Koonik: Making The Planet A Happier Place, One Baby At A Time

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Koonik baby
Sonal Shah, Founder, Koonik
Sonal Shah, Founder, Koonik

With organic becoming the buzzword these days when it comes to food and fashion, why should babies be left behind? After all, if there is anyone who deserves a soft, organic comforter or non toxic, ecofriendly stuffed animals, it’s a baby. Filling this void in the baby products range available to Mumbaikars is Koonik, a young brand started by Sonal Shah.

Sonal and I have been teammates at a social media camp and it was a delight to discover she quit a full time banking job to pursue her dream of being an entrepreneur. And going green could be the only route for a an avid traveler and environment conscious person as her. I didn’t wait too long to discuss Koonik at length with her, and here is an excerpt from the interview. 

What is Koonik all about? And when was it launched?
Koonik was launched in November 2012 with an aim to make and stock only ‘Baby Safe’ products. Our clothes are made from 100% soft organic cotton, nontoxic dyes and the entire treatment from growing organic cotton till the final production is controlled, ensuring that nothing harmful goes onto the clothes. We also make toys. Our cotton softies do not use fur or embellishments that may irritate your baby. The wooden toys are made from Ivory Wood and are painted with all natural vegetable, plant or fruit dyes.

Wooden tortoise by Koonik
Wooden tortoise by Koonik

How did the idea emerge and develop? Tell us the story.
When I went shopping for my new born niece, Sara who lives in the US, all I could find was the plain old boring butterflies, ponies and flowers. After 6 months of research, talking to many mothers (and fathers), factories, designers and stores, I figured that no one was designing clothes for infants that went beyond the usual, old and boring stuff. There is no innovation or design focus in the infant wear market which is just happy to churn the same ideas over and over. That’s how Koonik was born. With Koonik, we want to give parents an option to choose a product that stands out, is different and fresh. Koonik range of clothes and toys are unique and are also perfect gifts for any ‘baby’ occasion. Even the packaging is designed keeping this need in mind.

What was your first product? How did you get the first order?
Our range of printed rompers was the first set of designs to come out of the factory; specifically the Dinosaur range. Our first order came online after we sent a launch email to friends and friends of friends. Our first international bulk order, surprisingly, came from Latvia! We had heard of the place but had to go to Google maps to see where it was!

Toys by Koonik
Toys by Koonik

What does the Koonik range include?
Currently, our product lines are apparel and toys which include Rompers, T-shirts, Blankets, wooden toys and soft toys.

How big is your team and where do you source these products from?
We are a small team. Two of us work full time on Koonik and we have a Man Friday. We have a few designers who work with us part time. We work with manufacturers who follow a fair wage policy and have employee friendly practices. For our toys, we work with NGOs, self-help groups and rural artisan community.

Ring toy for kids by Koonik
Ring toy for kids by Koonik

How can people order?
Customers can log on to www.koonik.com and order online. Additionally, our products are retailing in total of ten stores across six cities. We are working at increasing the number of stores so that customers can find our products at their favorite store around the corner.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when you started out?
When I started out on my own, I very quickly realized that things will move at a pace comfortable to the vendors and not me. And this is frankly a huge stumbling block when it comes to planning your venture. Mr. Murphy was right, everything takes longer than you think.

What do you think is your biggest asset?
As an entrepreneur, you need to be able to connect the dots. These dots may be vendors you have worked earlier, old friends who chose design or photography, ones who can advise you on financial matters etc. I think I do that well, so I think my biggest asset is resourcefulness.

Dinosour design by Koonik
Dinosour design by Koonik

What is the best advice you received when starting out and what is the worst advice?
I would have to say ‘Be Patient’ is the best and worst set of two words of advice I have received. Let me explain. Most entrepreneurs fail as they give up too soon. So being patient is necessary. But you also need to realize the urgency of certain things, move quickly and know when to push for things to happen. So yes, being patient is extremely important and critical to the success of your venture but knowing when to push limits, be agile and change paths is equally important.

How did you spread the word about your venture?
When you work on tight budgets, you get creative! We’ve done it all from events, e-mailers, creating database from friends and their friends, Facebook, coupons, promotions at stores and entrepreneurial meets. I think what has helped the most so far is the media coverage and the support we’ve received from parenting sites, blogs, forums, publications focused on sustainability and design.

What else can customers expect from you in the near future?
Our focus, for now, is on getting sales up so that we can reinvest the money in expanding the designs and products. We are working on introducing some musical instruments, new patterns in clothing and some DIY kits for kids, all organic and fair trade. We are about to launch a few new designs in the next few days.

So the next time you go kiddie shopping, you know how to find Koonik and make this planet a better place, one little toy at a time!

Post By Garima Sharma (111 Posts)

Founding Editor at MumbaiMag, graffiti and street art lover, traveller, blogger and amateur photographer, slave to Thor, my Lab.

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Garima Sharma

Garima Sharma
Founding Editor at MumbaiMag, graffiti and street art lover, traveller, blogger and amateur photographer, slave to Thor, my Lab.