Meet Nehal Shah, she owns and runs India Record Co. India’s first woman run independent record store! India Record Co. is a one stop shop for all things vinyl. Their goal is to create a deeper connection to music for all. With a wide variety of records across genres from classic rock and prog rock to metal, soul, jazz, and hiphop, they also stock a ton of Hindi records right from old Bollywood music to Indian classical, ghazal and devotional music. India Record Co wants to be your neighborhood record store whether you’re getting started on your analogue journey, or you are a loud and proud collector they’ve got the vinyl and accessories you need.
The shop is a community of music lovers, storytellers and curators who understand the impact a great album can have on someone, and are fascinated by the long (sometimes gruelling) journey a record takes to get into someone’s hands — from artist to studio to pressing plant to record stores to you, and beyond. Read their About Us page for more, as well as a great note on those new to vinyl!
When she’s not running the shop, Nehal is DIY-ing her home decor, cooking (with her music of course) and writing. “I do also dabble in some forms of multimedia arts when I’m feeling the inspiration”.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
The lack of record stores and a well built inclusive community pushed me into it, and the fact that some of my favourite indie artists couldn’t be found on vinyl. The last pressing factory shut down in India in 1983 when CDs became a thing and most people thought vinyl was dead. We couldn’t get some of the most brilliant music of the current times on vinyl and hence I started India Record Co with the aim to press as many indie artists on vinyl and preserve their music.
What is a day in the life like?
A day in my life starts with me picking a record from my collection or from the new records that have come in the store, doing team meetings to understand the future goals, meeting artists, planning events for the community, sourcing records for clients, ordering new records, meeting artists to sign them up for analogue, filing taxes and punching in orders, hiring new people in different cities, designing flyers and definitely ending the day with another record. I like to spend time with new music discovery and ditch the algorithm.
Favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?
Oh so many! Its so difficult to pick one, but the fact that I meet beautiful wholesome people and keep discovering more and more music through them, clients that become your cheerleaders and biggest supporters and clients who become friends, its the most gratifying thing. We have this one client who bakes cookies and cakes and always makes sure she sends some for the whole team, and it was all through India Record Co. that i could meet such beautiful people and be a part of their lives.
In your opinion what has been the coolest thing to come through your shop / thing you had to keep / almost couldn’t put out for sale?
Again, so many. But there was this one record that we tried to source which was Star Trek music sampled with synth and converted into disco mix. The music was not available on Spotify so we only took a punt on the artwork and ordered a bunch of them and we were so happy with that decision because the beats were gold. There was another lot of South African disco that I almost wanted to just keep them all but had to make tough decisions.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
As an entrepreneur you are not just doing the creative work but you have to play so many roles which no one ever trained you for and you realize that you are also learning on the job. When good people leave the team, it hurts. When the website is down due to some external server issues, or you are dealing with an angry client, it can be tough because you are trying all you can in that moment to fix it. Entrepreneurship is difficult and no one tells you that but in the end its all so gratifying too.
What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?
Our in-shop listening parties which are quite secret of sorts have been nothing short of crazy. Sharing the space with some of our favourite community members and sitting all night and listening to records and turning it into a party.
Another incident, less crazy more sad but the monsoons turned out pretty bad for us in our initial years where it rained all night and when we came to work the next morning, our record boxes put on the ground were floating in water. Our hearts broke that day.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Do a lot of research before you start. Don’t think like you are just working at a record store but it is your opportunity to create an inclusive community and be the torchbearers of a culture that is reviving itself. Don’t shy away from asking for help and believe in collaboration over competition.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
Very excited about what green records are doing with bringing in more sustainability to the pressing of vinyl. Also the fact that a lot of young and even indie artists are now looking to press their music on vinyl and not ignoring the medium is very exciting for us. This makes the community support greater for more local artists and gives us an opportunity to be the bridge between new artists and music lovers.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Yes i am collector. My grandfather was a vinyl collector but as a child, his music felt very ‘boring’ to me as he would listen to a lot of Bollywood and classical music. To get me into the hobby, he bought me a Michael Jackson record when I was 14 saying that ‘your generation would like this music I m hoping‘, little did he know that EVERY GENERATION LOVES THAT MUSIC.
Why the vinyl industry? Because I saw a lack for an inclusive community for music, it was either too tight knit or exclusive and there was no place for a new listener to feel safe and explore and I have always been attracted to building communities through subculture so lockdown presented an opportunity and I grabbed it with both my hands. It felt like life is coming a full circle for me and then there was no looking back
Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry?
I give all the credit here to the community of vinyl collectors. The knowledge imparted by the older generation is something you cant find in the books and the curiosity and questions of the younger minds is what keeps me going. The community has influenced me to do my best, pushed me to keep going on my lowest days, inspired me to do more for the sake of culture and picked me up on bad days by sending music reccos, vinyl and food. I strongly believe, people who listen to good music are the best people ever. This is not up for debate!
Anything else you’d like to add; if not tell us what you’re listening to:
My lowkey love is Disco music and especially when its regional disco. Hip hop and Jazz are my other two go-to genres when I need a pick me up. Currently my favourite band is 47Soul; they are a Palestinian Jordan based band who do a lot of electronic and Dabke music.
India Record Co.: @indiarecordco.in