.
I started Art Karat with just two craftsmen in Delhi. We now have plans of opening flagship stores in major cities such as Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. Art Karat has been participating in international exhibitions in USA and Canada for a long time. We now intend to exhibit in other countries as well and if everything goes as planned, we should soon be able to showcase our creations in the Middle East, adding yet another milestone on our journey.