India today is in the middle of an e-commerce explosion. A recent study by ASSOCHAM, reveals that the e-commerce industry in the country is likely to be worth $38 billion (roughly Rs. 2, 51,720 crores) by 2016. Garments make up a substantial part of this business, and it is here that our women entrepreneurs are making their presence felt, and in a profitable way at that. What drives our women to become fashion entrepreneurs and what keeps them going? Five such businesswomen describe their journey and their motivation, and what inspired them to take that first giant leap.
Nina Lekhi, Founder, Baggit.
On the list of Fortune Magazine's Most Powerful Women in 2015, Nina's story is one of turning an academic setback into an opportunity for professional success.
I always considered myself a good student. But While I was studying the art course at Sophia Polytechnic, I failed in an examination. I was seventeen then and couldn’t believe that something like this had happened. Thankfully, my parents were very supportive, and subsequently I joined two part time courses; one in textile and another in interior decoration, which laid the foundation for my design sensibilities.
I started working as a salesgirl on the side; first at Shyam Ahuja, selling carpets, and later, at Mike Kriplani, selling salwar kameezes. One day in our screen printing classes, I found myself asking a question-why don’t we get bags with graphics? That was the turning point in my life, that's when I started designing bags, and this led me to believe I could be an entrepreneur. No woman in our family had ever worked, but my mother was extremely encouraging. I think Baggit is proof that if one has failed once, doesn’t mean she/he cannot be an achiever in future.
Renu Dadlini, Owner, Prateeksha
A designer who sticks to traditional weaves and threads, she has made her presence felt in the garments industry, and all this without any formal training.
I was born and brought up in Mumbai, but shifted to New Delhi after marriage.After my younger son started going to school I started toying with the idea of doing something, but without compromising on my time with family.I was always interested in fashion, and the fact that I could start garment design and manufacturing on a small scale in the basement of my house itself, led to the birth of Prateeksha. I started by keeping investment low and increased my business step by step without rushing into anything. I would say my love for garments and the desire of making others feel special and beautiful in my designs were my motivation to get into the business. I am testament to the fact one can be successful in this business even without proper training. All you need is passion.
Anuradha Singh, Founder, Samprada.
Her passion for traditional block prints and handlooms inspired her to establish her clothing brand. And by involving artisans and craftsmen, she managed to create garments that blend the traditional with the trendy.
Before ‘Samprada’, I was working at YMCA New Delhi with Fashion & Interior Design. I was always attracted to traditional hand block prints and hand-loom fabrics in natural dyes of India. Since I was actively involved in teaching, curriculum planning and annual fashion shows conducted in various institutes, my passion to bring artisans, their talent and their crafts on the show led me to the villages of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Interaction with these artists inspired me to mix Indian ethnic threads with modern fashion garments. And thus Samprada was born in 2010. I must say ‘women’ inspired me to start my venture. My brand truly believes that fabrics are not just textiles but a living art form. Samprada is all about defining beautiful women through garments that are trendy, comfortable and stylish. We encourage new talent and try and provide them a platform to showcase their work. That remains our strength.
Lubeina Shahpurwala, Co-Founder, Mustang Socks.
Venturing into the unexplored socks market, and turning it into one of the biggest socks manufacturing brand in the country, Lubeina is proof that sometimes taking an unconventional route leads the way to success.
My eye for detail, love of working on the shop floor and passion for manufacturing a product comes from watching my father doing just that, manufacturing garments! So when my co-founder Naazneen understood the need for quality cotton socks in Indian market, I was happy to be on board. In 2004, we teamed up and took it to a new level as a brand. In India socks have always been seen as a commodity rather than a fashion accessory, and this market was almost untouched before Mustang happened. I am proud that Mustang peruses innovative styles, novel design concepts, vibrant colours and shades, and most importantly the fusion of all these concepts with perfect cotton quality and latest technology.Inspired by my father’s own agency, I aim to flick the magic wand and re-colour the everyday essential into a vibrant design piece with a rigid standard of ultimate quality, craftsmanship and creativity.
Shweta Shivkumar, Founder, WhySoBlue.
Her mother was her inspiration and motivator. Partnering with her, Shweta decided to venture into the garments business, a step that turned out to be the best thing for the duo!.
My mother always told me that if I’m not happy, I shouldn’t be doing it. I was not one of those kids who grew up to wanting to become boss. But six seven months of working as a media planner, and I knew this wasn't for me. I always wanted to do something in the field of fashion. My mother encouraged me; She had been stitching for more than twenty five years, so we decided that one side I can do the designing and sourcing of the fabric, other side she can take over the execution and more of the realistic part of it. We took time to plan, execute, and source everything. That’s how “Why So Blue’ was started. My mother wanted me to go for it, and I did!