It isn’t till I’m about half an hour into my conversation with Raj Jain that I realise that the expression on my face, when I first walked into his store, had made his day.
Since there was no mirror, I don’t know exactly how I looked. But I’m certain my eyes were wide and round, my jaw had fallen open, and my face was filled with wonder.
I’d been curious about Anemos, Jain’s store at Raghuvanshi Mills, Mumbai, ever since I’d first heard about it. After all, what could a store that specialises in fans possibly contain? For heavens’ sake, they’re just those three-bladed things that whirr unregarded above our heads almost 24-7 in summer. They get the season’s stagnant, stultifying air moving. Other than that, how cool can a fan be?
Very cool, it transpires, when I walk into Anemos on a sticky summer afternoon. And even though I’ve done the grand tour, the expression on my face still makes Raj Jain collapse with laughter.
It’s a breeze
“That’s what I wait for,” says Jain. “The way customers look when they come into the store is the most satisfying thing about my work.”
There’s good reason for that. The fans at Anemos are like no fans I’ve ever seen. The ceiling fans range from stainless steel versions of what we’ve already got whirring above our heads, to gyroscopic fans that work on the helicopter principle, to mysterious circles that, when you switch them on, open out into three-bladed fans, to traditional Indian pankhas lined up on rods and wired to flap when you need them, and more.
You’ve got fans with a retro look, you’ve got fans with a contemporary minimalist look, you’ve got fans so ornate that a status-seeking young couple would bow before them, you’ve even got genuine antique fans of the kind you grew up in the pre-liberalisation days, which your parents probably sold to the raddiwalla 20 years ago.
These are what Jain calls the Rolls Royce and Mercedes of fans – the result of his belief that just because something is utilitarian, it doesn’t need to look industrial.
“Anemos grew out of my frustration in 2002 when we were doing up our house and couldn’t find fans to go with the décor,” says Jain. “We looked everywhere, but only industrial-looking fans were available.”
Air and now
Jain’s interior designer asked him a valid question: This is the age of air-conditioning, he said. So why did Jain want fans? “But who wants to live in an air-conditioned environment 24-7?” asks Jain. “It’s unhealthy, and bad for the environment. I wanted fans and I wondered why we didn’t get good-looking, technologically advanced fans here. India is the second largest market for fans in the world, after China. Why isn’t anyone looking at this market?”
So the (re)search began. In the US, Jain found companies with aesthetic fan designs and began importing them. Here, with a tweak or two – India’s need for air flow is higher so the fans need to go faster – they are ready for sale at the four Anemos stores, two in Mumbai, one in Delhi and one in Ahmedabad.
“I look for aesthetics and technology,” says Jain. “For instance, there’s a reverse mode fan – a fan you can use in winter. It moves warm air around, so it relieves the stuffiness of a heated, airless room.”
However good-looking and technologically superior these fans are, it isn’t easy to sell them. Interior designers (and home owners) are still convinced that this is the age of air-conditioning for one thing. And for another, the fans at Anemos are expensive, starting at something like Rs 16,000.
But they are selling now, says Jain. “After all, you can’t live in India and not have a fan!”
- From HT Brunch, May 22
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