Fifty years ago, Shyam Ahuja launched his brand of dhurries. 

                     He talks about what his plans are and why quality is more important

                   than price.

                                            Once upon a time, not so very long ago, Shyam Ahuja was the first and
                                   last name in floor decor. This was the man who reinvented the dhurrie
                                 up from being an underlay for carpets and rejuvenated the moribund art
                                   of dhurrie weaving. His flat woven rugs, woven in the softest pastels and the
                                    sharpest prints, adorned many homes first across India and then the world.
                                      Mostly, these were the homes of the elite. The hoi polloi watched and waited
                                     for the annual discount sale when they could actually acquire a Shyam Ahuja.
                                    The eclipse came suddenly, in the early Noughties, and the label fell below the
                                   public radar. Suddenly, the witty and memorable Shyam Ahuja adverts went missing;
                                    one had to look hard to find the iconic dhurries. Now, the man and his wares are back.
                                      He is based in New York but selling everywhere.  Shyam Ahuja, the man who                                                           transformed the dhurrie, continues on his odyssey.

                     As you look back from the 50-year milestone, what is your primary                                    emotion?
                              Primarily that, for all of 50 years, I did it my way. I work from my heart.
                              I was not distracted by India shining or India dimming, the boom or the bust.
                                I did not change my line of business. And you know what? In my next life, I
                              would like to do just this… with some tweaks!
                    Shyam Ahuja rugs once carried a certain cachet. Do they still have that 
                     exclusivity in these days of affordable kalamkari dhurries, cotton and wool                      rugs?
                                  In the overseas markets and among the haut monde, the Shyam Ahuja brand
                                  has gone from strength to strength. The elegance and subtlety of a pastel Shyam
                                     Ahuja dhurrie are unsurpassed. But, yes, in India, the brand has taken a hit not
                                    because of the glut of kalamkaris or wool rugs but because the mass potential of the
                                     market dictates that poorly designed rugs are available at amazingly low prices.                                              Maybe we have been too low-key in our advertising. But then, our collections are                                              unique and not for everyone. Ultimately, it’s all about top quality.

                          What, in your opinion, sets a Shyam Ahuja dhurrie apart from 
                               the rest in the market?
                                              In a nutshell, four essential attributes: colour, quality, service and reliability. We                                                are still the best   of the best where dhurries are concerned, whether of                                                            cotton, silk or wool weft. We specialise in  custom work; we dye custom colours. We                                      have looms capable of weaving rugs that are 50 ft wide  and without a seam. We do                                         wall-to-wall carpeting and undertake installations in any part of the   world. Look at                                          our archival history: we have woven Aubusson dhurries in 103 colours.

                            Who comprises the majority of your client list today: the loyal long-                                   time  customer and their kids, or walk-in customers?
                               In India, we still have our old loyal customers, not too many walk-in customers.                                              This is understandable;  by and large, we are not into bargain sales. I do not have the                                        mindset of a trader. I like to say that             though I cannot sell a 100 pieces to one                                            customer, I can certainly sell two rugs each to 50                            different customers.                                          Overseas, we only sell to recognised decorators, designers and architects. No              retail                              or department stores or catalogue houses for us.
                            Yes, I am expensive but quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten. Then                                       again,  price is subjective; we are considered expensive in India, not in New York and                                        Europe despite   my prices being marked up significantly higher.
                       Are you a hands-on businessman or have you grown enough
                       to now let others manage things?
                      Today, my business is handled by my grandson Aditya. Luckily his creative tastes and                                      mindset are            similar to mine. Aditya has able support from senior staff with 30 to 40                             years of experience. It is a            tight team. I am at work five days a week. As long as I am                             not a nuisance, I will continue working                 for the Shyam Ahuja brand.

                      Are there certain places where your products sell better than others?
                       Our products sell better in New York than anywhere else. Maybe NY likes what Shyam                                 Ahuja has to offer. May be we are able to tap the market better because both Aditya and I                              live here.

                  Anything new on the Shyam Ahuja anvil?
                       Well, at the end of the day, we are Shyam Ahuja, made in India. Our dhurries tap into India’s                       rich craft heritage. Though I am proud to be a dhurrie man, being branded as                                                       a dhurriewala is a handicap in India. The point is: Shyam Ahuja has more to offer than                                    just dhurries. There is a huge variety of cotton, silk and linen fabrics; there are soft                                           furnishings like bed, bath and table linen; there are scarves, stoles,batuas…We have factory                          outlets in Mumbai and Delhi to cater to the price-sensitive customer. We offer significant                             discounts on some products. Aditya plans to gradually open more factory outlets in places                              like Chandigarh, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. This is Shyam Ahuja 2.0. Keep                                   looking out for us; we aren’t going away any time soon.