Jacqueline Kapur believes the Ability to Build a Loyal Team is the Biggest Entrepreneurial Skill
From being the unknown name behind setting up Hidesign to starting-up her own brands, Ayesha and Unknown Jacqueline Kapur has seen it all. Almost three decades ago the German national moved to India following her love. Since then she has parted ways with her husband of 27 years. She believes her life has taught her being self-reliant and that’s the biggest positive. Jacqueline candidly claims, “analysing sales figures and reading P&L sheets are still not the favourite part of my day, but being self-reliant gives me a lot of confidence and a much bigger sense of security now. ”
We met her to known more about her journey, her love for horses and challenges she faced as an entrepreneur.
After years of setting up and being the force behind Hidesign, how daunting was it to set up Ayesha and Unknown?
I came to India 27 years ago from Germany and had neither any retail nor any other industry-related knowledge. We started the garment section of Hidesign and worked on all levels. It was this path of trial and error and a never-give-up attitude that resulted in something so successful—yet so little my own—and led me to create Ayesha. What was more daunting than setting up a new venture, was the realization that my work in Hidesign was nowhere acknowledged. But nobody could take away the learning experience, the knowledge of the Indian retail market and my will to succeed. When I started Ayesha with my daughter Ayesha Kapur, Dilip was still instrumental in the business part of the new venture. But two years ago, I started handling all the aspects of this business independently. Initially, I had many self-doubts about being capable of running the whole show.
As a woman, do you think there are learnings that we need to keep in mind as entrepreneurs, skills we need to acquire?
For the longest time, I was totally opposed to the idea that being a woman could give you any more challenges or advantages than a man would face in the same position. Even now, I continue to believe that it isn’t necessarily a gender-related issue. However, I have now realized that there are challenges you face when you are a woman in a mostly male-dominated industry.
If I walk into a business meeting alone, people look for the man to follow me and often they still look startled when there is no one else. And if I go with a male partner, sure enough, the faces all turn towards him.
So the necessary skill is to not get too annoyed and secondly, to be confident enough to make yourself heard. All entrepreneurs must realize that they cannot grow only by themselves, so the ability to build a loyal team is one of the biggest skills they can have. And maybe–by a tiny margin—women are more capable of doing that. Not always wanting to be right, wanting to be the unquestioned boss, seems to be more difficult for our male counterparts.
What is the design philosophy behind Ayesha and Unknown? What are the brands positioned as and who is their target market?
The design philosophy behind Ayesha is pretty simple. We want to be at par with the international players and still keep Indian sensitivities in mind. Our effort is to bring the international trends to our customers, but we work with traditional Indian elements. We will have asymmetric earrings in our latest collection, but there will also be a range of fusion jhumkis. We were the first ones to have neon coloured bangles.
Our campaign “PROJECT GIRL POWER” is a collection of products and giveaways that send a self-affirmative messages to our clients. The entire design process for this collection was done keeping this mission of creating confidence and self-belief in mind.
Was there any specific reason you chose to get into accessories and jewellery rather than leather goods?
I believe it is so much more fun to work with accessories and jewellery. Also, leather is a dying market.
What are your expansion plans for the brand, markets, stores and product lines?
We are actually expanding at a rapid pace. We have been chosen as the exclusive western jewellery partner for all Centrals’ HD stores. Reliance’s PROJECT EVE has also has chosen us to be their exclusive accessory partner in all their stores.
In addition, we are launching a more exclusive sub-brand called QJ Exclusive. It will be a collection of jewellery pieces handcrafted in India, targeting a slightly more mature customer.
Horses are an important part of your life, you’ve set up the Red Earth Riding School. How did you get fascinated by it? How do you think the equestrian sport can be popularised in India, especially among women?
Horses have been the single constant thing in my life. They give me stability, companionship, the permanent challenge to be a better rider and therefore a better person.
Riding a horse still scares me sometimes. But I learn how to overcome the fear, challenge myself and have a fulfilling start to the day. The happiest moments of my life—and some of the saddest ones—are those that I have shared with my horses.
The equestrian sport is the only Olympic discipline which does not have gender differentiation. Men compete against women on equal terms. In India, it is still a male-dominated sport, but more and more women have started riding in the last decade. Riding is not about strength, but about communicating with another living being and women have an advantage there….
Finally, what is your leadership style? What do you think women bring to the table as entrepreneurs and leaders that works uniquely in their favour?
I believe in teamwork, in loyalty and compassion for my co-workers. A lot of my employees work on the creation of Ayesha Accessories and my back office manager completed her 25th year of working with me. I cannot say that I prefer working with men or with women. For me the most important value in a co-worker is the passion about wanting to be a part of the team and giving their best.
Otherwise, I have learned a lot from my horses. There needs to be a clear yes, a clear no and a lot of space between for your partner—whether equine or human.
Confusing messages are the worst enemy of a good leadership effort.
Navina Singh is an Intern with SheThePeople.TV