From selling printed t-shirts to showcasing their mural works at World Art Dubai, Chandni Mathur and Nikhil Kapur have come a long way with Hoozinc, one of the first stores in Hyderabad that began selling pop culture merchandise in 2011. Mechanical engineering graduates, the duo realised engineering was not their cup of tea and a 9-to-5 job was the last thing they wanted to do in life. Thus was born Hoozinc, a venture by the Hyderabad-based batchmates, believing in the motto: Art has the power to change the world.
As we enter Hoozinc in the city’s Banjara Hills, some of our favourite characters from popular sitcoms and figures from world history greet us from the walls. From portraits of Sheldon Cooper to Amitabh Bachchan, the retail outlet also has customised shot glasses with pictures of Shakti Kapoor and Gabbar Singh. A long portrait of Frida Kahlo takes centre stage, while other smaller paintings and funky merchandise is neatly arranged on shelves.
Chandni and Nikhil were interning at a company in the city when they realised they should rather be following their passion for art than doing a white-collar 9-5 job. “We enjoyed the field visits but sitting in office was a bore. Thankfully, our parents were supportive of our idea and didn’t make a fuss. Back in 2011, superhero themed merchandise was a fad and we began selling t-shirts printed with original superhero designs. We didn’t even have a website then, and all our sales and marketing happened only through Facebook. We initially forced a few of our friends to buy the products but with word of mouth the business flourished,” Nikhil laughs.
In 2011, Hoozinc was the first ever store in the entire Andhra Pradesh that sold pop culture merchandise from TV shows and movies, an industry that was slowly finding its grip in other metros. From operating out of a single bedroom, Chandni and Nikhil now run the Hoozinc store, the retail outlet for pop culture merchandise and Hoozinc art and design studio, a creative space that provides art as a service.
Passion for urban art
Once Hoozinc began growing, the duo took to street art, painting different locales in Hyderabad. Street art, says Chandni, is only an extension of their passion for urban art. It isn’t a commercial venture but an effective tool to stir up discussions, she adds.
From stencils and spray paints to newspapers, carrom coins to metals, the use of materials for their artwork is as varied as the themes themselves.
“The pop culture scene in Hyderabad is still at an evolving stage. When we started the company almost a decade back, we had very little understanding of mural art or graffiti. But as our understanding of art evolved, we found graffiti was a way to spark life at the most ordinary of places, to begin discussions on topics that were hitherto considered taboo,” Nikhil explains.
One street graffiti that managed to grab a lot of eyeballs is that of a superwoman drying clothes, painted on one of the streets at BS Maqta on Necklace Road.
“What are the prerequisites while choosing a location to paint?”
“To get permission from the owner?!” Chandni laughs.
A lady in a red skirt and a blue blouse with the Superman logo painted on it, the idea of a superwoman drying clothes struck one day while the duo were strolling through the streets in the city and saw a woman carrying a heavy bucket of clothes for drying.
“A woman carrying a six-yard long saree, water dripping through its ends – it seemed nothing less than a superwoman feat,” Nikhil says.
“One of the few superwoman feats,” Chandni corrects quickly.
“Haha, yes! So we thought why not paint the same? And the Superman logo is something everyone identifies with,” Nikhil adds.
Another striking imagery is the shadow art at the one of the lanes at BS Maqta, which Nikhil says was drawn adjacent to a school in the locality.
“We are a generation that cannot live without our phones. But we were equally surprised when we saw kids in the locality totally immersed in their smartphones, kids as young as 13. The shadow art was accompanied by a painting of paper boats being sailed into a stream. The painting created a buzz as kids began twisting their hands to experiment how exactly shapes were created in shadows. The kids had found something new and that was enough to keep them away from their phones at least for a day,” Nikhil says.
One of the shelves at Hoozinc is lined with spray cans, a variety of caricatures of women across races and religions painted on each of them. The cans are miniatures of the graffiti Nikhil and Chandni showcased at the fifth edition of World Art Dubai earlier this month.
“Using art as a medium to propagate change, we created paintings that were provocative yet abstract and silent. We painted women who were bold and had a story in themselves to tell the viewers. The impact was such that while we had audiences who were scandalised with the paintings, we also had lot of women who came up to us to applaud the effort,” Chandni says.
The duo recently finished an art installation for a popular bank in the city and has been working with a couple of restaurants, cafes and bars. Hoozinc has also worked with many popular brands like Uber, the Rama Naidu studios in the city, and Paypal in Bangalore. Work is also on for a hotel where, Nikhil says, each room will be painted in the model of a metro station.
“In 2011, the idea was to transcend design and quirkiness, and create a brand that combined artistic creativity to provide products unique only to us. But now we have decided to shift our focus to more art-centric products. Our model is in the transformative stage. Our new range of products will be more on the lines of experimental art,” Nikhil says.
Installation at Rana Daggubati's office
Hoozinc recently created a graffiti for Pinkathon in Hyderabad. “If things work out well, the graffiti might become the permanent logo for body positivity for all Pinkathon runs,” Chandni adds.
Lastly, what does Hoozinc mean? After much coaxing, Nikhil says, “Hooz was a word that I always used to scribble in my notebooks, on my artworks. So when we started the store, we wanted something to add to Hooz, to sound fancy. We tried ink, a word play at ‘Whose ink’, but somehow the ‘k’ never stayed and today we are ‘Hoozinc’, with a ‘c’!