Splashing rainbow and colours around, these Indian queer-owned businesses are a must-check. Not just their collections are unique, but the story behind each one of them is worth applauding, and their humble motive makes them worth checking out.
Coming out of the closet is a big thing in itself and owning it and hustling with it is something else. It's a life full of challenges and even though we've come far and there's visible progress, the negativity people have towards the LGBTQIA+ community still stirs up challenges and makes even simple things difficult. Like other people, our Indian queer-owned businesses are also trying their best to showcase their talent and hard work in front of the world and have been able to create a mark and even an impact on different levels that can't be ignored. But, what all is actually happening, and what does the journey of running a business feel like? To know it all, we reached out to Rudraksha Rawal, Ashish Chopra, Syed Anas, and Utkarsh Tripathi, founders of one of the best Indian queer-owned businesses, and they had a lot to share.
Fighting the hurdles and pre-conceived notions
Syed and Utkarsh, who met on an online dating app, became BFFs, and then a happy couple who decided to start Cosmic Jalebi, a brand that offers quirky tote bags, still have to change their tone and sometimes even the outfits to save themselves up from the unkind behaviour of the Cisgender people. " While sourcing raw material, we have to put this façade of being this cisgender person. It has happened that the vendors and the sellers refused even to talk. So we realized this would be an issue we’d have to work on. It's sad because we still haven't come out fully, don't have a proper office, are struggling, and so we are trying our best", the duo said.
For Ashish, the idea of his brand itself came from not being able to find the right heels. He started BeUnic after getting tired of not finding the heels of his size. Today he has 800 products ranging from footwear to shirts, home decor, unisex skirts, and more on his website.
" I do drag, and I was looking for heels my size and I couldn’t find them in India. Every store I would go to would tell me that the women's shoe size isn’t more than 6. This was also the time when my mum was working at a footwear company, and she was soo pissed off with the way they were operating. So I just slipped up a taunt that if you have so much of a problem, why don’t you find your own brand, she said ok, and we founded BeUnic. We started with heels for men and could only do 15k worth of sales in the first 6 months", he said.
Later Ashish reached out to small business owners from the community and asked them to put up their products on his website. This worked well, and today, he has 27 queer entrepreneurs selling with him internationally, including in countries like Sweden and Norway, and we say how cool and dedicated is that?
For Rudraksh who founded Gagged during the lockdown, the experience has been hopeful. He's been a source of connection in introducing the community to his fellow cisgender helpers. "Well, my co-worker was one of those people who hadn't dealt with the queer community in person at all. So once we had this pop-up and I was expecting him to come to me for help. But he did so well. By the end of the day, he told me it felt like a whole new world. He was glad that he got a chance to meet so many new people", said Rudraksh who now offers an amazing collection of handpainted shirts and bucket hats through his label Gagged.
Finding a voice, selling happiness, and giving it back
One of the most positive things that we heard from these queer Localprenuers was to know that there is no sense of competition at all. And the only goal is to help each other in every possible way. "We make sure the models are from the community. There are no muscular men, and we do no makeup photoshoots to make it more relatable. The products are also pretty unique as we don't make one print more than five times. We even donate a small portion of our revenues to NGOs as well, " said Ashish with a very adorable smile reflecting his happiness after donating to the queer community.
But the generous support from the community and even outside keeps this positive approach going. Sayed and Utkarsh, who started their brand with the sole aim to help people call out other people who judge them through their tote bags, were sold out just in a few days after their launch. " In March, we went viral, and since then, we've had this overwhelming response every other week. We can't thank people enough. They are not just buying but also recommending us to others. They even suggest to us the design ideas and are just so creative", the duo mentioned.
Rudraksh also feels the love that the community has to offer is just so pure. In fact, there's no shade or hate or even the slightest feeling of competition. Everybody cheers for each other, and it feels nothing but fantastic. " I have such loyal customers who've seen me grow. I never had any backlash or even a slight inconvenience. They have been very patient, even the cisgender people. I have never had any disagreement or bitterness with our audience", he concluded.
We love these Indian queer-owned businesses, and sure you are in awe too. So do check their websites to help them build the community stronger. Also, don't forget to tag your favourite queer business in the comment box. And let them know you appreciate their work.