What inspired you to build the above product/ service?
In 2011, India was recovering from aftereffects of the recession and a large number of small and medium businesses were hit. Soon after, we witnessed a massive (and aggressive) influx of foreign fashion labels and brands in the market. My mother, Divya Bajpai and I felt the need to establish a balance between commercial, handmade and fashionable wear that was distinctly Indian and had a contemporary touch. There was, in particular, a lack of labels that were making comfortable, dewy and long lasting clothes for children. Children’s wear was heavily influenced by designs and styles for adults and teens and we wanted to change that dialogue. Through our motifs, fabric, and design sensibility we decided to bring the kidback in kids wear. Over 4 years later, we’re still honing on Indian designs and styles and are documenting aspects of our urban and rural jungles that were (before we entered the market) going missing.
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now?
While women in fashion and entrepreneurship seem commonplace now, back in the 1980s (when my mother started her own company) it was a conservative space for women. Having said that, the manufacturing and retail space is still largely a man’s world and it’s been challenging yet incredible breaking gender barriers through the years and building a company that is appreciated by so many the world over.
As a young entrepreneur who is a head of the family, one of my other biggest challenges has been to constantly inspire, motivate and manage my team. The other challenge has been to motivate and guide artisans, who are equipped with old world skills and encourage them to adapt to a new market. Our work environment is collaborative, open, flexible and one where people are encouraged to take ownership of their work. We’ve stayed focused on moving beyond problems that come with running a business, right from designing to product development, prototyping, manufacturing, and production.
Please provide a brief overview of your product / service?
We are a retail brand focused on promoting an Indian design and fashion sensibility. Founded in 2011, Almirah is a conscious clothing, bedding and accessories brand for children from 0-12 years of age. We lay a lot of emphasis on sustainability in fashion through up-cycling natural fabrics, promoting handicrafts, employing skilled workers and focusing on fair trade.
Almirah rests on an extended family of craftsmen, tailors, quilters and through them revives certain crafts, silhouettes, and skills like printing, hand embroidery, ikat weaves, and organic cotton. Almirah has now expanded in over 20 states in the US, India, Dubai, Singapore, Russia, and Netherlands. In India, Almirah is present across 3 retail stores, various pop-ups events, the online shop and we also sell through store collaborations in places like Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
What is your life mantra?
Change is the only constant, so find your medium and translate your ideas into a reality.
Share some details about the investments that you have been able to fetch for the business till now.
We haven’t raised funding as yet and have built Almirah bit by bit starting with our brick-and-mortar presence and then expanded online. We are in it for the long haul and do not want to rush in for external funding which comes with its own complexities. Over time we will continue to scale and evolve our business model and let funding happen in an organic way.
How did you overcome initial mindset challenges?
For me what worked was recognizing the power of constant iteration, focusing on my work and surrounding myself with the right family and friends who are always there to keep my spirits up.
According to you, what are the three qualities an individual must have to achieve success?
A sense of humor because one must always learn to laugh at oneself, a passion or drive to do more with less and, an ability to experiment as well as take risks.
Which online tools/ services/ apps do you use the most and would like to recommend as well?
- Whatsapp – To communicate socially and professionally
- Instagram – To inspire and be inspired
- Google Calendar – To manage work and make time for play
Share any one habit which you think makes you more productive.
Maintaining a work-life balance keeps me refreshed and productive. There are days when I don’t get the time to maintain a balance but I try to incorporate this as much as I can in my life.
Share any one habit which you wish to change in yourself.
While I have a very hands-on approach to work I have learnt with time the importance of trusting your team and delegating work. Delegation helps with time management and ensures you do more with less.
Answer in less than 50 words
One tip to success:
Failing is an experience. It’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.
One mistake you believe every individual must avoid:
Idleness and procrastination need to have a designated hour in the week and not be allowed to flow into our work schedules or the google calendar. Spend spare time traveling, reading or even people-watching. There is something to learn from everything.
One most important lesson that you have learnt till now:
The power of word-of-mouth. When we started Almirah five years ago, we did not anticipate to grow our customer base and network so organically. If you have a lean business and a product/ service that adds value to people’s lives they will talk about it in their social circles. In such a scenario, obstacles like lack of marketing funds and resources don’t hurt the business’s growth.
What are your plans for next 3 years?
We’re focused on making Almirah reach its potential by growing domestically as well as globally and through it promoting an Indian design with values such as slow fashion and the importance of handmade goods.
What are your top three getaway destinations?
Goa, Varanasi and New York.
If you get a chance to start your career again what would you do differently this time?
Looking back, it would have been incredible to have a network in place (5 years ago) or access to information/ stories on entrepreneurship and the challenges that come with running a business (this kind of content is so readily available today).
Share a quote that inspires you the most.
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall