COLONY is a Delhi-based agency that specializes in brand storytelling, strategy, research and writing informed by anthropology. It was founded by Meher Varma in 2015.
BRANDING + STORYTELLING
I work with a team of talented anthropologists, trained in the US and India. Once the research is in, the story begins.
Ethnographic Research, Storytelling, and Content Creation
Kama Ayurveda is one of India’s leading Ayurvedic beauty brands. Since it was established in 2002, it's been known for its pure and effective formulations, soothing fragrances, zen retail stores, and powerful online presence.
In 2015, Kama Ayurveda commissioned Colony to do ethnography across Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore. Through a combination of structured and semi structured interviews, and conversations with walk-in customers, we collected data that got to the heart of what Kama’s founders wanted to know in order to shape their strategies. Questions included asking what Ayurveda means to urban consumers in India, and to what extent their other life choices were related to their interest in tapping an age-old science for everyday beauty solutions.
2015 - 17
Ethnographic Research, Storytelling, Content Creation
Chumbak’s home products are loved for their poppy, larger-than-life prints. The brand is unafraid of color and bold print, even when minimalism seems like a non-negotiable, global aesthetic.
But what happens when Chumbak’s iconic language translates to apparel, and womens apparel in particular? What are the limits of expression for wardrobes as opposed to homes?
Between 2015 and 2017, Colony conducted ethnography in order to create future women’s apparel for the brand, and improve details on existing collections. Our methodologies included online research, home-visits, and semi structured interviews with walk-in consumers to reveal surprising findings about what lines women cross and obey when it comes to clothing choices.
Nicobar is a leading Indian lifestyle brand. Their home products and apparel are inspired by Tropical Minimalism, and a boundless sense of geography.
In 2018, two years into the brand, the founders commissioned Colony to figure out how their brand mission was translating to popular audiences. We conducted ethnography in Delhi and Bombay to understand how this sense of tropical living, so fundamental to the brand, was intersecting with daily living and the demands of work. With this data, we were able to provide Nicobar with new guidelines for messaging.
2018 - 2020
Advisor to Board, Content Strategist, Storytelling
Vana Retreats is an multi-award winning wellness retreat, and is known across the world for its wellness offerings. Located in a forested sanctuary in Dehradun, it is home to visitors looking to retreat from their fast-paced, urban lives and immerse themselves in self-reflection, therapeutic treatments, and rejuvenating activities.
Since 2018, Colony has been working closely with Vana Retreats in multiple content-creation roles, informed by Meher’s experience on the Vana Board for two years. Newsletters, campaigns, social media strategies, and curated stories have been created by our team to cater to the Vana family and their communities.
2019 - 2020
Bhaane is one of India’s most recognised hip ready-to-wear brands. In 2019, when Nimish Shah took over as Creative Director he sought out to give the brand a new identity and widen its consumer base by giving it a sharper aesthetic. Colony was commissioned to create a new brand deck to capture what this new identity would look like for communication, and to exemplify its new pillars, we created several stories, including the much loved piece that anatomized the quintessential desi softboi.
2019 - present
Brand Strategy, Storytelling
Specialists in curating travel and cultural experiences, The Soul Company (TSC) was established to change up the way people move around and learn about the world. From incredible dinners to cultural walks through some of India’s most spectacular towns, TSC is led by cultural experts – that include historians, chefs, and critics – who are amazing at sharing their knowledge.
Colony was commissioned to help TSC develop its core brand identity and philosophy. We then worked with the founding team to consult on experiences, select the Experts, and create communication for the website and relevant collaterals.
This project also led to the creation of an amazing online boutique called The Rooted Company that we were commissioned to create from scratch. We made a shop that did not only sell beautiful products, but brands that create responsibly.
INSTAPIZZA'S FROZEN SNACKS
Research, Product Copy
Two Moons is a frozen snacks company by Instapizza, a popular Delhi-basd pizza brand, that focuses on ready-to-heat pizza snacks. Once the product was tried and tested (and made as yummy as a frozen pizza could be), Colony came in to work on textual communication. What should the products be called? What is the Two Moon’s tone of voie? Could we include recipes in the boxes – what kinds? As usual, we turned to consumer research to answer these questions, and worked closely with the design agency to make the smartest and most fun frozen pizzas we could.
Raw Mango is a fashion and textile brand that has a cult following of some thousands. Women across India and the world love their refined saris in particular. When they approached Colony in 2020, they were just about getting to 10 years in business. Despite a hugely successful business and growing fan base, they wanted to think about future directions for the next decade. Had they become synonymous with the sari and in what ways was this both empowering and limiting? What did consumers ‘want’ from Raw Mango products and how could these perceptions be used to decide which product categories they could explore in the next 10 years?
Content Creation, Storytelling
When designer Rajesh Pratap Singh took over as Creative Director of the legacy brand, Satya Paul, Colony was hired to lead content. Since March 2021, we have created consumer facing content on a daily basis. Our work consists of ideating and naming collections and campaigns, writing press releases and social media posts, creating in-store signage and so on.
The Bivouac, or the Biv for short, is an airy, wonderful co-working spot in the heart of Connaught Place. Colony came on board to create the brand identity, website, and consult on the visuals. We also launched a crowd sourced gazette that brings together some of the most talented writers we know.
Website Copy, Product Descriptions
Saurabh Dakshini, the founder of Studio Organon, has done lots of remarkable architectural projects. Colony created a website for his studio, so they were all in one place.
BAD TABLE MANNERS
I am the host of Bad Table Manners, a podcast that aims to push the boundaries of food narratives in South Asia. I just completed the first season of the show which had a whopping 15,000 listeners! Stay tuned for Season Two and Three.
The show is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and is part of the awesome Whetstone Radio Collective.
I write for popular sites and magazines. I write for academic journals. I also write and edit reports for international organizations. Some links to recent work are below.
PHD THESIS IN ANTHROPOLOGY
University of California Los Angeles
FASHION AND DESIGN WRITING
I love writing anthropologically informed pieces for fashion and design journals.
Phantome Color Palette: Colors for a COVID World
Re-imagining Beauty in a time of COVID
Bombay and Delhi Girl Style: A Two Part, Collaborative Essay
Disegno Magazine: A Critique of Marie Kondo
OCD REPORT WRITING AND EDITING
My clients include The World Bank, ILO, and the ORF.
FOOD & TRAVEL
I have reviewed tons of restaurants in the city. I am dead honest, even after four martinis.
I've eaten my way through Delhi. A little guide of my Edible City is here:
I wrote a micro history of the finger bowl for The Eater
For Vittles, I wrote a Dal Directory, and a piece about how economic liberalization female ideals of beauty in the 90s; it is titled "We The Queens."
I am writing a collection of narrative, non-fiction essays.
September 2014 - June 2016
Sometimes, I have the fabulous job of reviewing wonderful hotels around the world for The World Boutique Hotel Awards.
Life in a Portuguese Castle
RECENT LIFESTYLE WRITING
An Ode to Shoplifting, for the Columbia Journal
Girl, Interrupted for Harpers Bazaar June/ July 2020
Beauty in a Time of Recession for Harpers Bazaar, June /July 2020
Decolonizing Fashion Vocabulary for Dismantle, March 2021
I was interviewed by The Swaddle, and we talked at length about inequality in the 'sustainable' fashion industry.