Today, a woman’s role in society has far transcended that of a homemaker; she is now a primary decision maker, able and skilled worker.
In a country riddled with gender stereotypes, here is a look at women entrepreneurs who are making a difference in the fashion retail sector and are crucial in building successful businesses.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Indiaretailing Bureau profiles these inspiring women.
1. Anjana Reddy, Founder and Managing Director, USPL
Anjana Reddy, the young, enterprising Founder & Managing Director of USPL, is revolutionizing the marketing and branding space in India with Celebrity fashion lines –Wrogn, Imara, Ms.Taken & Collectabillia.
Anjana was exposed to the potential of the world of celebrity based fashion lines during her student days in Illinois at the Urbana Champaign College of Business. After completing her Masters Degree in Finance, Anjana returned to India to pursue her entrepreneurial ambitions.
In October 2011, she formed USPL to bridge the existential gap between fans and celebrities in India. The first offering of USPL was Collectabillia – which e-tailed fashion accessories of sports, films and other celebrity icons. The immediate success and future potential of USPL was recognised by renowned, global venture and growth equity firm – Accel Partners, with an investment of over US $3.0 Million in 2012.
Collectabillia continued to enhance its offerings of impressive accessories which included the launch of special limited edition of mobile phone cases, wallets and belts designed around Sachin Tendulkar, coinciding with his retirement from international cricket. As a build up to the FIFA World Cup 2014, Anjana spearheaded a unique tie-up with leading footballer – Lionel Messi. As part of this tie-up, USPL designed and retailedmobile phone and laptop accessories across 40 countries under the ‘Brand Messi’ tagline.
Extending her vision for celebrity fashion lines industry, Anjana collaborated with the captain of the Indian Cricket team Virat Kohli to launch – WROGN – an eclectic, high-street menswear brand under the aegis of USPL in late 2014. WROGN was the first instance of a fashion line being launched by any Indian cricketer. Since its launch on online portal at Myntra.com. Wrogn is amongst the top 10 brands on the brand index of the portal, in terms of revenue and is valued as one of the top 5 brands on the portal in the terms of gross margins. WROGN is one of the highest selling fashion brands on fashion portal Myntra, Jabong, Flipkart and is available in all Shoppers Stop locations and exclusive brands stores across the country.
In early 2015, Anjana seized the opportunity of launching a contemporary women’s ethnic wear fashion line, that sells under the brand name Imara. It is aimed at the young Indian women of today who seek to adopt a progressive outlook in their lives. Imara is presently retailed through Myntra, Jabong, Flipkart and is available in all Shoppers Stop locations and exclusive brands stores across the country.
Ms. Taken, a signature western wear line was launched in 2016. Kriti Sanon, the talented film actor is the face of this brand. The collection sports casual and semi-formal garments with categories including Tops, Tunics, Dresses, Trousers, Jackets and Denims. Ms. Taken epitomizes the young, confident and independent Indian woman who expresses her individuality and walks her own path. Ms. Taken is currently retailed through Myntra, Jabong, Flipkart and is available in prominent Shoppers Stop locations across the country.
Anjana used to rank among the top 3 players in the National Badminton junior circuit. She stepped off the court to pursue her professional pursuits and entrepreneurial passion.However, Anjana continues to follow and support the game of badminton.
Anjana is also actively involved with multiple social initiatives and assists foundations in raising funds through unique sports memorabilia auctions.
2. Radhika Ghai Aggarwal, Chief Business Officer, ShopClues.com
Radhika Ghai Aggarwal is the Co-founder and Chief Business Officer at ShopClues.com. She is also the first Indian woman founder to enter the prestigious echelons of the Unicorn Club.
As a Co-founder of ShopClues and the driving force behind its go-to-market initiatives, she has carefully nurtured the brand to make it a house-hold name in less than 5 years.
