Meet Pragya Batra
Quirksmith co-founder Pragya Batra never really considered herself as a risk-taker. Born and raised in Agra to middle-class working parents, she followed the traditional path of joining the corporate world shortly after completing her education. Having graduated from IIT Delhi and INSEAD, she went on to work with Bain & Company where her role involved working with multiple businesses across industries on strategic initiatives. She then worked with InMobi, an ad-tech company based out of Bangalore in the strategy and operations vertical.
With a stellar career spanning nearly a decade, Pragya had no plans of venturing into the business world let alone the D2C realm. In her words:
“Entrepreneurship was never on my radar because in the industry I was working in, success was defined as treading a path that was already designed for you.”
In 2015 Pragya and her sister Divya moved to Bangalore where they would often catch up and spend time discussing their visions and personal goals. “It was during those conversations that the idea of having something of our own first sprouted,” says Pragya. A NIFT graduate with a specialization in jewelry design, Divya had already been working with fashion labels and design studios for over 11 years by then.
As people with two completely different careers and educational backgrounds, both Pragya and Divya never envisaged crossing paths professionally. But a mutual love for design and a profound will to build something together compelled them to co-found Quirksmith, a brand creating handcrafted, quirky and soulful designs. Started over five years ago, today Quirksmith is a cult-favorite of women seeking to express themselves with unique jewelry and accessories.
“Since it was an unknown territory for us, we decided to start small by setting up stalls in Bangalore’s flea markets to see if people were receptive to our designs. And fortunately, they not only liked our jewelry but came back frequently month on month.”
In 2016, Pragya quit her job to focus full-time on Quirksmith. But what gave her the nudge? Well, to begin with they already had proof that their product was striking a chord with women and stirred the emotions that they wanted to convey through their designs. Secondly, what prompted her to take this leap of faith was a simple back-of-the-envelope math. She asked herself, “How much do I have to sell every month to not quit this and say goodbye.” And fortunately the number turned out to be feasible. Over the years, Quirksmith has grown from two people to now a 15-member team.
When asked about the name of the brand, Pragya shares that it was a suggestion by Divya’s partner and was on the list when they were still in the process of finalizing a name. “Divya has a quirky and out of the box way of expressing herself creatively especially in silver. So the ‘quirk’ basically represents our designs and ‘smith’ does an excellent job in describing our work as designers and curators,” she adds.
Opening new doors of learning
Pragya describes how growing up in a small town in a close-knit family shaped her. Her mother spent her career teaching and retired as a principal and her father worked in the pharmaceutical industry for the first quarter of his working life. Then at 43, he quit his job and decided to start his own business, which Pragya says, has had a subconscious effect on the way she approaches and perceives the business world.
“Growing up, when I began to have thoughts of my own, I saw my dad trying and doing things without any regrets. This later helped me unlearn the things I had internalized during my time in the corporate industry. I realized that the true joy of entrepreneurship lay in trying. And even if you failed, it was alright because it was another stepping stone in learning something new.”
As a family, the Batras are supremely close and enjoy spending their weekends together with their drinks talking about their weeks. Pragya’s parents are also closely involved with the business and she admits that Quirksmith has not only helped them have a sense of ownership but have also given both her and Divya a front-row seat to their parents’ lives at 65+.
Life as an entrepreneur
People often ask Pragya - what is it like working as sisters? To which she responds, “Really easy!” And that’s because they were raised to have a deep sense of trust in each other. Even when they disagree, they know that the other person is operating from a place of love and has everyone’s best interest at heart.
“My close circle would describe me as generally calm and inquisitive, asking questions that spark conversations that are deeper than basic pleasantries. I also do not open up easily to strangers but I recognize there is value in being vulnerable so I am currently working on that.”
Back in her corporate job, Pragya used to be a night owl but for the last half a decade she has become an early riser. She starts her day as early as 5:30 AM and catches up with her partner over a cup of coffee. This is followed by a workout and then heading to the studio. “I like to plan my day in the morning and block time for two or three things that I need to prioritize. That kind of becomes the north star of the day.”
Little pleasures and some leisure
Apart from spending time with friends and family, Pragya also fancies her fair share of entertainment and is currently watching Ted Lasso on Apple TV. Reading is another of her hobbies at leisure but of late, that has been replaced by browsing newsletters and listening to podcasts. She also likes browsing through Twitter for a few minutes a day and if needed, goes deeper into some concepts that interest her.
“I especially like Curiosity Chronicles by Sahil Bloom, a US-based entrepreneur where he writes about enhancing the quality of your work and life as bite-sized information along with general curiosity-inducing questions. I am also influenced by Ryan Brewslow, founder of Bolt. He talks about the concept of conscious culture and operating from a place of humanity. That has prompted me to think about the way I want Quirksmith’s culture to be.”
Pragya is not big on the ‘gram and usually discovers things through her search feed. Her favorite account to follow is of Esther Perel (@estherperelofficial), a Belgian psychotherapist who shares really valuable insights. Another creator that she likes following is Harnidh Kaur (@harnidhk) whose thoughts, she says, are both vulnerable and intriguing.
Creating an impact
As an entrepreneur, Pragya does not attach a lot of importance to being perceived by rather on the impact that she is trying to create. So, when asked about any accomplishments she is proud of, Pragya says, “We work with a lot of women, some of whom are from humble backgrounds. They have grown with us in different roles and seeing them become more confident and secure in their work has been a matter of personal pride for both Divya and I.”
Building a brand is certainly a slow process, and while a few brands have scaled very quickly in the recent years, the team at Quirksmith is quite content with the pace at which they are growing.
So, what has helped her remain grounded? Pragya explains that her partner has contributed significantly in the way she thinks about things. “He is a really positive person and his optimism has rubbed off on me quite a bit. I have also realized when I am positive, good things happen. It is very easy to go down the spiral of negativity but having him around has made me more hopeful and mindful,” she adds.
Things to look forward to
A sincere believer of “all good things take time”, this year Pragya is looking forward to Quirksmith’s growth. “We have the basics of a good brand and team in place to execute the ideas. So I feel really positive about this year and making consistent efforts will lead to exponential results." She is also prioritizing spending quality time with family.
“Empathy is my superpower. And I think that is the case with most women. In the corporate world, empathy is looked at as a weakness and being loud or aggressive is a thing people associate with being good or worthy. Leading from a place of humanity and trust has had a huge impact on the way I operate and I have benefitted from them immensely. I will continue to make them a big part of the culture at Quirksmith.”
On her relationship with Amrutam, Pragya narrates that she met Stuti (principal: brand and vision) when they were part of the same cohort in the D2C Xpert course. “I found a lot of value in what she brought on the table and that is when I was introduced to Amrutam.” Pragya loves Amrutam’s approach to always add value to our community - be it through our podcast, this blog series or even the content we are posting on social media.
Pragya’s thoughtful perseverance and leadership have moved us and we are so proud to have her as part of our #AmrutamFamily!