Customer First

We are all human and we make mistakes, in fact, every brand does.

What differentiates a brand from its peers is how they accept their mistakes and make amends on complaints and feedback from customers. A customer may have received a damaged product or a certain product may not have lived up to their expectations from the brand. The higher you rise, the higher the expectations of your patrons. What do you do? How do you deal with such difficult situations? Sometimes it is inevitable that you will let down your customers even though you may have tried your best or it may not be your fault at all, how do you diffuse the situation so that the same customer becomes your customer for life and becomes your brand ambassador for many years to come.

At Anand Prakash, in the last 15 years, we have had our mix of complaints and a few disappointed customers, but today, we can say with confidence that we don’t have an unhappy customer that we know of who has an issue that is unresolved.

How do you do it? It comes right from the top, if you sensitize your team that customer service is paramount and the customer is always right then you have won half the battle. We need to accept that there will be some issues with products, like in our case, because we are selling millions of them and we need to pro-actively resolve them. Let me share a few examples.

This Rakhi season, compared to other years, we quadrupled our Rakhi sales as lots of customers preferred placing their orders online from the safety of their homes due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Two of our customers wrote to us that their Rakhi’s had some quality issues and that they were embarrassed because their brothers wrote to them about it. We accepted our shortcoming and apologised, and immediately dispatched a personal letter to the brothers, about how their sister chose a Rakhi from us after going through many other brands and they were very hurt and disappointed about it. We then coordinated with the sisters and dispatched replacement gifts and a personal letter from us talking about this in detail. We cannot bring back the day but yes we can make sure that we apologise and help in resolving it to the satisfaction of our customers.

We truly appreciate your effort towards making your clients satisfied & making them believe in your brand. We always loved your unique designs & hence reverted back about the issue. I must say we have had a very good experience about your products before & about your services regarding corrections. – N. Rane

Customers are looking for brands that respond and take responsibility and are willing to forgive if you accept and help resolve their complaints. In my experience of more than a decade, I have not come across a customer who is unwilling to forgive if we have heard them, accepted their complaint and have made efforts to resolve them. For premium brands, customer expectations are very high and such brands must make an ardent effort to live up to those expectations.

A few years ago we were to deliver forty goldplated gifts to a prestigious government organisation on a certain date, it was a public function to felicitate award winners. On the eve of the function we realised that due to a religious holiday, we may not be able to deliver the gifts on the promised day. The organisation was furious with my managers and I had to step-in to fire-fight the situation, for me, the immediate solution was to help my customer save face during that function and I was willing to go to any extent; I immediately offered them complimentary goldplated gifts for the award function and promised to deliver the actual order in a few days. This diffused the situation and saved our reputation, the organisation is still our customer till today and has issued us a letter of recommendation.

Another example is when a customer purchased a bookmark in India to gift it to his colleague on a work visit to Hong Kong. He opened the envelope and found the packaging to be completely destroyed. He wrote to us to give us his feedback without any expectations from us. We immediately shipped a new product to his hotel in Hong Kong and he was able to present it to his colleague there in exactly the same way that he had imagined.

On the flip side, there will be times when a few customers will try and misuse this. For example, a customer wrote to us that many of our alphabet metal bookmarks had tarnished, she was distraught and unhappy with this. We were surprised because there could be one tarnished piece in a thousand but not ten pieces together, our quality checks are so rigorous that sometimes the process of QC is longer and more time consuming than making the product itself. We recalled the products and replaced them and on our inspection, we found that the customer had applied a strong chemical adhesive to stick it to another surface. Our team called the customer and inquired about the adhesive, she finally relented and said that she had made a nameplate out of our alphabets on a piece of wood by applying a strong adhesive. Since this was a one-off instance for our company, we just requested the customer to use the bookmarks for the purpose that it was made for.

There will be times when there is bound to be misuse, you have to analyse and see if its a one-off case. If it is happening regularly, then corrective action will have to be taken and systems need to be put in place to confirm if cases are genuine. For us, luckily, misuse has been very rare.

Being a boutique brand has helped us control our services and we are aware of every bouquet and brickbat that comes our way, though I must confess that it has been more of appreciation. We are able to act on every complaint and feedback, however small it may be. Our best ideas have always come from our customers who have gone out of their way to write to us.

