Sushma Mehta Shah is an out-and-out Bombay girl. Born on Napean Sea Road, she moved to nearby Marine Drive after marriage. The only time she left the haloed confines of south Mumbai was when she lived with her husband in New York for a few years while he did his MBA.
But even a high-paid job working on the 75th floor of Empire State Building in New York could not take away the allure of amchi Mumbai, and so she convinced her husband to move back.
The couple then had two children, a daughter who is now 12 and a son who is eight, and Sushma had her arms full with childcare. Five years ago, however, she began to miss work. She had accepted the fact that she could not go back to a nine-to-five job as before, but she itched to do something.
She began writing poetry and even published a book of poems. Then a random comment by a male acquaintance triggered her off. “He said, ‘Oh, you’re just a housewife’, in a way that made it seem like being a housewife is nothing,” she recalls indignantly. “A woman’s work at home is never valued, even though she puts in 24×7 for the family.”
Challenged and charged up, Sushma decided she would start her own business, from home.
Born into a family of Zaveri Bazaar jewellers, the Jai Hind alumna always had a creative bent of mind, and her work experience as an operations manager had taught her how to manage large teams and logistics.
She was interested in designing a line of high-quality fashion jewellery that could bridge the gap between street-side ‘junk’ jewellery on one hand and precious gold jewellery on the other. And so, in 2014, she launched Rejuvenate Jewels.
Initially, she converted one room in her flat into her workplace, with two karigars (artisans) coming in daily to conjure her designs into reality. Gradually, through word of mouth, her business grew. She priced her products in the range of Rs 500 – Rs 15,000, with most items in the lower range.
Today, she retails from top multi-designer stores across India – from Atosa in Mumbai to Nimai in Delhi – besides online from her own website and on e-stores such as Jaypore and Pernia’s Pop Up Shop.
But the best response she’s had so far has been through pop-ups and exhibitions where she can do the sales herself. “People can’t say no to me,” she smiles, “I’m so passionate about my jewellery, it shows.”
Now five years old, Rejuvenate Jewels comes up with a new collection inspired by unconventional items every year. The ‘Heritage’ collection used old coins and keys. The ‘Timeless’ collection saw the use of old clocks and timepieces. And the ‘Sawdust’ collection was literally made of recycled wood.
Her unusual, flamboyant concepts make Sushma’s designs a kind of wearable art. They also make for excellent statement jewellery when one is attending an important event, so it’s no wonder that her customers include the who’s who of fashion and Bollywood – Vidya Balan, Shraddha Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar, Mouni Roy, Mandira Bedi, Gautami Kapoor, Hrishita Bhatt and Roshni Chopra to name a few.
Sushma also showcased her collection at Pune Fashion week and was a jewellery partner in the film Phuntroo. When she’s not busy with her label or family, she has tied up with the NGO Drishti, and is working to get street children into school, especially girls, and teach them how to use computers.
“I’m a feminist,” says Sushma. “I want to prove that whether she’s working outside or at home, every woman contributes as much as a man, and should be respected equally. Don’t challenge her; support her.” The feisty Sushma is walking her talk.