Mum and Journalist Aude Camus, Interviews our Founder, Anjali

Mum and Journalist Aude Camus, Interviews our Founder, Anjali

Before I became a mum 18 months ago, little did I know about the world of baby brands. I’m now obsessed with it and always on the lookout for lifestyle labels producing meticulously design products that are not only beautiful but also safe for the little ones. Malabar Baby is one these labels, founded by former equity business partner turned successful entrepreneur Anjali Harjani.

Today we share with you, snippets from a special, candid interview - Aude Camus interviews our Founder, Anjali on all things entrepreneurship and motherhood.

Aude: "Before I became a mum 18 months ago, little did I know about the world of baby brands. I’m now obsessed with it and always on the lookout for lifestyle labels producing meticulously design products that are not only beautiful but also safe for the little ones. Malabar Baby is one these labels, founded by former equity business partner turned successful entrepreneur Anjali Harjani."
Hey Anjali. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these few questions. Can you start by telling me a bit more about yourself? Who are you and what brought you to Hong Kong?

Sure. I was born and raised in Miami beach, Florida till I was 13 and then went to boarding school in India for my high school years.  I returned to the USA for college and worked in NYC/London for about 10 years in the Finance industry.  I met my husband in NYC during this time and he is the one who swept me off my feet to Hong Kong! I have a little boy named Aryan and he is the real reason I quit my corporate job to start Malabar Baby in 2017…

I’ve read Malabar Baby made its debuts at a tiny table at The Conrad Hotel, Pop-up Fair. Can you tell me more about it?
My first time exhibiting the brand was indeed a the Conrad Hotel, for the Conrad Fair in HK. It was five years ago.  A table booth was expensive so I only took half of it. I met moms, expecting parents and grandparents throughout the day and loved every minute of it. I’m literally in touch with all of these clients till today.  These same clients offered me advice and suggestions along the years and I genuinely feel so much of Malabar Baby’s success is because of the supportive community around us in Hong Kong.

What about the name of the brand? Where does it come from?
My childhood home in Mumbai, India is in a neighborhood called Malabar Hill. While I was pregnant, I was there having chai with my best friend Shireen and she is the one who came up with the name. I love this name because it resonates with my personal story.

Many of your products are handmade. Can you tell me more about the role of art and craft in your creations? 

    Indeed, some of our most popular products such as the block-printed quilts, receiving dohar blankets and women’s cotton robes are both hand stitched and hand stamped with traditional block-printing techniques in Jaipur, India.  I’m obsessed with Indian cotton and feel that it’s truly pure and luxurious for babies and adults. I also want to make sure that the products stay ethnic in design and show their natural beauty and the beauty of the talented artisans creating them.  We also have a very new exclusive hand loomed Couch Throw Blanket, which is not on our website but, is truly a work of art and it’s fully created by hand!  I will have to show it to you! 

    Where do you find the inspiration for your collections? 
    Travels, places that have inspired me or have a meaning in my life, are my main inspiration. The art deco Miami Collection is inspired by my elementary days in the USA, the Greenwich collection is based on NYC’s monochrome urban cityscape where I spent 10 years of my life working in Finance.  A lot of our more recent collections are inspired by nature and India as my son and I spent five months in lockdown at my parents’, most recently, surrounded with marigolds and peacocks. The latest collections are a picture of the view from my parents’ home in Malabar Hill.
    At the end of 2019, Meghan Markle was photographed carrying her son Archie in a Malabar Baby’s blanket. Is the “Meghan Effect” a real thing? How did it feel as an entrepreneur to see your brand suddenly making the headlines?

      It felt simply amazing and it was an absolute honour for myself and the team! Meghan chose the Erawan Mustard Royal Dohar Blanket for baby Archie and honestly people did not talk about the blanket for about 24 hours, so we were lucky to have time to clean-up our stock and website! I was touched that Meghan chose a handmade in India eco-conscious product (created by a small Mama run brand!) and I loved how effortlessly chic she looked.  

      Is there another personality which you would dream to see photographed with one of your creations and why? 
      That’s a great question!  I’ve never really thought about this but, in general our brand is very natural… very real and authentic so I honestly love seeing families in our community using Malabar Baby.  My husband and son were out doing errands the other day and saw a baby on the street wrapped in Malabar Baby. My son was trying to subtly (not!) get my husband’s attention and he was so thrilled to tell me he “spotted” the Starry Night Swaddle.  Those moments seriously make me happy and proud.
      What have been other whoa moments that made/makes you feel that following your intuition and launching your brand was the right decision?

      As cliché as it might sound, I’m genuinely excited to “work” every day.  I have ideas flowing and nothing really feels like work.  There are definitely hard days right now with COVID and logistics but, this just feels exactly where I need to be right now.  In general though, I would say, hearing feedback from families about the need for adult and lifestyle products has validated my decision and makes me realize the brand is here to stay and it’s something that has great longevity as a household lifestyle brand.
      What have been on the other hand the deepest challenge you’ve faced so far in your entrepreneurial journey? 
      So I’m not going to lie but, starting a business can be really really lonely.  No one really knows what you are thinking or feeling and all of a sudden that corporate support system you had is gone.  My first 2-3 years as an entrepreneur were hard.  The juggle was real. The travel was nuts.  Every other day I questioned if I was making the right thing because I actually loved my corporate job too!  But, my mom and my husband were my biggest cheerleaders and gave me the support I needed to keep my head down and keep swimming.
      What’s next for Malabar Baby? Any exciting news to share with me?

        Oooh, where do I begin! Hahaha. As I mentioned earlier we are definitely interested in expanding in some lifestyle products with a similar design and aesthetic; Items like the handloom couch throw which combine function and art honestly. Simultaneously, we are also coming up with 1-2 must have baby clothing essentials. Not fashion per se, but, more like staples that you need and can grow with baby. Any new “line” that we create usually takes us 1-1.5 years of testing, design and tweaking. I know it’s slow but, I think that’s the only way to make classic silhouettes and designs that truly never go out of style.

        What does a day in your life look like these days? 
        I’m out the door at 7:35AM with my son Aryan. I drop him to school and then head to the office.  I’m the first one there most days and I spend an hour or so catching up on my email and to do’s.  Iced cappuccino is my jam, even on winter days and before I know it’s mid-day.  I’m on zoom half the day with clients and are partners in India and then usually I try to dash out by 4ish to spend time with my son.  I’m back online most evenings with our USA team and other nights I’m trying HK’s dining scene with my husband who is a major foodie!
        I imagine you keep an eye on what other family lifestyle brands are doing. What are some brands which you genuinely love and buy as a mom? 
        You know this is actually one area I am not great at because I don’t shop a ton anymore!  We do a lot of purchasing at Retykle in Hong Kong and just started selling clothes back too.  I love Retykle’s principles and it’s right in our back yard.  My favourite kids and lifestyle shopping sites at the moment are Maisonette and The Tot.  Both are USA based and both curate some of the best brands in the world under one site.  They are very chic and most of all try their best to look out for real green responsible brands to house on their site.  Malabar Baby is on both of their sites!