The environment that we live in influences our thoughts and actions. With a conducive environment and people supporting you, it becomes easy for us to strive in the direction of the goal set by our near and dear. But our success is always dependent on how we respond to the cues. Some see this presence of idols around, who have achieved excellent feats, as a burden, where every action of yours will be compared to their excellent benchmarks, while the achievers see this as an opportunity for growth.
Here is an engineer turned designer who found her calling in designing after crafting her wedding jewelry. She saw the potential of a brilliant career in the field, going by the example of her mother’s success. In her designs, she reflects a part of herself. Now she sets an ideal example for women who aspire to pursue what they love, managing their professional and personal life wonderfully. In conversation with Nileena Babu on her entrepreneurial journey with Nileena Babu Fine Jewellery.
Tell us about yourself, your background, and your previous ventures.
I am Nileena Babu, a jewelry designer. I am the creative director at Adona Diamonds and own my designer jewelry brand called Nileena Babu Fine jewelry. I am an engineer with an MBA in Finance who later changed into the jewelry field when I found my calling. I completed my engineering from Rajagiri and MBA from Loyola Chennai, after which I worked for a while at Nielsen, then moved to my husband’s family business for a little bit. It was during this time I decided to join my mom in the jewelry field.
How did you fall in love with designing? When did you realize that this was your passion?
I have, in a way, grown up around jewelry as my mother Molly Babu has been in the jewelry business for more than 20 years now.
She started her business, Adona diamonds, in 1999. Our jewelry manufacturing unit is very close to our house. Hence I have always gone to the team, assisted my mom with designs, etc., and I even did an internship at Adona after my engineering.
But all this while, even though I used to enjoy what I was doing, I never considered jewelry designing as a career option.
It was much later, after few changes in careers, after I designed my wedding jewelry, that I started realizing that this could be a field I would enjoy working in.
And so in 2016, I went ahead and did my course in jewelry design and started managing our jewelry store at Calicut ( branch of Adona)
During the 2020 lockdown, I started my brand of jewelry, Nileena Babu Fine Jewellery.
Realizing it was my passion happened along the way, and now I enjoy designing and creating jewelry.
What are some of the challenges you faced while setting a career in this field? How did you overcome these?
I am a growing designer; I have a long way to go before saying I have overcome my challenges. But the main challenge I am overcoming is that I have never been a person who enjoyed wearing typical jewelry styles. I have always wanted the pieces I wear to be unique. Hence the details I create are not always something that everyone would love. Those who love it will love it, and it’s been a work in progress to convince me that I don’t always have to create pieces to please everyone; instead, creating unique pieces that reflect my taste and style is more important.
In your career as a jewelry designer, is there a particular project that you consider the most challenging, one that genuinely tested your limits? Could you talk about your favorite project as of now?
Even though I work in the jewelry field, I am not a person who wears big pieces of jewelry, my personal preference is to stay minimal (that is entirely a personal choice), and as a designer, I always try to place myself as the person using the jewelry when I am designing something. So when it comes to creating more significant jewelry pieces, I have to go a little out of my comfort zone to design them.
Recently I had an opportunity to design a wedding necklace for a client, and they required that they needed it to be different at the same time should be big and royal. I had not worked on it before, and it took me a while to come up with the design. But once I did, I loved it! It is probably one of the most challenging and the most favorite projects I have done so far. What I love the most about that that is the fact that I was able to incorporate my idea of going minimal with the design, as it was a combination of 3 different necklaces that they can wear separately once the wedding was over. I incorporated the same for the earrings too.
The customer loved the idea and also the finished product, happy customer, elated designer .
Do you have a role model you look up to? If yes, what are the qualities that you admire of that person? If no, then why?
I have few role models I look up to. My most significant and most important inspiration to be an entrepreneur is my parents. I have always admired the kind of hard work they put in to build what they have today and their energy. I cannot but mention the type of energy my mom possesses; I wish I had half the energy and efficiency with which she manages work, family, house, etc.
Apart from family, the Jewellery designer Farah Khan Ali has always been an inspiration for me. I would shamelessly admit that, at the beginning stages of my designer career, I used to take inspiration from her pieces. I also love how enthusiastic she is about fitness, family, and travel. I feel these are things I resonate very well with and try to emulate.
When was the big break for you? What are the highlights of your journey as a designer?
The big break was the Lockdown 2020. That is when I could sit down without the regular busy work schedule, decide what I wanted for myself, and come up with my 1st collection of Nileena Babu fine jewelry.
How do you reach out to your potential customers? And could you brief us about the work that goes behind the final product?
When my mom started in the diamond jewelry industry in 1999, she used to follow the word of mouth promotion along with some exhibitions to promote sales. She has been following the same with great results till now.
I started with the same piggybacking on my mother’s customer base. Still, along with that, I am also concentrating on social media promotion through my page Nileena Babu Fine Jewellery, I have also created a YouTube channel to show how my pieces can be styled, and I am also in the process of creating a website for online sales as I have been getting inquiries from different places across the country. An online site will make it easier to cater to them.
What else do you pursue outside of designing jewelry? And how does a regular day in your life look like? What is your schedule?
Apart from work, I am a four-year-old’s mother, so a lot of time gets spent with her. Other than that, I am a fitness enthusiast. I make sure I work out regularly, I love going on treks, and I love traveling.
On a regular day, I wake up and get some exercise done and take care of my daughter’s needs, and 2-3 days a week, I spend a few hours designing ( I require to be alone for few hours when I am working on new designs), and then most days I go to the unit to check on the ongoing work and for the other 2-3 days, I will be at the store in Cochin.
We are in the process of renovating our showroom so that I can have my design studio and Nileena Babu counter also added to the showroom.
Once I am back from work, it’s usually family time. Dinner with family is a staple, then a movie or a series episode together before sleep.
What are your plans? Where do you see yourself in five years?
I am working on establishing myself as a designer, and I hope to make my brand known and available to more customers who love the kind of jewelry I make.
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