Having worked for Goldman Sachs in Wealth Management and Nordstrom in the Strategy Planning Department, Aggarwal has diverse experience across industry segments such a retail, e-commerce, fashion and lifestyle, advertising, and public relations, all summing up to 16 years. She started on her entrepreneurial journey with her first venture, FashionClues, a social portal for NRI women.
Aggarwal was recently awarded the ‘CEO of the Year’ Award in the Start-Up category at the prestigious CEO India Awards, 2016. She is an accomplished speaker and is a staunch supporter of woman entrepreneurship, having shared her thoughts on several including TiE and other industry events.
She is passionate about empowering women to assume leadership roles within her organisation as well within ShopClues’ vibrant community of merchant partners.
An alumnus of the Washington University in St. Louis, Aggarwal holds an MBA in Strategy. She further went on to pursue a course in ‘Web 2.0 and Creative Writing’ in Standford University.
3. Suchi Mukherjee, Founder and CEO of LimeRoad
For Gurgaon-based Suchi Mukherjee, an idea that germinated when she was casually flipping through a glossy magazine after the birth of her second child in London, has become what is today known as LimeRoad, the fastest growing online marketplace for fashion in India.
Mukherjee was living abroad in UK for more than 17 years and returned to India in 2011 with the aim to create a global digital-age equivalent of the 16th Century Grand Trunk Road—a highway that changed the face of trade in the Indian subcontinent.
During her stint overseas, this Cambridge University and London School of Economics-educated entrepreneur has held key leadership roles at Skype, Gumtree and eBay. She helped build eBay in the UK, was on the executive team of Skype where she helped design the biggest upgrade in Skype’s product history, and was also Managing Director, Gumtree to the number one horizontal classifieds business in the UK.
Since its launch in the Indian market in 2012, LimeRoad has had more than 50 million visits and the country’s highest conversion rates. The USP of this online fashion portal is a community of a unique set of sellers including women curators, who together post a record 3,000 new products and 20,000 new fashion stories per day.
Mukherjee has been named ‘Woman Entrepreneur Of The Year’ in the 2016 NDTV Unicorn Start-up Awards. In 2010, she was recognised as a ‘Rising Talent, Global Leaders Under 40’ in Deauville, Paris. Her brainchild LimeRoad has also been voted ‘The Coolest Start-up’ by Business Today in 2015. Recently she was a part of the Indo-Canadian Summit, at a roundtable with the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
4. Nathasha AR Kumar, Founder and CEO, Vajor.com
At the age of 14, Nathasha AR Kumar knew more about fabrics & textiles than any other kid her age. Observing her parent’s small textile business in China, she developed a burning desire to paint a bigger, brighter picture of her own in the field. That picture today is known as Vajor, a private label dealing in fashion and lifestyle products of unmatched aesthetics, quality and price points.
Starting her entrepreneurial journey the age of 17, Nathasha came back to India in 2010 to participate in her country’s growth story. With more than five years of experience in the B2B garment industry dealing with Tier II & III city consumer demands, she was able to implement her learnings from the grass root level to lay the foundation of her own ventures.
Be it forecasting, product development, content creation, team building or sales & marketing, she has dug her fingers deep to create the smoothest running mechanism in her company.
She understands the potential of a private label like Vajor in the industry. Competing with the market in not only designs but, content and technology as well. Nathasha believes that fashion is no longer a commodity and wishes to change the current scenario of marketing products. And Vajor is achieving that by selling an overall experience to its consumers.
Her unique approach in running this company with her team has led to the creation of a fashion brand that is technically sound. Vajor has been developed as an efficient ecosystem wherein, each and every department efficiently performs to lead to a highly productive day every day.
Nathasha’s grasp of a unified brand language, her understanding of the hot marketing tools of social media and an in-depth knowledge of what her consumer actually wants is what makes Vajor a brand to reckon with.
