Published: 28th June 2021
Brass bangles, beaded bijoux and beyond: How start-up Runway Nagaland is taking NE jewellery global
Runway Nagaland will soon become your favourite stop to shop for jewellery, handloom, candles or even bags. If you love standing out, check out this portal and send love to its founder while at it
Beaded and chunky neckpieces, heavy and loaded brass bangles, traditional naga mekhela and whatnot — all these authentic wearables from Nagaland have been made available to us via Runway Nagaland, a website that celebrates its one year anniversary come October! But it has a long offline history of over nine years and at the helm of all affairs has always been Dimapur-based Nengneithem Hengna, the visionary who, back in 2013, saw the dream of giving these wonderful accessories a larger platform.
Nengneithem Hengna, Founder, Runway Nagaland
The pandemic has forced many small businesses to change tactics and while Runway Nagaland's strengths has always been displaying their wares at several exhibitions around the country, with COVID ruling that option out, they shifted their base online. But their basics remain the same, which is working with an all-women's team. "In Nagaland, everyone has jewellery making skills. So it was just the matter of connecting with these artisans, offering them livelihood opportunities and letting the business take off," says the 30-year-old who started the business at a time where cheaper products from China and Bangkok were flooding the Indian market. What was tough initially was expectation setting not only on the side of artisans, but Nengneithem had to adjust too.
"Hailing from corporate culture and having worked at Dabur India and HDFC Life, I would expect them to turn up at a certain time and work certain hours. But then, I slowly started to realise that imposing this affects their creativity as well. After that turning point, I merely became a guide, showing them the designs we expect and setting soft deadlines," says the youngster who is completely in tune with the psyche of the artisans now, so much so that our five women have been working from home for a long time now and don't even have very hard and fast targets. Totally, they work with 25 women from tribes like Phom, Ao, Sangtam, Sumi, Konyak, Kuki and others.
Those earrings though
Now, coming to the glorious product line they offer which reflects the culture of the Land of the Nagas and a few of its neighbouring sister states as well. Take the GTJ Thangnang Necklace, for instance. Their bestselling piece is a long, thick chain made with beads using a brick-stitch technique and inspired by the kuki (a tribe) thangnang shawl pattern. An array of bijoux from the gollu tribal jewellery (GTJ) including those made from glass beads are a delight. "Gollu, in the kuki dialect, means treasure. So it might not be gold or silver, but these pieces are still a treasure," says the Political Science graduate from Delhi University.
Runway Nagaland has also partnered with other small businesses like Queen Candles Studio and The Knot & Bow to display their products. Just last year, they started experimenting with products made of banana fibre as well and that's working out pretty well too — now they have coasters, planters, bags and several other products made from it. Just think about it, Nengneithem initiated this when she was around 22 and has grown every step of the way with her start-up — while trying to put her products on the national map and giving livelihood to women. With their website launching, several international opportunities open up to and we are sure that she will be making the most of them.
For more on them check out runwaynagaland.com