If there is one design entity that has transformed the retail landscape in lifestyle over the past year, it’s Nicobar. The brainchild of Raul Rai and Simran Lal and the creative headwork of Aparna Chandra, Nicobar recently opened the doors to its Chennai store after flagging Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Jodhpur. ‘Two decades after the launch of Good Earth, we felt the time was ripe for the birth of a new line within the tribe and Nicobar was born. I always felt the need for a brand which reflects a personality which is simple, relaxed and easy. A reflection of a world where good design is not just for special occasions but part of everyday life,’ says Simran. It is deep purpose, passion and patience, and nurturing a culture of creativity and collaboration that drives the Nicobar design philosophy reflected in its different expressions—nature-inspired apparel and earthen home-ware, the Nico Journal, and a fast-building community.
Two of the biggest learnings over the year for the team have been to zoom out, and put chaos before process. ‘As a PE investor, I developed a great strategic feel for businesses and a wide network, which helps me zoom in and zoom out at the same time. Another guiding principle for me came from one of our advisors, Prof Raman, who three years ago told Me, “Out of chaos comes revenue and out of discipline comes profit. Remember, you are in the chaos stage and just focus on creating a product that customers love at this stage. Don’t get process oriented in a rush— focus on content not process”. So we embraced chaos because creative environments require some chaos. This was great advice,’ shares Raul.
Another important realisation along along the way has been that people can make or break good design. ‘The biggest challenge is finding great people. At the outset, we spent 250 meeting to find the core founding team of 10 people. It’s the best investment I ever made,’ he says. And the other people in the picture are equally important— ‘We do everything to ensure we have a personal contact with our customers, whether it’s through conversations on mail between me and our guests or styling activities in store led by our design team or team members managing the shop floor during pop-ups. We want conversations and not monologues with our guests. We aspire to be a human centered digital brand.’
The key, for them, has been experimentation, learning and iterating. ‘ADNA that respects the mad, non-linear creative process. Saying NO is far more important than multiple Yes’s!’
This year, Nicobar is set to make its presence felt across Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Gurgaon and beyond with new stores, apart from fresh infusions in design. ‘Nicobar’s new season is rooted in China’s vastly inspiring history. We always maintain that collaborations are at the heart of our brand, and in the pipeline for us is a collaborative capsule with the World Wildlife Fund to create awareness around coexistence between man and animal. We are also joining hands with the Elephant Parade team to create awareness around the Asian elephant and its corridors, which when encroached lead to human animal conflict,’ shares Simran.
To make the space more special than the rest of the stores, the lifestyle label has added their first-ever in-store café collaboration with CAARA—an established and go-to fine-dining catering service to launch their new small plates restaurant, Nico Caara. Doors open this week!