Bootstrapping Vajor till today, she is honing the brand to compete with big industry giants. Fulfilling the market gap between couture labels and RTW brands, Vajor is run as a sustainable commercial set-up.
Nathasha believes that the sweet spot for a successful brand lies in a harmonious growth. Gaining an organic following, building a community, maintaining healthy and eco-friendly practices, a fair use of resources is what Vajor proudly boasts of.
5. Monica Gupta, Co-Founder, Craftsvilla
Monica Gupta is the Co-founder of Craftsvilla, a leading ethnic online platform in India. The brand was co-founded with a vision to create a platform where unprivileged artisans can make a living by selling their handcrafted products. With over five million products to choose from and 30,000 plus sellers on board, Craftsvilla provides an array of ethnic products directly from the designers and artisan at a wholesale price.
She has been actively involved with the handicrafts industry in India for over 10 years. She has extensively travelled across the country, including remote areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan and has built strong relationship with multiple artisans and organizations including Gram Shree, Kalaraksha, Sahaj, Sadhna etc.
She has very good understanding of categories like Women’s Clothing and Accessories like Bags. She is also associated with multiple NGOs in India on informal basis.
She is also the COO of Craftsvilla.com.
She has done her MS in accounting from San Diego State University, US. She is a keen reader and enjoys inspirational books.
6. Vishakha Singh, Founder, Red Polka
Vishakha Singh, Founder and CEO of Red Polka, a curation-led podium which showcases brands, designers, their trendsetting products, and the unique stories behind them, launched her website in 2015.
Being a marketing and brand building professional for more than 16 years, Vishakha’s faith lies in ‘what gets seen gets sold’. She advocates that brand building is a growth strategy and thus needs a structured approach.
She believes in supporting women in their dedication to their work. Red Polka is in line with this philosophy, since 80 per cent of their merchant partners are women who are creating dynamic designer products, and Red Polka work culture supports working mothers through flexi-timing.
Vishakha has been in the business of shoppers experience and behaviour for more than 15 years. She has worked with some of country’s top media brands. Her last corporate stint was at Future Media, a Kishore Biyani firm, where she was involved from its inception after which she launched her own Shopper Marketing Agency which worked with reputed brands.
7. Shivani Poddar, Founder, Faballey
Shivani Poddar completed her graduation from Hindu College where she consistently topped her batch for all 3 years and did an MBA from Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi where she was among the top 5 per cent of her class and represented the college and won many National level competitions.
After graduating from FMS, she was a part of the leadership program at Hindustan Unilever and specialized in the Commercial and Supply Chain function.
She has also worked with Avendus Capital as a part of the Investment Banking team.
At FabAlley, she has been responsible for setting up sourcing and manufacturing processes, financial systems, and fully integrated supply chain techniques, thereby, spearheading the company’s growth to become a world class fashion brand.
8. Rashi Menda, Founder and CEO, Zapyle
Rashi Menda, is the Founder and CEO of Zapyle, the ultimate destination for trendy fashion in India. The inception of Zapyle was inspired by Rashi’s own experiences of living in different cities of the country.
While residing in Delhi, she found acquiring items in trend was incredibly easy. However, when she moved to Bangalore, she realized how difficult it was for women not living in the metro cities to access brands. The rapidly-changing nature of fashion trends also made it unwise to invest heavily in fashion, be it international brands or Indian designer labels. It was then that she came up with the idea of creating a platform that makes trendy fashion easily accessible and affordable for everyone, not limiting it to an exclusive segment.
Born in Delhi, Rashi pursued her graduation in Economics from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Before founding Zapyle, she worked for multiple years in management, strategic solutions, inbound marketing and e-commerce. She has assisted numerous brands in establishing a voice and customer recall in India. Rashi held the post of Head of Strategic Alliances & Marketing at Zap Internet Solutions from 2013 to January 2015, and was an Analyst for Ernst & Young in 2011. As Head of Partner Marketing at Unamia.com, Rashi single-handedly led the marketing team, displaying her expertise in retail and online business. Her specialties are wide-ranging and include competitive analysis, business development and data crunching.
