Carrom is a board game that’s believed to have originated in India sometime in the 18th century. A “strike and pocket” table game, it holds some resemblance to billiards and is extremely popular across South Asia.
Carrom is also the name of a new Singapore-based lifestyle label offering candles and home scented products that recently caught our eye with its stylish visuals and dedicated homage to its founders’ South Asian roots.
A team of four is behind the label – Aditi, Manasa, Lathika and Adithya (the press-shy founders declined to share their last names and profile pictures), who are all in their late 20s.
The team has diverse roots: though each member had spent years away from their homeland in Singapore, Thailand and Africa, a common thread is that their extended families all hail from various Indian states, namely Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
They launched the label in July, out of a longing for family. In an all-too-familiar scenario brought about by the pandemic, it’d been over a year since any of them had been able to visit their families in India.
“We found ourselves thinking more and more about the people, places, and experiences we missed,” says Aditi. “Fragrances have a really special way of bringing those memories back, and we decided to try recreating some of the familiar scents of our homes.”
Out of all the five senses, it’s been established that the sense of smell has the most primal and immediate association with memories.
And so, to re-create a sense of home away from home, the Carrom team delved into creating their first product – hand-poured soy wax candles. They debuted with five scents which are named Alamari, Beeda, Lalbagh, Malgova and Thillana.
Carrom’s candles draw inspiration from the founders’ memories of South Asia.
Candles and assorted scent products have been exploding over the last couple of years and are projected to continue upwards, with more and more luxury houses getting into the game. Cue recent notables include Aesop, Celine, Loro Piana, Byredo (with Ikea), Loewe and more.
It’s not hard to fathom why – the pandemic has only enforced focus on improving one’s home as it becomes the be-all and end-all for many people.
What sets Carrom’s versions apart is the firm affirmation to the founders’ South Asian roots. While the scent of each candle varies significantly – Alamari for instance, leans towards the woody with its concoction of sandalwood and oud, while Lalbagh is a lush blend of rose, lotus, jasmine, marigold, and mogra – they’re all intended to capture in olfactory form distinctive memories from the team’s childhoods.
Despite having no official training in fragrances (the team come from backgrounds in law, financial services, consulting and advertising), their works (the result of months of trial and error) have been warmly received, selling out more than half their stock only five days into the initial launch.
Their tradition- and memory-fueled M.O. is further boosted by the team’s artful and intentional approach. Late last month, Carrom expanded its repertoire to include incense in collaboration with Boond Fragrances, a family-run business based in Kannauj, India that specialises in organic attar fragrances.
Grounding these incense sticks are abstract holders that lent a stylishly contemporary touch to a very traditional apparatus. Resembling pools of molten mercury, the holders were custom-designed for Carrom by the Copenhagen-Singapore design studio Christian+Jade.
“Very early on, we decided whatever our brand put its name on – whether on our products themselves, or on social media – should be grounded in our brand values: refined, intentional, and rooted in history. This meant that our visual language and aesthetic had to be thoroughly considered, inspired by tradition, and always complementary with our scents,” says Aditi.
“For instance, when introducing each of our scented candles we used images and copy explaining the origins of the names we’d chosen, as well as the source of our inspiration (ranging from classical art and history to architecture and music). We’ve been really touched that it’s all been received so well!”
Below, the team walks us through their creative process.