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'I do what makes me happy'

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Ritika Kothari Head, Casa Quirky and Director of Operations and Creative Services, Bean Bag Tales

Ritika Kothari believes that in the face of adversity, it is important to just think about what is next and then magic happens, says Menka Shivdasani; she recently launched a web series on design

Ritika Kothari is a multifaceted personality. Warm and energetic, she manages multiple projects simultaneously. With a graduate degree in Architecture and a postgraduate degree in Urban Planning from C.E.P.T University, Ahmedabad, Ritika has experience of over seven years in designing. Starting out with design projects in Ahmedabad, she moved on to Slum Redevelopment Projects in Nagpur, receiving the Vastu Shilp foundation award for her research in Affordable Housing.

Her passion for arts and crafts led her to create a home décor e-commerce store called Casa Quirky. She is also actively involved in artisan development and space designing. 

Currently working on design projects in Mumbai and Delhi, she got interested in the digital space, and co-founded Bean Bag Tales to help start-ups and established businesses conquer the digital matrix. In October, she launched a web series on design called Let’s Talk.

Born and raised in a family of doctors, Ritika has always been a creative person, winning debate competitions and poetry recitation contests. Her zest for life is remarkable, for Ritika is also a survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Tell us about House of Ritika, Casa Quirky and your other ventures.

In my journey of capacity building for artisans, I realised that there is so much hidden talent and it has to be brought to the foreground by providing these artistes a platform. Casa Quirky started with an inventory heavy, curated collection of home decor sourced from artisans all over India. We started with an offline store in September 2015. Currently, it is moving towards an aggregator model with an online portal and distribution across various channels offline and online. From period furniture to quirky lamps, cascading chandeliers to rare artifacts, wall clocks to accent pieces, Casa Quirky is a production that has come together with time. It’s almost as if every piece waltzed in, made room for itself and then draped up a personality of its own. Casa Quirky is the true labour of love for craft, culture, design, decor and aesthetic.

With the business running on auto mode, I felt there was a gap and very little content available online that spoke about interior designers and architects. I then conceptualised House of Ritika, an aspirational lifestyle destination where decor meets culture and conversations in a digital space.

Let’s Talk focuses on the lives of creative professionals. Tell us how the show came about and what you are aiming to do.

We love all things design and that’s what this season of Let’s Talk is about—a special design edit, focusing on the lives of creative professionals and championing their stories. We have curated and interviewed 13 creators from all professions that are design-led. We are excited to get them to reveal their lives, their work in a never-before manner. Think films, fashion, interior, architecture, production, social media, young entrepreneurs with a dash of fun.

I believe design is the basis of everything. Every person has his or her own ‘journey of design’. We wish to bring out the stories behind the scenes, those unheard stories of the lives of these professionals. It is powered by Istituto Marangoni, the internationally renowned school of fashion and design, that always believes in supporting talent. It is a web-series of 12 episodes, that will be aired on Youtube and then available on an OTT platform. Architects like Arjun Rathi, Interior designers like Ravi Vazirani, Esha Gupta, Sapna Jain, Somil Sheth, fashion and lifestyle designers like Jeetinder Sandhu, Jayesh Sachdeva, Advaieta Mathur, entrepreneurs like Rohina Anand, Kavan Antani, Mukhul Bhatia and social media wizards like Vineet Kanabar and Nidhi Kamdar talk about their journeys.

What is your definition of good design? Have perceptions of good design today changed in India, as compared to, say, a decade ago? If so, what has led to the change?

For me good design means a great balance of aesthetics and utility. Classic styles like colonial, industrial and minimal are what inspire me. I always believe in juxtapositioning the traditional with contemporary and highlighting it with the current trends.

People are now exposed to international trends and design, due to the digital explosion. I feel there is more appreciation in terms of the overall sense of design, yet the originality is getting lost somewhere as clients focus more on making replicas of images picked up from various digital platforms.

Where do you see design headed in India? Are there any key elements underlying design concepts today—anything that ties together, for instance, home décor, fashion, and products available today?

Design is the basis of everything that we currently see and do. With the upcoming online giants the market is getting a little more organised. It has essentially been a very unorganised unplanned sector which is now seeing more light due to the digital explosion. The key highlights today are influencers and lifestyle brands that are focusing more on the look, decor, fashion. This integration of design with brand promotions looks like the binding factor and is here to stay for the coming few years.

What is the place of ethnic design in a world governed by global influences?

Ethnic design, I believe, has always been undervalued in our country. Global influences are not the sole reason, it is lack of awareness and also the minimal reach that has affected ethnic design. While I was working on capacity building of artisans I realised that there is so much talent that is not being exposed to Indian markets. Global giants have huge marketing budgets, hence they have penetrated the Indian markets in a bigger, grander way. I feel we should use the same strategy for ethnic indigenous designs and that is what I plan to do with Casa Quirky.

You are a survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. To maintain zest for life in the face of such challenges is extraordinarily courageous. When and how was this diagnosed? How it changed your life and how do you face the problems associated with it? What keeps you going? Would you have any advice to other people who may face similar health challenges?

In November 2014, I felt some pain in my neck. When I consulted the doctor, he told me that it was just neck sprain. Somehow, I felt that there was more to it. So I showed it to my mother who is a cancer specialist. She discovered lumps on my neck and immediately called a doctor, who then did a FNAC (Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology), which is generally used to diagnose tuberculosis. After that, the doctor asked us to do an FNAC again. It was then that I felt that may be it was something graver than tuberculosis.

One day, while I was out, my mother called and asked me to come home immediately. When I reached home, I saw all my family members hooked to Google, which I found very strange. They sat me down and told me that I was suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Cancer of the Lymphatic system, which is part of human’s immune system), Stage III.

Initially I just laughed it off. When I googled about the disease myself, I was suddenly at a loss for words. I couldn’t believe I had cancer. I was scared and I couldn’t sleep for many nights. The fact that I would have to undergo an extensive treatment including chemotherapy in just another ten days disturbed me. I’m an extremely outgoing and social person. So it was difficult for me, when I was asked not to go out often because I was now prone to infections. Cancer also affected my career. I was teaching somewhere when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had to quit my job because of my disease. Even after my complete treatment, I could not work as much as I used to before.

Before cancer, I was just like any normal person running behind things like money, career, love… Afterwards, I got the time to sit down and think about things that I actually wanted in life. Cancer made me introspect a lot. When I had cancer and I was not allowed to go out often, I would sometimes go out for short drives in an air-conditioned vehicle. The only place I was allowed to go was my best friend’s house. We would just sit, paint and talk random things. Cancer made me realise that I would have never done this in my normal regular life. Now I do things which actually make me happy.

Some time back, I felt that work was getting monotonous and I felt the need to explore more. So I took a break for a couple of months. That break gave me the idea of starting my video series and designing the ‘House of Ritika.’ Now, I have started taking frequent breaks, which give me chance to introspect about my life and keep me happy.

My only advice is in the face of any adversity, just think of what is next, what is your desire when things will be better and the magic happens—you start attracting what you want.


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