Most of us experience "awakening" in life at different stages of life, and in many ways.
For Lobhini Gunasegaran, it was a horrific car crash that put her on her path to the life she had always desired.
Lobhini is the founder of The Sambar Incident (TSI), an independent streetwear brand inspired by the culture and heritage of local Indians. What started off as a part-time, low-key venture four years ago has today bloomed into a full-time establishment with presence in at six countries today!
Hailing from Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Lobhini moved to Kuala Lumpur after completing her high-school education, and went on to complete her Masters degree in Entrepreneurship & Innovation from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
Her near-death experience happened in August 2017, when her skidded and crashed along the Penang bridge. Although her car was totaled, Lobhini survived with wounds on her thighs. She was admittedly lucky that the high barrier at the bridge stopped the vehicle from plunging to the sea below.
"A week after the incident, I thought I was ready to return to my then job as a HR Operation Specialist. Unfortunately, I was wrong, as resuming life after the crash proved tougher than I thought it would be.
"I was struggling to find a balance between healing from my injuries, and getting back to the flow at my work. As a result, my mental health suffered," she wrote in the Tamil Culture community platform.
This was when a friend offered his art tools as a means of distraction and Lobhini started to paint on blank sneakers. When the result turned out well, she eventually changed her medium and in January 2018, TSI was born.
According to her, the brand name was inspired by The Spaghetti Incident, the fifth album by American rock legends Guns N' Roses, which was given an Indian twist by adding the word Sambar.
Thanks to her Masters, Lobhini is now able to handle the operational side of her business better, while strengthening its creative aspect. She has had criticisms about the brand being "racist", but Lobhini dismissed such notions, saying that it merely embodies how proud she is of her heritage and culture.
In December 2020, TSI beat 50 other local brands in a competition organised by Kedai KL, a street market concept that supports homegrown brands and products, to win 12 months of retail store tenancy at a mall in Kuala Lumpur.
T-shirts with quirky images and captions are available in a wide range of sizes - starting with kids, to those in the plus size category. TSI products have even been donned by individuals from Kollywood, as you can see in the image below.
Lobhini said that her family members are her biggest supporters and advisors.
Moving forward, Lobhini aspires to continue representing Malaysian Indians, and bring her roots and heritage to a wider audience in the local market. In addition, she also plans to expand her products for the international market.
Very inspiring indeed, Lobhini. Your achievement is proof that nothing is impossible, as long as one to puts his/her heart into it.
All the very best in your expansion plans and keep making your family, the local Tamil community, and the country proud.
You can check out TSI's products at their website, Instagram, or by emailing them at [email protected].
Photos source: TSI Instagram
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