(Picture: A few feedback forms received from customers at our retail stores)

We are ever thankful to our wonderful patrons who have been with us for many years, as a sign of our appreciation, we regularly send personalised gifts to them without their expecting it. Many will say that it is bad for business to be indulging in such extraneous expenses but I strongly feel that if entrepreneurs have to build strong brands and compete with larger organisations then this is a small price to pay as this is in our hands and we can build our businesses one step at a time. It is a time-consuming process but it has a rock-solid foundation.

A brand that is consistent with new products, services and good customer care can benefit from long-term customer loyalty, and the lifetime value of a customer pays for any kind of spends you might incur in keeping them happy.

Your customers will be your online guardians and will help you grow in the years to come. Their goodwill is contagious and it will percolate to new customers, who will already be convinced about your brand through feedback and advice that they have received.

We encourage customers to write to us and in every online order, we include contact details for feedback. We are eager to listen to them and improve ourselves as the only competition that we have is us and we wish to be better than what we were yesterday, this is the only way for a brand to grow and conquer the hearts of its customers, this has been our style for many years and we have been able to retain our patrons for decades now with consistent new innovations in our product lines and stellar customer service.

Steps for good customer service

  • Listen to customers by providing communication channels like numbered physical and digital feedback forms, post-purchase survey emails, a feedback email address in all email signatures and on store invoices, product tags and packaging.
  • Have a dedicated person or team to monitor the feedback coming through the above channels.
  • First accept the customer is right and pacify them, you will be surprised that half the problems are resolved only by giving the customer a chance to speak, therefore, just listen. A customer does not want to listen to a “No” or some odd justification, accept that the customer is genuinely unhappy and offer to resolve the issue.
  • Explain your company policy for the issues raised by the customer and ask for time to resolve them. Give a clear time frame for the same. Assure the customer that you will help resolve the problem and you are going to see it through irrespective of the time it takes.
  • Keep the communication channel open between you and the customer.
  • Proactively take action to resolve the issue as soon as possible and once resolved, confirm with the customer.

In the end, most of the times, you will receive a heartfelt thank you, a beautiful message and a lifelong customer who will go on to become your brand ambassador.

This was first published on LinkedIn

(The above is from experiences through my entrepreneurial journey that started many years ago)

कुली Coolie

Many moons ago while I was a child, Indian Railways was the only mode of long distance travel. I always looked forward to my travel to boarding school by train. We travelled sleeper class and it was a luxury to be able to get a window seat.

What we saw in those long hours in the train is still ingrained in my memory. Observing costumes in different cities, visuals of long winding electrical and postal wires playing on an infinite loop, a sighting of an Indian Roller bird was considered lucky as was throwing coins in the Ganges.

I enjoyed observing the fields and towns that came our way, right from cities like Varanasi, Itawa to Lucknow and Haridwar. Taking a long distance train from my home town Daltonganj was always the beginning of an interesting journey, be it a steam engine or my short trip on a diesel locomotive; these were moments I enjoyed and they were my window to the outside world.

What you couldn’t ever miss were the porters in their red shirts and gold arm bands. There was something about the red and the gold and it has inspired me to bring out this whimsical range as an ode to Indian Railways aka भारतीय रेल

Once the pandemic is over, I look forward to a long train journey to the furthest point in India!

Images hand printed by silkscreen, 100% wood free and recycled paper pages.

Meri Kitab & Meri Pencil

Stationery is personal again. While using them we develop a bond, be it a Meri Kitab notebook and pencil for your thoughts and ideas or a Meri Kitab bookmark for the books that you plan to read; they will be perfect personal companions in your journey. This range is one of our most successful and is available for purchase online. A perfect gift for those that love their stationery!

National Handloom Day

For the last 10 years, we have been using handloom textiles sourced from cooperatives across rural India to make many of our products, especially our hand-stitched journals. Many of our ranges are named after handloom textiles like Indigo, Silk and Cotton. These journals have pages that are handmade from recycled and wood-free paper.
Handloom and handmade paper making are village industries that give employment to millions of people in rural India.

