Myaraa was founded in India, but now it’s all over the globe. It’s also the go-to hat brand for many celebrities like Sonakshi Sinha, Ananya Pandey, Neha Dhupia, Siddharth Batra, Hina Khan, and more. This sustainable hat brand is winning hearts for all right reasons, and lets you even customize your own hat!
Abhishansa Mathur was in a conversation with Namrata Lodha, founder of Myaraa about her journey of running a brand in such a niche product category.
Where did it all begin for you?
My inspiration was initiated from my own backyard, where I grew up in Harda, Madhya Pradesh. There are many wheat farms in the area and after the grains have been harvested, the local artisans (or Karigars) use the remaining wheatgrass to create baskets, simple tools, and other handicraft items. When I was travelling to the US to visit my children, I saw many people wearing hats made of the same wheatgrass which were molded and styled in different shapes and sizes. Inspired by the natural grass fiber baskets and tools from my childhood home in Madhya Pradesh, I started designing these accessories with the same material which is also good for the planet. Today Myaraa’s hats are designed in a combination of Indo-Western styles and personalized with your name, message, or occasion.
Can you tell us something about you?
I started Myaraa in 2019 at the age of 52 in a drive to make sustainable accessories fun again. This entrepreneurship journey started in a living room with a germ of an idea to (re)introduce the concept of hats as an accessory but with a unique design element in it and grew into a social media community with customers in over 50 countries across the world from Germany to Australia.
Please share the What, When, & How of starting your brand Myaraa?
Our raw materials are locally sourced from the farm’s lands and workshops nearby. Our work process at Myaraa is very creative and open-minded. It’s majorly divided into two sections. First is the design, where we are constantly working to innovate and come up with new styles. This is also the part where we collaborate with our customers and give them a chance to be a part of creating their personalized products. The other section is a research & development where we work in our workshop & training rooms to collaborate with local artisans in designing the hat, employ and train women in writing scriptures, and doing embroidery work for custom patchwork.
We have certain products that are hot sellers amongst our customers, but at the same time, we are constantly working to add new styling options through the design and research & development rooms. The most important part of the production is quality. There is a certain pleasure in recognizing something that has been well made. Good design is about using materials that are fit for a purpose. The product has to be aesthetically pleasing, has to be functional – and if it has an extra character to it, too, well, then that’s something else. This is what we strive for at Myaraa.
Can you walk us through your journey so far?
Before starting Myaraa, I was a homemaker, dedicating my last 30 years as a stay-at-home-mom. Being a housewife was a full-time job for me. In my hometown, I saw many women who would be treated with disrespect. We live in the 21st century but their local communities left them because they married outside their culture.
Being someone who has firsthand seen what a woman goes through when the family or society doesn’t treat the women equally, I wanted to take a stand on this and help women like me who are going through a similar journey. That’s why I decided to start a sustainable production that empowers rural women. The company makes work accessible in rural India for these women making sure that when you buy a sunny hat it comes bundled with the social and financial empowerment of a woman.
What are some challenges that you faced while running Myaraa?
An entrepreneur of any gender needs a determined belief in what they’re doing and a cast-iron resolution to get things done if they’re to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace. Unfortunately, the evidence still seems to indicate that if you’re a female, you need that little extra something to break through the proverbial glass ceiling. As a woman, explaining the importance of my business to men has been incredibly challenging. Additionally, learning to do business through social media channels was a new concept for me, as I grew up using the old-fashioned in-person shopping experiences. This has been a rewarding learning experience as well. Starting my workshop in Harda, my first official customer was from Portugal through Instagram, I would have never thought that in the wildest of my dream.
Give us some background on your sourcing of raw materials?
The weaving of plant fibers is one of humanity’s most ancient activities and takes inspiration from nature. It has been used for over years to create a wide variety of containers and hats that protect against the sun’s glare. We select our raw materials from the farmers directly or from the main markets. Our workers give them the straw shapes and prepare them based on the shape/size of desire. We adopt different sizes, different models, and make each hat unique and personal. The process of how our hats evolve from raw materials to prime is an example of fine craftsmanship. See below for a high-level process.
- Straw Prep: Once the straw is selected, it undergoes a variety of steps, including stripping, washing, cooking, dyeing, and drying.
- Weaving: After it is sent in bundles to the weavers, the straw is woven with different artisanal techniques. Some are done entirely by hand, others make use of wooden blocks, cone molds, and simple looms. The most complex weaves can take months.
- Shaping: Once they have passed quality inspection, all the hats are blocked into a shape. They are stiffened or treated, according to each style.
- Finishing: We use a variety of different materials, according to traditional styles and artisanal techniques—all of them chosen for comfort and endurance.
What according to you makes Myaraa stand out amongst other brands?
Myaraa products are born in India and delivered worldwide. Our natural straw hat gives us the opportunity to reset and return to our roots. Our hat collection gets its inspiration from the positive impact of natural and eco-friendly material that is used for these personalized hats. They may look like a classic hat. But these are 100% vegan and natural grass products that are wildly popular and eco-friendly. The classic silhouette makes these incredibly versatile, and just because the lightweight design is made with natural wheatgrass. Inside, the hat is a cushy insole that will provide you with all-day comfort. Our pride is in sustainable products with high quality & design.
How are you using Social Media to promote your homegrown brand?
Social media is the way for us to communicate with our audience and customers nationally and internationally. We use Instagram to drive traffic to our virtual store and website, we use videos and artworks to keep our audience engaged and growing. We have also started sharing behind-the-scenes videos for our audience. So, they get a chance to look at our workshop process and be part of the product creation.
What is your 5-year plan for Myaraa?
We have just started in terms of our hat design and collection. There are more than 100 types of hats designs and variations that can be made and styled. We still have to try so many hat trends – from major statements like cowboy hats and turbans to more low-key, wearable picks like berets and bucket hats. Right now, our goal is to embed deep in the segment of hats and down the road maybe diversify to bags made out of natural grass and cloth.
Can you share your business model with us?
Product development and procurement are literally in our hands. Myaraa started out simple but building small batches of products until we started generating consistent sales. Once we had enough data to see which ones are popular among our customers, we increased the production of those. For us, customers are at the center of the business model. Based on their feedback we adapt and evolve our products to different shapes and colours. Now Myaraa has started segmenting products into two categories i.e. Ready to Ship and Build Your Own. Ready to ship products are shipped in less than 1 day. For the build your own category – there is a lead time of 2-3 business days to design the artwork, patchwork, and personalize the ribbon silhouette based on the client’s needs. These two categories of products help us manage our inventory and balance the load on our workshops and design studio.
One advice/suggestion you’d like to give aspiring entrepreneurs out there.
Focus on setting & achieving small incremental goals rather than trying to start a business and instantly build your vision of what the company should be in the years to come. Setting realistic goals and milestones is a major component of building long-term success. This mentality is how I went from learning what Instagram is, to eventually building a website to growing my store with tactics like the creation of good content and social promotions.
If you are looking out to buy yourself a pretty hat, check out their star product Ruffle Hat.