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Women’s Day Special: 5 inspiring stories that prove ‘You Certainly Can’

by Tanya Krishna

08-March-2019  |  11 mins read

International Womens Day

The recent years have seen India as a hot favourite destination for trade and business and while the area was always dominated by males, it is only now that women entrepreneurs are taking the centrestage and proving their mettle in almost all the sectors. The country’s retail industry is no different.

Retail in India is a lucrative profession today and it has seen a surge in number of women joining the industry. Even as the situation has improved by a good margin now, we still have a long way to go. A recent Facebook study suggested that four out of five women in India aspire to become entrepreneurs and that inspiring more women into entrepreneurship would potentially create as many as 16 million businesses and 64 million jobs by the end of 2021.

The new generation of women across the country have overcome negative notions and have proved themselves in the most intricate and cumbersome world of entrepreneurship. However, issues like wage gap and gender-based discrimination at workplace still remain unresolved across geographies and addressing these have been a major concern for government these days. Initiatives like Global Entrepreneurial Summit (GES) making women entrepreneurship the focal point of its 2017 edition and many others have resulted in an outburst in the number of female business owners who have defied the views of the misogynists and smashed the patriarchy to become the most successful female entrepreneurs of the country. We take a look at some of these women who smashed the patriarchy to become the successful female entrepreneurs of the country…

Neha Kant, Co-Founder, Clovia

Neha Kant, Co-Founder, Clovia

Neha Kant adheres by the saying “Do. Or do not. There is no try”, by Jedi Master, Yoda. The thought of doing something for the Indian women and filling the gap that existed in the Indian intimate wear industry pushed Neha to introduce Clovia for the discerning consumers. Neha’s business mantra is simple, “Lingerie is not simply to be worn, it must be experienced. Comfort can be cute, so your lingerie need not be a drab affair”. She apprises, “We started from a user’s perspective. We wanted to become a customer oriented brand and at that time, e-commerce was also booming so it was the perfect opportunity to launch Clovia online first. From there on, we built a very real-time feedback analytics system that could tell us what our customers liked and disliked about our products. From there on, we iterate and adapted the same learnings from online to offline. Today, our offline stores are equipped with sales assistants helping our consumers out with the best products and helping them getting fit tested.” Clovia was set up in 2013 and today prides in an expansive reach in about 950 cities of the country. The brand has made exponential strides growing quarter-to-quarter.

Rashi Menda, CEO & Founder, Zapyle

Rashi Menda, CEO & Founder, Zapyle

The founder and the CEO of an ultimate online platform for buying and selling pre-owned luxury wear, Zapyle, Rashi Menda started her journey working with numerous brands in management, strategic solutions, inbound marketing and e-commerce. Menda started building her own establishment at a very young age. While she appreciates the resources  and support being provided to today’s women business leaders, she had her share of challenges while scaling and establishing Zapyle. “The whole eco-system is very different from what it was years back and I think that the biggest challenge that any woman entrepreneur would face in today’s world is lack of understanding of one’s own abilities. Also, there was really negligible number of successful women entrepreneurs to look upto and get inspired from back then. For me, forming a winning team and hiring the right people was the biggest challenge. But I took lessons from my mistakes and now we are a proud, young team who is very aggressive when it comes to meeting timelines and reaching targets,” she shares. Zapyle had an adventurous journey where the brand did face challenges and grew at the same time. The brand has spent almost 8 months understanding different body types and has developed its own standard sizing and offers products with sizing converted on the basis of that.

Shivani Poddar & Tanvi Malik, Co-Founders, FabAlley

Shivani Poddar & Tanvi Malik, Co-Founders, FabAlley

Shivani Poddar and Tanvi Malik gave up comfortable, promising roles at conglomerate firms like Avendus Capital and Titan Industries in 2011 to launch their very own online marketplace, FabAlley. “We were both working in the corporate sector and found a huge gap in terms of fast fashion which was not available in India at that time at affordable prices,” shares Tanvi. Moving forward, the duo also revolutionised the fusion wear segment with the launch of another brand, ‘Indya’ and later also forayed in plus-size market with ‘Curve’. FabAlley has now established its own space in the market and records an 80% year-on-year growth. The brand went offline recently and today runs 135 offline retail touch points across the country. The success story of the brand is evidently impressive with series of fundings including a recent one from SAIF Partners which amounted to US$ 8.54 million. Shivani asserts, “The capital infusion will help us scale our offline presence rapidly from 15 exclusive outlets and 120 shop-in-shops to 50 and 300 respectively by the end of FY20. We will invest in new categories such as athleisure and our plus size brand, Curve. We will also look at amplifying our brands’ voices through ATL and BTL marketing initiatives.”

Mohita Indrayan, Co-Founder & CCO, 612 League

Mohita Indrayan, Co-Founder & CCO, 612 League

While for most women, motherhood means break from their career and aspirations, Mohita Indrayan marked it as a turning point in her professional life. Mohita entered the business when she realized the gap in the apparel market for tweens while shopping for her own kids. “Abroad, this age is popularly referred to as tweens where the kids are in that transition window between ‘not kids’ and ‘not yet pre-teens, but in India, the concept didn’t exist. As business management graduates, I and my husband spotted this business opportunity and decided to launch the first Indian brand for pre-teens in the country, 612 League,” she asserts. Today, she leads creativity and product development at 612 League and strikes perfect balance between this and being a mother to two teenage girls. “Women are better multitaskers than men. Women need to get over that guilt of having their career goals and dreams and should think independently. Every time I see a child walking into my store, it gives me a huge high,” she maintains.

Meena Bindra, Founder, Biba

Meena Bindra, Founder, Biba

Meena Bindra had created Biba from her Delhi home in 1988 as a hobby venture with a meagre loan of Rs.8,000 from a bank. Today, the brand is a market leader in the women ethnic wear segment. Bindra didn’t quite know how to sew a button on fabric until she was 38 years old but she made up for the lack of training and experience through self-learned couture sensibilities. “When I started designing clothes as a hobby to earn some pocket money, I never dreamt of becoming a businesswoman. But today I feel I can grow to any height,” she quips. Bindra started at a time when readymade churidar-kurtas were unheard of and sourcing of the fabric was not easy. Even today when Biba has scaled to become a national brand with involvement of her sons in the business, Meena Bindra is actively involved in every design that changes with the trends and at the same time makes sure to retain the roots steeped in traditional crafts like hand block printing with vegetable dyes and exquisite embroideries. As a woman entrepreneur and a mother to two sons, she managed all the affairs of the house as well as of her business. “Everything was stacked against me when I started out. I had no training. I was only a graduate with no design skills and not particularly qualified to pick up a job. I had no training or exposure to entrepreneurship, there was little money and to top it all, my husband was in a transferable job. But nothing stopped me,” Bindra tells.