Miniature Ambassador

The Ambassador is indigenously Indian, a classy concoction of initiative, inspiration and invention. Dubbed “King of Indian Roads”, it was an epitome of reliability and robustness; a neighbours envy and an owners pride. A true doyen of India’s journey through the times.
A miniature ambassador in brass is available for purchase online.

Home-Office Essentials

Creative and essential stationery, office accessories, notebooks, handmade pencils, pens, notepads, paperweights and decoratives for your work-from-home table.
Express Shipping | Handcrafted In India | COD Available

Bookmarks In Metal

A timeless gift for you and for your loved ones.
Try our bookmarks for the joy of reading and let them be companions of your books for many years to come. Every bookmark that you use, grows on to you and becomes a personal accompaniment.
Anand Prakash has sold over 2 million bookmarks in over 250 designs. Our pieces are made in India by skilled artisans and are of the highest quality and finish. Shop from our website and have gifts delivered across India.

Bookmark by Anand Prakash

Rakhi Season

Our Rakhi range is now available on the below link. We have added new designs in Jute and Indigo. Shop from the safety of your home and let us deliver your Rakhis and gifts worldwide. COD available. Made in India.

The Hindu Huddle

Anand Prakash was the official gift partner for The Hindu Huddle. As a company, we believe in meaningful debate and discussion on a wide range of topics like politics, sports, arts and entertainment. It is our constant endeavour to partner with institutions that provide such opportunities and we look forward to many more in the coming future.

Travel

I yearn to travel, to observe and experience different cultures, languages and traditions, to soak in architectural marvels and varied landscapes, to discover hidden crafts and to have random conversations.

I look forward to embarking on this journey soon…

Short Film On Silkscreen Printing

A short film on silkscreen printing at Anand Prakash. Scriptum is a range of gifts and stationery using the Devanagari script.

Film by Fseven Studio

Music by Firefl!es

Handloom Cotton

A beautiful find in my search for authentic Indian textiles. Handspun cotton woven on handlooms.

Sadly, this is dying a slow death, not because of low demand but because the majority of the weavers have come of age and the younger generation is not too keen on taking this up as a career option. This is happening across all fields of craft and many artisanal techniques will be lost forever.

In the near future, handmade and handcrafted will be a luxury very few people will be able to afford.

Artist: Lockwood de Forest

My research on brass led me to this gem:

Artist: Lockwood de Forest

A key figure in the aesthetic movement, New York-born artist Lockwood de Forest (1850–1932) was very inspired by Indian arts and crafts. He created the Ahmedabad Woodcarving Company in Gujarat, which exported many items to the United States. These cut and chased brass cutouts, designed by de Forest, were based on examples found in wood, plaster and stone in Indian architecture. In his designs, they would have been used as ornaments on architecture or furniture.

In 1879, Lockwood de Forest and Tiffany established an import business called Tiffany and de Forest. While visiting India for the first time, he collaborated with Mugganbhai Hutheesing to start the Ahmedabad Woodcarving Company, which produced elaborately carved furniture, tracery panels, jewellery and textiles. Eventually, in 1908, he transferred his contract with the Ahmedabad Woodcarving Company to Tiffany.

Image source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Medium: Brass; chased

City: Ahmedabad

Year: 1892

Conversation

How about a conversation over a cup of coffee?

Write to us at conversations@anandprakash.com with your name, city, mobile no. and a brief introduction.

#ConversationsWithAP #anandprakash

Tangram

Tangram.

Prototype. Contemplating.

Should we go-ahead or should we not?

It is said to have been invented in China and then carried over to Europe by trading ships in the early 19th century. It is one of the most popular puzzles in the world.

Brass with mirror finish and teak wood holder.

VTLGO

VTLGO.

A range of hand stitched journals with layers of colour and ink blots. The process required us to work in layers with multiple prints and gold. Today, this will be perceived as design but for me it is also a social message.

Vitiligo is a medical condition where there is loss of skin colour in blotches. This causes psychological distress and there is a huge stigma attached to it in society. I have closely seen people suffer in silence. Let us try and be a little humane in our acceptance.