Her vision behind Zapyle was to also bring together fashion lovers, designers and bloggers to create a vibrant community of people with similar tastes and preferences. She aims to build and connect an engaging platform for users to together, discover fashion and spread love.
9. Shilpa Sharma, Co-founder, Jaypore
Shilpa Sharma is the Co-founder of Jaypore and spearheads Product Design and Buying for the leading online retail portal, curating high on design handcrafted products from India.
With a career spanning over 25 years, she has spent over 16 years in the fashion and lifestyle retail space. She spent twelve years spearheading and driving the growth of Fabindia’s retail network of over a 100 stores across various formats and geographies and ended her innings with them after a successful run driving and managing Product Buying and Merchandising for the entire business.
Prior to this she spent eight years in FMCG Marketing with Marico Industries and Cadbury’s India, and 2 years in advertising.
She quit the corporate life in 2010 and set up her own retail advisory to consult on strategic business advisory projects in retail, and worked on diverse assignments across large and small retailers and entrepreneurs including a large efficiency improvement mandate with luxury fashion brands in India.
She is empanelled with Strategic Advisory Firms for domain expertise based inputs to luxury and lifestyle retail, new entrants and PE investors evaluating investment opportunities in fashion retail. She engages with the handloom and craft sector, mentoring training and skill upgradation programs in minority community initiatives that are committed to empowering women and creating livelihood opportunities for them.
In the course of her entrepreneurial journey, she launched Breakaway – a venture which plans and executes bespoke experiential journeys around India, www.break-away.in. With Breakaway she unearths what is waiting to be discovered and experienced, through travel to known and unknown destinations in India. Her latest venture is a concept restaurant in Goa, Mustard, which is an outcome of a shared passion for food and unique experiences that offers Bengali and French Cuisine, both meeting over Mustard as an ingredients.
She has an MMS from Welingkar Institute of Management Studies Mumbai( Batch of 1989) And a BA in Economics & Statistics from St Xavier’s College Mumbai.
10. Neha Kant, Founder & CRO, Clovia
Neha is a Delhi University (Miranda House) graduate and holds masters in management degree. After a decade of experience in corporate India, where she led business for some big names, she decided to start on her own to address the absence of peppy, spicy, sexy yet comfortable wear in the Indian innerwear market.
With Clovia, Neha wants to redefine the Indian lingerie market, and help customers choose beyond standard cuts, shapes and colors. Her mantra – lingerie is a critical part of your wardrobe and it doesn’t need to be drab and boring.
The objective is to occupy the most-favorite brand space in the minds of her consumer as the space presently awaits an occupier.
11. Richa Kar, CEO and Co-Founder, Zivame
When Richa realized that women who shopped online for lingerie needed assistance and that such a company didn’t exist, she set out to launch her own, and has never turned back since.
The journey was not paved in gold and the challenges she faced were far beyond imagination. Everything from incorporating the company and getting a payment gateway to renting ofﬁce space proved to be a herculean task – the most difﬁcult one being the Indian discomfort with the category – but she ploughed on relentlessly.
Today, it is this very battle to eliminate the taboos surrounding the category that motivates her to achieve more, every single day. With a category like lingerie, ﬁtting is of utmost importance. This is a concept that is rarely understood or given priority.
Richa’s consumer research further revealed that 4 out of 5 women end up buying ill-ﬁtting lingerie. This led to the creation of a second bold new concept called the ‘Fitting Lounge’, which was extended to the brick-and-mortar arena. Here, a customer simply has to book an appointment and drop in to discover products that offer the right ﬁt in total privacy and under the guidance of an expert. The products are then ordered online and conveniently delivered to the customer’s address. An essential need met by a simple solution!
