After more than a decade working in the global craft sector, we noticed a growing popularity in handmade ceramics and were lucky to experience the handcrafting skills of indigenous communities that created these products directly. At the same time we saw that globally, craftspeople are forced to abandon their craft due to a lack of consistent job opportunities, which were increasingly being outsourced to centralized large-scale productions.
In 2017, co-founders Sonali and Sumanth created Nugu as an innovative solution to bring fruitful opportunities to the indigenous craftspeople and their communities, while creating a sustainable business rooted in social and environmental impact.
Regardless of how we grow, or what kind of products we develop, Nugu will always source sustainably, consciously create, and support the communities we work in.
Sonali is an impact entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in learning and sustainable development. After more than a decade working alongside innovative organizations, Sonali achieved her MBA at the University of Roehampton and a Design Thinking certificate from MIT — this education, coupled with her growing interest in Indigenous ways of living, encouraged her to build an impact-based business on the values of empathy and sustainability. Alongside her partner Sumanth, Sonali co-founded Nugu to create a sustainable rural ecosystem fostering holistic development while building a global brand promoting responsible production and conscious retail. In addition to her Managing Director role at Nugu, Sonali is an avid startup coach and mentor, and has delivered keynotes at global events on topics including Women Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Leadership. In 2020, Sonali was awarded the prestigious Times Entrepreneur of the Year. A dancing and yoga enthusiast, Sonali loves to practice new steps with her young daughter.
Heading up product design and manufacturing, Sumanth is an expert ceramicist with an engineering degree and business experience to boot. For more than a decade, Sumanth worked closely with indigenous potters to master his craft while developing sustainable clay recipes and production techniques (which form the basis of Nugu’s IronStone today). During this time, he became acutely aware of the local potters’ struggles and learned most were leaving the craft due to dwindling job opportunities. Sumanth gives back to these communities by training potters to create Nugu’s world-class sustainable products, by providing technical and design consulting to many ceramics factories across Asia, and co-creating a ceramic handmade tiles factory in South India. Apart from clay, Sumanth is passionate about horticulture and regenerative agroforestry. When not at the "wheel", he spends his time learning about ancient Malnad sustainable growing and living practices while growing a regenerative agro-forest around the Nugu community.
Supervisor: Vitrification Department
Supervisor: Greenware Manufacturing Department
Supervisor: Slip House Department
Supervisor: Glazing Department
Team Lead: Wheel Forming
Team Lead: Greenware Finishing
At Nugu, sustainability isn’t a buzz word. Our company was founded on creating products in harmony with the environment, because we truly see this as the only way forward for commerce. From sustainably-sourced raw materials to reusing our own water supply to planting trees to offset our carbon production, we take sustainability seriously.
We fuse longstanding indigenous practices with inventive entrepreneurial know-how. Together these two pieces have led us to build innovative practices that are steeped in authenticity, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We push the envelope because we believe that we can shape a better future and help heal the planet by offering a better solution.
We strongly believe that collaborative effort results in better art and better work. Our team is comprised of indigenous makers with decades of traditional knowledge that greatly impacts our design, process, and business. We’d never leave a team member hanging out to dry, only our ceramics — because, well, we need to.
We care deeply about people – from our makers to our business team to our customers and community, we are empathy-forward and relationship-focused. We believe in creating goodness and spreading kindness, and that means that we hold space for humans to be human. We also leave space for dogs to be dogs, elephants to be elephants, bees to be bees… you get the idea.