In 2015, as part of a course at IIM Ahmedabad, founder Disha Singh and around 80 batchmates visited a village in Kutch where they saw some very pretty products made locally by the women folk. However, it was surprising to see that the products looked great but no one purchased a single one. When Disha asked her friends why that was so, everyone had the same message, which gave birth to the idea of Zouk.
Everyone felt that Indian handicraft products were just showpiece material and outdated.
The Zouk idea was to create a contemporary Indian accessories brand, giving the Indian handicraft fabrics a modern spin for millennials. To start with, they stitched together their first line of 20 laptop bags using Ikat fabric (from Kutch itself) and leather and took it to a flea market event in Mumbai. Within the first 5 hours, all the bags were sold out and that gave Disha the confidence to start full-time. However, she continued working with a healthcare startup for 2–3 months before quitting her plush job and take this plunge. A lot of time went in just convincing her family, who were initially very reluctant but since have been very supportive.
The only point that was still bothering was on using leather to make the products. There are some very disturbing videos of how the tanning industries function and the extent of harm done to animals during the process. Within the next one week, Zouk decided to adopt a 100% vegan approach, where only faux or artificial leather would be used. Regular leather is more popular but this was a conscious decision taken, at the cost of business.
Today, Zouk sells 100% vegan products only.
Zouk also has a very interesting manufacturing process. The company sources its fabric handcrafted from multiple villages of Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, UP and Tamil Nadu. For production, the founder wanted to set things up in Mumbai only, due to personal reasons. However, what was surprising to find out was that the most skilled artisans in India for producing these products could be found in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum area in the heart of Mumbai. Today, Zouk has a small production facility in Dharavi itself and has some very skilled staff working day and night with one aim -
Make products that are Proudly Indian.