How Asheesh Sethi, an advertising guy built AnYahh Art Gallery, India's first affordable art brand.

MG Road,New Delhi |Dubai International Financial Centre| Al Barsha, Dubai

Asheesh Sethi - An inspiring entrepreneur with a profound vision and a creative eye. Driven by a passion for Art, owns the largest affordable art gallery brand in the world - AnYahh. He started working at the young age of 19 and today owns a diverse range of businesses that are phenomenal in their range and reach.

YC - Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background did you have?

Asheesh: So, I was born and brought up in Delhi, I studied in St. Xaviers, Delhi from where I passed out in 1988. Even when I was still in school I had started advertising, I had started an advertising agency called Noshe Oceanic Private Limited. It so happened that I lost my father very young in 1989, he was a journalist at The Financial Express. And having lost him that early working became a need more than a want.

So I started working very young and completed my graduation. I did get through Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi but attendance was an issue so I had to get into Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi. The principal at that time was the father of one of my friends, though it was a full-time college he helped out with the attendance. 

YCYou started your advertising agency - Noshe Oceanic Private Limited,  really young, was funding a challenge when you started your project?

Asheesh: In the beginning, I had no money, I had just lost my father and money was always in short supply. My father was a journalist and they were never paid so well. My sister had just gotten married and you know how it was with middle-class families. So I started out by taking out supplements as an advertising agency. It was more like services. 

My grandfather’s office was in Daryaganj which was very close to where we were staying, he was a lawyer. So I started with a desk in my grandfather’s office and started taking out add-supplements. I just went around collecting ads. At that time getting retailers to advertise meant having to literally give them steel bowls. So if you take out a small 5x2 ad, I’d give four bowls and the retailer would negotiate. I don’t want four bowls, I want six. Or I’ll give a Kodak camera for this many ads. So that’s how I started and built up a certain capital and then started the agency in full swing - Noshe Oceanic Private Limited.

I have been in advertising for almost 30 years. At its peak for over two decades, Noshe Group has been the undisputed ‘King of Retail’ with India’s most lovable retail clients relying on it for its communication and promotions. Noshe Group has created more than 300 memorable corporate films and commercials for clients like JK Lakshmi Cement starring Om Puri, Aristocrat Premium starring Ajay Devgan, King Henry starring Kabir Bedi, Ice Vodka starring Malaika Arora, Bakson’s Pharmaceuticals, C’n’M Stores, Neeru Sarees starring Yana Gupta. We had offices in Delhi, Lucknow & Jaipur.

But we could see the saturation coming in the print advertising market due to internet penetration. So we stalled the operation of Noshe Oceanic for 5-7 years, and thereafter we started with art. 

YC - We would love to know about your journey to The Anyahh Art gallery.

Asheesh: In 2005 I started this brand, AnYahh Art. Art was something I was connected with, and my wife also wanted to do something with art so this was started as a business for her as it was one of her interests. We started this agency together, the first year we held exhibitions at Travencore Palace in Kasturba  Marg- this was affordable art made by young artists. That’s where we launched AnYahh Art as an affordable art brand. We held exhibitions throughout the year to test the waters, test the market. We had 40 or 50 artists, all BFAs and MFAs from different schools whose works we showcased and sold. With God’s blessings and patronage, every exhibition was a sellout. That gave us some confidence to explore, we set up our gallery on the 2nd floor in South Extension, Delhi. Though the location wasn’t at a charged-up retail space, we still did fairly well. We used to give full-page ads in all the leading newspapers and gradually built our clientele. We operated from there for 4-5 years but due to metro construction in the area, the footfall has tremendously reduced, so we decided to move out.

Then we started our gallery at MG Road, Sultanpur, Delhi. This was a bigger space and is now our head office with over 20,000 paintings. Then about 4-5 years ago (in 2016-2017) we recognized Dubai has a big market for art. In Dubai, there are a lot of Indians, Pakistanis, Asians & Europeans who are interested in Indian & contemporary art. We did quite well in Dubai, now we have two galleries in Dubai, one in the high-end DIFC- Dubai International Financial Centre and another at Al Barsha.

