Starting a company is no cakewalk, becoming an entrepreneur and employing hundreds of people takes a lot of hard work. That is what mother-daughter duo Poonam Rawal and Aakriti Rawal of Delhi have been doing, putting a lot of effort and hard work to build their company House of Chikankari, and bring thousands of local artisans into a formal sector. Their vision is to re-install the artisans’ craftsmanship and sustain it for generations to come. The mother-daughter duo Poonam Rawal and Aakriti Rawal first launched their business during the first wave of lockdown and since then have successfully put it on the fore.
Aakriti Rawal is a creative director who had dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur since the age of 14, she did her masters in marketing in London, and returned to India to start a venture. Poonam Rawal is the Head of Production, who brings passion to her work and believes in the larger good of her employees.
House of Chikankari founders so far have been working with Chikankari weavers and dream to grow internationally. The duo was recently featured in Shark Tank India season 2 where they presented their entrepreneurial pitch and showcased the work of House of Chikankari. A lot has changed for them since then, the mother-daughter duo admitted in an interview with SheThePeople. They spoke about their journey, the challenges they face, and how Shark Tank exposure has been impacting their business.
How It Started!
“The journey started from a conversation that we had with a Chikankari artisan during the lockdown, who over a phone call was asking for work. We were brainstorming how the help could be provided. During that time Aakriti was working with a brand and also researching a business idea. That is when everything aligned and House of Chikankari started, right from the basement of my house”, said Poonam Rawal.
Aakriti Rawal started researching about the craft of chikankari to know everything about it. She came across the decline of the handwork industry and declining artisans. She detected that there is hardly anyone who is doing Chikankari on a bigger scale online. She thought about presenting Chikankari in a more fashionable manner and how that could be a win-win situation for the business as well as for the handwork artisans. Aakriti Rawal said, “We visited Lucknow, explored market vendors, looked at designs, process, from there, there was no going back.”
The duo started their business in October 2020 with a team of 15 people, in 2021 they moved out to a bigger place and increased their workforce. Currently, over 70 employees are working with them, with Poonam looking after the operations and quality check, whereas Aakriti focuses on marketing, business development, and finances of the company. The full-fledged team is in place with a marketing head to dispatch executive. However, the duo has its own set of challenges.
Challenges We Face
Aakriti says, “Dealing with artisans and bringing in an organised structure who are cluttered, and mostly work in unorganised space, spread in the regional market was challenging. They have transacted in an offline store, so explaining e-commerce was a difficult task. Lack of knowledge related to the internet was an issue. It took almost one and a half years to work in a certain way. It was a tough task to explain to them we are building a brand and quality assurance is the biggest part of it. However, today many get us but there are days when we struggle.”
Another challenge for them is keeping the team motivated and pushing them to achieve more. According to Aakriti, they have this culture of working as a team, if they grow on a personal level, then only they are going to stick with the company. Poonam also finds love is something that everyone requires to be at the workplace or home and we are trying to give it.
On working with her mother as a business partner, Aakriti said, “Best part of working with mom is no grudges, five minutes later she will come up and enquire about my lunch. Obviously, we have a difference of opinion, and conflict within the team. But we work it out at the source of the cause. Second, we have expertise in very different sets of skills, so we complement each other and learn the art from each other. “
On initial funding of the company, Aakriti pointed out that- Together, I and mom had savings of 3 lakhs, and we invested all that money to start the business. We did not want to take money unless we proved ourselves more than proving anyone else. After coming out of the basement when expenditure increased we asked for investment from my father, who too looked at figures and then pitched in money. When we had validation of the concept, and know it is going to go up, we looked for investors.
Society Can Demotivate You
For Poonam her spouse has been the biggest support, he has been motivating them and advising them on business. But society has not been that kind, sexist remarks come along when women try to do something big. Poonam received comments targeting her age. In the 50s women starting a venture is not conventional. Poonam said, “people said iss umar mein paisa kama ke kya karna hai, so this is a little demotivating but I have a vision for my life and I am doing it.” Women’s work is devalued by tagging it as a means to pass time. Aakriti emphasised, “people comment like ab brand shuru kar liya hai, aapka timepass ho jayega, others say shaadi ke baad bhi continue karogi, I mean why won’t I, what else I will do. They talk baseless things.” However, this doesn’t bother her at all, as she finds strength in her father, who always treated her equally.
Duo’s Experience at Shark Tank
The duo presented House Of Chikankari at the Shark Tank show. Sharks were impressed with the vision of their start-up and the whole idea of uplifting the local artisans and putting Chikankari on the global map. Peyush Bansal and Aman Gupta contributed to the company, they now hold 3.75% equity. A lot has changed for the mother-daughter duo- right from their Instagram followers to website traffic.
Aakriti added, “Since Shark Tank people have been kind, and it really doesn’t matter who said what. After Shark Tank, the brand received a lot of love and we believe in ourselves, that’s it. The whole experience on Shark Tank was overwhelming, it was empowering. It was more of a review of two years of hard work. The best part was two men supporting two women entrepreneurs so that was refreshing and inspiring.”
Aakriti on advising aspiring entrepreneurs said – You have to believe in yourself, people will doubt you, there are going to be bad days, you have to have faith that you can accomplish it. All the girls out there just shut out the world, and do your thing. “Try every day, don’t lose hope, good days will come, keep doing it. I practised, I came till here”, said Poonam.
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