Sushmitha Pidatala founded Arjuna Design Studio after discovering a particular aesthetic missing from the home décor market. So, the entrepreneur created precisely what she was looking for: modern home goods with South Asian style. You’ll see why we were excited to speak with Sushmitha after seeing her gorgeous designs. Check out her story below.
Artisan Joy: How did you get started as a creative entrepreneur?
Sushmitha Pidatala: I took the entrepreneurial leap after scouring the market trying to find elegant home goods that blended traditional South Asian aesthetics with contemporary sensibilities. There was nothing out there that filled this void. That motivated me to explore further, and I discovered that there is indeed a viable market for the aesthetic I sought out.
AJ: When did you realize that you could launch a business?
SP: I founded the business as a full-time endeavor and never pretended that I could launch a new brand without committing all of my time and focus into launching a scalable business. A turning point for me was when I created my first home decor product and was met with immediate, overwhelming customer orders and ongoing demand. It confirmed that this product was not accessible in the market, and it validated my overall thesis.
AJ: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
SP: Inspiration tags me from the myriad dwelling spaces and byways of life that individuals from all walks of life occupy. Be they gullies, bazaars, boutique hotels or even just the mundane dining rooms of friends and family. I see the silent beauty in designs, colors and patterns that occur in these pockets.
AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
SP: I consider myself a modern-day nomad, having had the privilege to have traveled and lived in various countries outside of my motherland. I have developed a refined sense of appreciation for diverse and, oftentimes, divergent aesthetics, as they appear in modern homes from various cultural backgrounds. As a chronic expatriate, I have had to joyously reinvent my home, always consistent with my and my family’s shifting environs.
AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?
SP: Perfectionism is a blessing and a curse. It motivates me to remain diligent and detail-oriented. But it can also be fatiguing and self-defeating. I try to strike a balance by remembering that mine is a service business, where I cater to the sensibilities of my customers and the community I am trying to build. As a result, my creative process is iterative—an exercise in constantly enhancing existing offerings and cultivating more desirable product lines.
AJ: When it comes to running a creative business, what keeps you going through the ups and downs?
SP: Remembering the answer to my “Why?” That is to say—always coming back to the impetus behind the business, which is to fill a market void and to help creatives the world over find and celebrate the South Asian aesthetic in a way that harmonizes tradition patterns with contemporary styles.
AJ: What advice would you give to someone who wants to put their creative work out into the world but feels vulnerable about it?
SP: Just take a leap of faith, however messy or imperfect your vision may be at the moment. Because if you don’t bet on yourself, no one else will be motivated to. Seek refuge in the fact that you can’t control everything. So do your best with the things within your domain and know that, in the end, you had the courage to put yourself out there.
AJ: Has someone ever criticized your artwork, the goods you sell or your creative business? How did you handle it?
SP: Yes. This happens constantly. People are judgmental and the market is unforgiving. After overcoming initial waves of disappointment and sadness, I realized that self-pity will not push the needle further. So, I doubled down on improving the product, actually listening to nuanced customer feedback and being more transparent with my artistic and business (logistics, pricing, etc.) process. There’s a way to be accommodating and respectful and authentic to your customer base without having to be apologetic.
AJ: Are you are passionate about a cause and why?
SP: One cause we are passionate about is the mission of Harmony House. The Indian and UK-registered non-profit organization in India has transformed two villas into full-time community centers for over 550 women and children from a nearby slum, where they are offered offer education, nutrition, medical facilities, hygiene facilities, vocational training and social services.
AJ: And, of course, we have to ask you this: What brings you joy?
SP: Creating something from nothing. Something that’s sustainable and timeless. This is the nature of art. And, in doing so, we are helping identify and promote creative souls, artists, craftspeople and artisans all over the world whose voices we have amplified.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity.