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Whether seeking a dream decagonal dining table or a nightstand that matches a bedroom’s “Downton Abbey” motif, finding the ideal piece of furniture can be a challenge.
Especially for a creative shopper who knows exactly what he or she wants, attempting to translate an idea into a divan can be frustrating, time-consuming, and costly.
The online platform Naya seeks to streamline this process by connecting customers with makers, including designers, architects, artisans and woodworkers, in an end-to-end system that enables them to co-create the furniture of their dreams.
Customers input ideas into the platform, answering a series of questions designed to spark their creativity. Based on their answers, the platform matches them with a maker who works closely with the user to refine the concept and fabricate the furniture.
“People are increasingly leaning away from mass-produced furniture,” said Vivek Hv, M.D.E. ’19, who co-founded Naya with his classmate, Saad Rajan, M.D.E. ’19. “At Naya, not only are we creating beautiful products, we are creating pieces of furniture that tell a story, that have meaning for the customer.”
The startup grew out of the thesis projects Rajan and Hv completed in the Master in Design Engineering program, a joint program offered by the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Graduate School of Design (GSD). Engineers by trade, Rajan was working on a platform to help people co-create and collaborate, while Hv was exploring sustainable business models for makerspaces.
They brought their ideas together, did some brainstorming and synthesizing, and Naya Studio was born.
“Coming from engineering backgrounds, we always had ideas of things to design and make. After doing some research, we realized that so many people want to create things, too, but don’t even know where to begin,” Rajan said. “We are helping to bridge the gap for that community so they can turn their creative ideas into reality.”
At the same time, Naya seeks to help independent designers and makers get involved in projects they find meaningful. These small-scale entrepreneurs face such a decentralized market that they often spend more time searching for customers than designing and making, Hv said.
Not only does Naya give creatives a simpler way to find clients, it also provides a platform for collaborating so that they can do more of the work they love. With Naya, Rajan and Hv intend to build a global network and diverse repository of knowledge makers can rely on as they turn users’ ideas into realities.
“With Naya, we can see ideas come alive from different parts of the planet, often from the most unexpected places,” Rajan said. “Designers and makers will create things that we have never been seen before more collaboratively and effectively.
For designers, makers, and customers, that global aspiration is one of the appealing aspects of the platform, since it opens the door to unique perspectives one might not have considered.
Naya also helps customers save money by creating efficiencies that reduce prices. For instance, it cuts down the amount of time a designer needs to meet clients, understand their ideas, and get effective feedback, Hv said.
Building trust with designers and makers while creating an engaging platform for customers has been the biggest challenge the team has faced since launching Naya.
Drawing on the mentorship and resources in the Harvard Innovation Labs and the network of advisors at SEAS, GSD, and the Harvard Business School, the cofounders have tried to be strategic and diligent in launching this platform. They are currently iterating their product, interviewing potential buyers, building their ecosystem of designers and makers, and launching a pilot run of 50 pieces.
“I’ve really seen the value of starting off prototyping and being strategic in our thought process as we design a new experience of co-creation,” Rajan said. “We’ve followed that process since January, rather than just jumping in and thinking we had the right idea from the beginning. We believe we are building something which will be valuable and give us a competitive advantage for years to come.”
The team plans to continue building their network of designers and makers, with the goal of having 50 customers use the platform by the end of the year. They are working to refine the technology by developing algorithms that can best match the users and designers, using data to optimize the design and fabrication workflows, and creating augmented reality experiences for users.
“It has been fun to see people use Naya to create something new,” Hv said. “And for the makers and designers, to be able be a part of their lives and help their livelihoods has been especially rewarding.”
If you are interested in more information about purchasing a personalized piece, please sign up at www.naya.studio.