We also have plans for London and we almost finalized Toronto but the pandemic delayed the process. Of course, New York is the ultimate destination but it’s too early for us to get to that. 

YC - Moving on, we see you collaborated with the cafe brand Barista for The Anyahh Art gallery. How did this collaboration turn out for business?

Asheesh: Yes, we collaborated with Barista- as art is meant to create a space for coffee conversation and a feeling. So we collaborated and set up Art Galleries in all the Baristas across India, almost 175 Baristas all across. This went on for a year. It gave up a huge jump in brand equity and in sales. In every city, there were 10-15 Barista’s and every Barista showcased around 10 of our paintings. The collaboration went really really well, it was a wonderful opportunity.

But then Starbucks came to India and the client profile changed and so we fell out of collaboration but while it lasted it was a great venture where we got to showcase your works to a huge clientele. This association has taken the brand Anyahh to all major cities and many smaller towns across India. 

YC - In 2016 you started could you tell us more about this venture?

Asheesh: Around 2016 we had estimated print advertising will take a beating. So we thought since DIY was the next big thing and came up with - It was meant to be quick, we created it based on the concept of crowdsourcing. It was like an advertising menu where you could buy brochures, logos at a much cheaper rate. For example, instead of 4-5 lacs on a brochure, one could get a brochure for 20,000.  So one could place an order and the job would be guaranteed to be completed in 100 hours which is around 4 days. The process was meant to cater to young startups and entrepreneurs and not follow the retainership model. Here even smaller needs to get posters,  banners & pamphlets were catered to. This started very well and there was interest in funding as well but we didn’t need to take funding at that point. It’s still running well even now. 

YC- In 2017 you started Saar Marketing, could you tell us more about Saar Marketing?

Asheesh: So this was another of our projects, at this point Anyahh Art was already the world's largest affordable art gallery brand, and as our popularity and brand acceptance increased so we started a cosmetic range for Anyahh. We produced different products like face wash, soaps, lotions, face packs, and perfumes- all these were retailed through different retails outlets like CNMS, Nykaa, Amazo and Looks Saloons. It was branded under the name AnYahh and marketed by a company called Saar Marketing.

YC - Tell us something about your recent, 2021 project Shaeesh Homes. 

Asheesh: Shaeesh Homes was started during the pandemic. We thought of dabbling into real estate. This was initiated as we had a plot in Gurgaon. We develop home, super-luxury independent floors that are artistic and creative. Designing has always been my thing- interiors and construction have always been my passion and have been a common thread in all of my businesses. We just finished a project of a 500sq yards plot which is on sale and now we are starting two more projects. It gives me a space to express my creativity. 

YC- Let’s talk a little about your family.

Asheesh: My wife has been a huge support, she has been my absolute pillar. It is true what they say, behind a successful man is a strong woman. I have had her support through ups and downs. My mother is an iron lady, she has managed a gas station - ML Sethi Service Station at Sec-5, Rohini - Delhi by herself that has dominantly been a man’s role.

 My son is a musician, he has a band. He started playing the piano and had his first concert when he was 5 years old. Now he is an entrepreneur by day and a musician by night. He enjoys his life and we let him follow his passion. He also helps his mother manage the Art gallery in Dubai. My daughter is still in school studying, she is preparing for her boards although she has been away from school owing to the pandemic. 

YC- Well you also seem to have a passion for playing golf. How do you manage to have time for hobbies after leading such an occupied life?

Asheesh: I still have an early morning slot from 5:30 am to 7:30 am when I hit a few balls and unwind. It is also my me-time because it helps me focus on a strategy. 

YC - Lastly, what are your future plans, basically where do you want to go from here?

Asheesh: So I think I still have a long way to go. I wish to see my businesses bloom. I am a workaholic and would love to beat the last day, that is my wish in life. Wish to see the world out of the pandemic sooner so we can resume our normal lives- I wish to travel that I missed out on due to my work commitments so I need to catch up on that. I want to take AnYahh Art out to the global scape not just digitally but physically.

I want to continue working and enjoy new, unique and various experiences. 

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