I have spent more than a decade in the creative sector and while I built Anand Prakash on a solid bedrock of innovation and creativity; I also would like to be able to support social causes that are close to my heart. All of us could be change makers in our own little way therefore lets start by one good deed at a time.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

Pastel colours

Testing new pastel colours for our soon to be launched bag charms.

Our master screen printers mix various colours to reach the right shade, while most have no knowledge or training in colour mixing; they have honed their skills by trial and error through an experience of a few decades. To be able to see them do it with their spatula is sheer joy

Hopefully you will be able to witness this in the coming months where we are planning to share our techniques and processes through carefully curated workshops and demonstrations.

Autorickshaw

Autorickshaw, tuk tuk, rickshaw, tempu, auto – call it by any name; it still fascinates one and all.

These limited edition miniatures are available at our stores and online at http://www.anandprakash.com

Rang Colour

रंग

पुल्लिंग, केवल आँखों से अनुभव होनेवाला पदार्थ के आकार और रूप से भिन्न एक गुण, वर्ण।

colour /ˈkʌlə/

Noun. The property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way it reflects or emits light.

Colour has played an important part in my creative journey, be it recycled papers or with stationery. Here, I experiment with colour on the spine of the journal. In the past, the cover usually got all the attention. The colours have been printed by hand using silk screen in our signature style. Lots of experimentation in progress! More soon. Now available at stores.

Prototype

Sometimes, we are left with a lot of pieces that are prototypes. These always remain the only piece because we usually end up improvising the design with an increase in size or something. Many a times we decide against doing the product as it does not fit into what we had envisaged.

The question is what do we do with so many prototypes?

Featured here is a prototype that was a narrower version of our Hexagon cuff.

Numismatique – work in progress

Numismatique.

Work in progress, we are tracing a few old Indian coins for our upcoming range.

Collecting British-India silver coins has been a hobby since childhood and the time is right for a range of products with numismatics as the theme.

Conversation

Conversations with you has helped Anand Prakash grow to where it is today. Your ideas have helped us create better poducts and feedback was immensely helpful in introspecting.

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Today we stand at the cross-roads looking at the best way forward, we have grown as a brand and our design language has constantly adapted with the times. We have become a lot more experimental and we are not shying away from sharing our inspirations with you.

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A lot of our ideas and stories are rooted in past experiences of Anand Prakash and in the coming days we hope to create products that will enthrall you with ideas, creativity and innovation that you have come to expect from us.

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We look forward to our conversations with you…

Coming up on 10th March:

#TalkToAnandPrakash

Little Llama Cafe, Mussoorie

Every time I visit Mussoorie, the one place I don’t miss is @littlellamacafe run by school friends Tenzing and Lynette. Its their passion for food that has brought them this far.

They always welcome us with a smile and go out of their way in fulfilling all our gastronomic demands.

The beautiful hills and the green landscape visible from their cafe have been aptly shared on my Instagram; the frame is always different depending on the weather.

During season time, there is a huge rush and the waiting time can stretch to hours; all Alwynians are always welcome and we manage to squeeze ourselves in.

Their shakes are to die for because Lynette is always experimenting and the food is fresh.

One of my favourite anecdotes is when Lynette divided the toppings of one wood fired pizza into veg and non veg because me and a friend only wanted half a pizza each.

I can sit here with my favourite ginger-honey-lemon tea for hours at a stretch.

Thank you Lynette and Tenzing for this laidback place amongst the hustle and bustle of Mussoorie.

Till we meet again.

Paper sampler

At Anand Prakash, papers made by hand using a variety of materials, play an integral part in the development of new products. While we do a lot of designs in metal and wood, recycled handmade paper is still our first love. We have creatively used natural materials like long fibre straw, silk yarn, cotton rags, spices, cow dung, newsprint, wool, jute, flowers, etc. in our papers and packaging.

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Featured here is our paper sampler that has different types of papers we use in our journals.

The Hindu Huddle

Anand Prakash was the official gift partner for The Hindu Huddle. As a company, we believe in meaningful debate and discussion on a wide range of topics like politics, sports, arts and entertainment. It is our constant endeavour to partner with institutions that provide such opportunities and we look forward to many more in the coming future.