The Theme Weaver
ANUSHREE’S success story is a heartening one. Like most of us spoilt for choice, Anushree Agarwal hopped, skipped and jumped through various careers and companies before finally zeroing in on one: She wanted to be a theme weaver, and she wanted her very own venture.
Theme Weaver! Sounds whimsically interesting, doesn’t it? ‘You dream it and we’ll theme it’ thought Anushree when she finally decided that that was what she would do at the not-so-ripe age of 23. Thus was born Theme Weavers, and Anushree’s career of dreaming, planning and executing.
So what does Theme Weavers do? The website claims that it likes to induce dropping of jaws; their business strategy is to be able to plan anything under the sun.
As a concept, Theme Weavers is not unique, but in its execution and her young age lies an inspiring story.
After graduating in advertising and public relations, Anushree drifted into copywriting, enjoyed the creativity but hated the physical inactivity. “I couldn’t just plonk myself in one place. I wanted movement, I wanted something happening every two minutes. So I thought, ‘Let’s do copywriting after 40 years’.”
She then had a stint with Wizcraft, hoping that the world of events would bring in the requisite excitement quotient. But they underutilised her, she felt.
Anushree then jumped to the hospitality industry. “I got a break at jwt Marriot as a trainee, trained there for a year in every department. Then I shifted to the Renaissance hotel in Mumbai in the events department. That’s where I got a fair idea of how events are executed.”
Back in Delhi, Anushree’s sister went to a couple of parties and noticed the quality of planning. It was dismal, to say the least, says Anushree. “In 2007-08, party planners were getting away with a few balloons and calling it a theme,” she explains.
So, they decided to give it a shot. It was Anushree’s nephew’s birthday. They planned a party that also served as the launch vehicle for Theme Weavers. “We did a rodeo ranch theme. From the point people entered the party to the time they left, there was always something related to the theme going on. We set up barn-style seating areas, gave everyone cowboy hats, scarves, set up windmills, cow-hide pillars. These things may be very common now, but four years ago this was a novelty,” says Anushree.
They invested Rs 55,000 in their first showcase, and three months later landed an event with a budget of Rs 1.2 lakh. “But our earning was only Rs 7,000.” Ask her if that was a deterrent, and Anushree laughs. “Even today, whatever our clients invest in us, we give back 85 per cent. We work on a lower margin of profits, but it reflects in our quality of work tremendously.”
Even though the theme-party planning was proceeding slowly but surely Anushree and her sister were dissatisfied. “We didn’t want to be just a ‘kitty party’ enterprise, we wanted to tap into the corporate markets,” she says.
Their first corporate event was a whopper.
“The marketing manager of Aricent group gave us a family-day project for 3,500 employees and their families, held over three days at 12 locations simultaneously.”
From then on, the corporates just kept coming. Milestone days to family days, festivals and new launches, Theme Weavers began weaving them all. Till November 2008, when Theme Weavers landed its first theme wedding in Jaipur. “In spite of no experience till that point, the client saw our designs, understood our thought process and hired us.”
And they have never looked back. From destination weddings to theme weddings, they’ve excelled in all. “A milestone wedding was Marvel tea owner’s son’s marriage in 2010 in Goa. The theme was Paristan (land of the angels). We had a moon-shaped stage, the entire ceiling was covered in fairy lights, the hall was bathed in blue and the entrance was through a star-shaped doorway.”
Her clients can be demanding and exacting, of course. “We once planned an entire wedding where the client wanted only lotuses to be used for every function.” Anushree sourced orange lotuses for the mehendi, red lotuses for the sangeet, blue lotuses for another function and pink for the wedding. From a puny Rs 50,000 launch event, they now handle destination weddings that start from Rs 35 lakh and go upto Rs 1.5 crore.
It sounds glossy and pretty, but Theme Weaver’s success is not incidental. “In the initial months, we worked very hard to get our vendors right and our sourcing perfect. We went to Chandni Chowk and figured that it was not the melting pot, and then travelled further into the country to get the best prices,” says Anushree. Now, vendors come to them.
Anushree also faced a lot of wariness from customers, because of how young she looks. She giggles, “I had to start dressing more maturely.” As a young entrepreneur, she also faced difficulty in tackling the rigid system of how things are usually executed in India easily —the bribing. “There were times when we could have procured projects if some money had been offered to the company’s representative.
This usually happens a lot with the telecom firms. But once you start sailing in that boat, there’s no turning back.”
The key to Theme Weavers’ success is also the constant desire to innovate and improve. In 2010, it added a designing segment to their venture. Sets with pandals, seating area and buffet tables were designed for tent houses and event companies. “The idea is that we do this design as an installation and then sell it to them, and they use it at their convenience however many times they want,” says Anushree.
Tapping into this market was a smart business move. “Mummies and papas no longer decide the designs. people are more informed. That’s when proprietors of tent houses turn to us.” With no formal design degree and no family background, the success of Anushree and Theme Weavers is a wonder. They’ve kept it simple and clean, which is one of the main reasons why Theme Weavers landed the Yuvraj Shivraj’s wedding reception in Jodhpur in November 2010. “I just wrote to the secretary expressing my interest. We were invited to give the pitch with three more experienced designers. But they liked our designs, our approach and our prices better.”
The future for Theme Weavers looks well-designed, to say the least. They are all set to venture into set designing in Bollywood. “We’ve already been approached for few small-budget films, but we are looking forward to turning this into a full-fledged team based out of Mumbai in the next three years,” says Anushree.
A small venture that began from home, to weave dreams into reality, may just prove to be the biggest dream of Anushree’s life.