Hailing from Jamshedpur, Richa has pursued an engineering degree from the prestigious Institute of BITS, Pilani followed by a MBA from NMIMS. She has a rich experience of eight years – working across functions in SAP Retail consulting and Spencer’s store, where she learnt the facets of Retail Marketing, Branding and Operations.
It was at SAP, consulting with a global lingerie retailer, that the idea of an online lingerie portal was born. Following her passion, Kar launched Zivame in year 2011 from Bangalore.
12. Trishla Surana, Founder, Colour Me Mad
Founder, Trishla Surana who is a commercial artist wanted to lend creativity and colours to footwear and conceptualised Colour Me Mad in 2014.
She took on the challenge to make footwear which not only looks good but is also extremely comfortable to use which is Proudly Made in India and launched Comfee, cork based footwear with patented printing technology in August 2016 for probably the first time in the world with printed straps and bottoms.
Cork is a natural material extracted from tree and has healing properties for the feet whereby it improves body posture, reduces knee and ankle pain and takes shape of ones feet which has been incorporated with quirky prints thus combining fashion with comfort.
CMM as it is popularly known also represented India at International Innovation Fair in Istanbul in March 2016 as also participated in a trade fair in Milan, Italy as part of India Pavilion in Dec 2016.
CMM intends to disrupt the footwear market globally by providing changeable straps and bottom giving choice to users to change the look of their footwear and will be launching a crowd funding campaign soon for folding slippers which can be neatly tucked in a bag for travel & outdoors needs.
Later towards end of 2018, CMM will also be getting in natural foot care products to take care of tired foot and other foot related issues.
Colour Me Mad believes in pampering customer’s feet by providing them with correct footwear and natural foot care products.
13. Nina Lekhi, MD & Chief Design Curator, Baggit
Nina Lekhi, an entrepreneur by profession and a role model for many aspiring young women entrepreneurs started her journey of success from scratch. Her positive attitude, cheerful and upbeat nature always endeared her to her friends, family and colleagues.
From a young age, she was passionate about painting which inspired her to take up a diploma foundation art course at Sophiya’s. But in her initial years she had to face upheavals and this experience ignited a spark within her and a determination to be successful. It also gave her a lot of clarity on her business vision.
Balancing two part time courses – one in textile and another in interior decoration along with a job as a salesgirl on the side; she learnt a lot of important lessons and gained customer insights on the shop floor. Her immense positive energy and strong passion to succeed drove her vision. She picked up the tools of the trade very quickly and started on a journey in 1985 called ‘Baggit’ which is now one of the leading handbag brand in India.
Lekhi is a stronger believer of ‘beauty without cruelty’ which motivated her to put together a cruelty free brand. This futuristic vision of hers has made Baggit stand apart from others and has also gained awards and recognition for the brand.
Lekhi has not only earned credits for her brand but also has been acknowledged by the State of Maharashtra with the prestigious Business Karmayogini Award for her excellence in the field of women entrepreneurship. Lekhi was conferred Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2015 by Hon’ble Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Her achievements in the field of women entrepreneurship was been featured in the book ‘Follow Every Rainbow’ by renowned writer Rashmi Bansal.
14. Jagrati Shringi, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Voylla
Jagrati Shringi, is the co-founding CTO and CMO who brings elegance and grit to the fledgling brand. An NIT – Bhopal alumnus, she graduated from the University of Pittsburg and has 12 years of Tech experience, eight of which are in the fiercely competitive US market. A multi-tasker, she sailed through her PhD programme while working full time in a challenging profession.
She fights the gender stereotypes and heads the Tech Team at Voylla. She takes decisions based on the analytics and makes the decisions like a true entrepreneur. After 2 baby boys, she considers Voylla as her third baby. She works towards building the business and taking it higher by her passion and courage to take risks. She aspires to build a durable brand which will stand for value, quality and irresistible choices. She aims to change the way people shop for fashion jewelry and give them a product that makes shopping easier.
She loves to read in her leisure time and fetch for more knowledge. Meditation too calms her down and helps her perform better.
15. Jacqueline Kapur, Co-founder and President, Ayesha Accessories
The multi-talented and multi-faceted Jacqueline Kapur dons many hats with practiced ease. The mother of two, wife, homemaker, equestrian sportsperson, businesswoman and star mom was born in Germany and moved to Pondicherry in 1989. She studied Japanese at the University of Bochum and the Japanese Language Institute in Tokyo, Japan.
Jacqueline started Hidesign’s garment division in 1989. She oversaw and designed the jackets for Hidesign till 2005-06. She runs Casablanca one of India’s first multi brand department stores which opened in 1999. With Titanic she opened up her personal shopping paradise to the people of Pondicherry in 2000.
Equestrian sport has been Jacqueline’s personal passion since early childhood. In 2000 Jacqueline and a group of friends started The Red Horse Riding School (RERS) with 2 horses only. In 2009 RERS was proud to host the Junior National Equestrian Championship and is home to nearly 30 horses.
Ayesha often accompanied Jacqueline on her merchandising trips and enjoyed the process of sourcing interesting jewellery & artifacts. Over time Casablanca’s hot selling accessories section became a fusion of Ayesha and Jacqueline’s tastes. In 2010 Ayesha and Jacqueline started their new brand Ayesha Accessories.
16. Sonali Lalvani, Founder, toniQ Retail Brands
Sonali Lalvani, Co-founder of Toniq Retail Brands Pvt Ltd, has spent the past 15 years within the retail industry and has a multitude of experience from across the globe.
Armed with a Bachelors Degree from Knox College, Illinois, Sonali started her career in retail at the age of 21 with The Landmark Group, Dubai. In her 5 years stint at The Landmark Group, Sonali was responsible for the launch of the company’s fashion label, Splash, where she set up a marketing team for the brand and handled the corporate communication, marketing, PR and visual merchandising.
In 2009, along with her brother and business partner, Sohel Lalvani, the two set out to start a fashion accessories brand, toniQ. Over the past 5 years the brand has expanded across the country, by adding new locations every day. The product line has also increased threefold in the past 5 years and now includes women’s bags and men’s accessories.
Developing the portfolio further, the duo launched The Bro Code in 2014, a high fashion men’s accessories brand at affordable prices as well as Fida, a contemporary Indian jewellery brand.
Sonali enjoys travelling and exploring new places, she also unwinds by playing with her dog, Zeus, and catching up on movies and TV Shows.
17. Anita Dongre, Founder of the House of Anita Dongre
Anita Dongre has been at the forefront of fashion for over 20 years, having created one of the most successful fashion houses in India.
Launched in 1995, the House of Anita Dongre (formerly And Designs India Ltd.) comprises a portfolio of five brands.
A connoisseur of craftsmanship, Anita Dongre’s designs showcase Indian aesthetics for the global woman of today. Inspired by Rajasthan and India’s rich craft tradition, her handcrafted bridal gotapatti lehengas and handwoven heritage benarasi creations are coveted by brides across the world including Bollywood celebrities for their representation of ‘relaxed luxury’. Her commitment to revive, sustain and empower Indian crafts and textiles led her to launch Grassroot, a sustainable and eco-conscious label with a presence in New York.
A vegetarian and animal-lover, she lives her personal philosophy through conscious efforts as a fashion designer. She designs cruelty-free clothing and accessories, thereby representing fashion with a conscience. Anita Dongre has been lauded with several awards for her work in design and for reviving Indian craftsmanship.
Brands under the House of Anita Dongre
1. AND: Contemporary fashion for women
2. Global Desi: Boho-chic fashion for women
3. Anita Dongre: Bespoke bridal couture, menswear and occasion wear
4. Grassroot: Sustainable luxury prêt
5. Pinkcity: Handcrafted gold jadau jewellery