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8 retail companies headed by women

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These brands are not just famous because of their products but also the women who created them

Mumbai: As many as 4,500 out of 5,000 business leaders in 29 countries surveyed by Grant Thornton report to having at least one woman in the C-suite (chief-suite or a high-ranking level executive) or in an equivalent position. In 2022, 32% of top leadership positions across the world were held by women, slightly up from 31% in 2021. And this is reflected in every sector including a traditionally male-dominated sector like retail. Over the years, India is home to some inspiring women leaders who have created their own mark in retail.[bs_input_restrict]

Here are eight retail companies headed by women entrepreneurs listed in alphabetical order. We take a closer look at their remarkable journeys of triumph and perseverance.

  1.   Baggit: Nina Lekhi, founder

Nina Lekhi had a passion for fashion and a desire to create something fashionable using her creativity. She joined a diploma course in Foundation Art at Sophia Polytechnic College when she was 18 years old. However, she failed in her first year despite being a hardworking and disciplined student. This failure agitated her and motivated her to start something on her own. Her mother invested Rs. 7,000 in her business, which led to the birth of the brand Baggit. She started displaying her bags at exhibitions inspired by her friend’s success in similar exhibitions. Baggit gained a big break when Shoppers Stop opened in the country in 1991. Today, Baggit has expanded globally and sells at more than 1,000 stores, with a brand worth around Rs1,000 crore, since it was started in 1984.

  1.   Biba Fashion Ltd.: Meena Bindra, chairperson

Meena Bindra, the founder and chairperson of the fashion brand Biba, established the brand in 1988 with a vision to provide apparel that caters to the needs of all Indian women, irrespective of their age, income, or location.

Revealing her motivation behind launching the brand, Meena Bindra said, “When I started Biba, there were limited options available for women looking for traditional Indian clothing, and I identified an opportunity to bridge that gap in the market.” 

Today, Biba has emerged as one of the leading ethnic wear brands in India, with a widespread presence across the country and an expanding international footprint. The brand boasts more than 427 exclusive stores, including 308 Biba-branded and 119 Rangriti-branded stores, in 27 states and 160 cities in India. Moreover, Biba’s products are available via a multichannel distribution network across India, including its own websites and other online marketplaces.

  1.   Faballey: Tanvi Malik and Shivani Poddar, founders

In 2012, Tanvi Malik and Shivani Poddar started High Street Essentials, a fashion house, using their savings after quitting their corporate jobs. Shivani Poddar graduated from Hindu College where she consistently topped her batch for all three years and earned an MBA from Delhi’s Faculty of Management Studies. Tanvi Malik, on the other hand, holds an Economics degree from Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College and an MBA in Brand Management from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA). Her passion for branding and marketing led her to work as a brand and product manager for high-end watches at Titan before quitting to start her dream project.

The duo went on to launch FabAlley, a popular fashion brand, followed by Indya, a leading omnichannel fashion brand in the Indian retail industry. They also created Curve, an exclusive plus-size women’s clothing brand.

  1. MamaEarth: Ghazal Alagh, founder

Ghazal Alagh, who made headlines for her role as a mentor on Shark Tank India (season 1), is the co-founder of MamaEarth, a natural skincare brand for infants, which she started with her husband Varun Alagh under Honasa Consumer Pvt. Ltd. In various media interactions, she candidly shared the struggles she faced while treating her child’s skin condition, which inspired her to create the brand.

Mamaearth was launched in 2016 with six products, including lotions, body wash, oils, creams, shampoos, and diapers. Today, Mamaearth offers over 100 products. As the co-founder and chief mama of the brand, Ghazal Alagh is responsible for product development and managing the growing community related to the brand.

  1. Sugar Cosmetics: Vineeta Singh, co-founder and chief executive officer

Sugar Cosmetics, established in 2012 by Vineeta Singh along with Kaushik Mukherjee, is a leading direct-to-customer beauty brand in India. According to Vineeta Singh, the CEO of the brand, and Shark Tank India judge, the Indian beauty industry was dominated by multinational brands in 2014, with few having products suitable for the Indian complexion.

Sugar Cosmetics was launched in mid-2015 to enable women to explore and relish beauty products specifically recommended for them. With premium products that were both stylish and high-performing, Sugar’s striking shades were designed to suit every Indian skin tone and led the industry movement towards ‘mattes’ with its cult-favourite range. “The three main USPs of our brand – meticulously crafted shades that compliment all skin tones, extreme colour payoff and formulations that last long have helped us build a cult following in a short span of time,” said Singh. 

Currently, the brand is available in over 45,000 retail outlets across more than 550 cities and plans to increase this to 100,000 outlets by financial year end 2024. Additionally, the brand aims to expand to international markets such as the USA, Russia, GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and Nepal. Singh further stated that the brand looks forward to doubling its current team size of around 3,000 employees, with 75% being women.

  1. Nykaa- Falguni Nayar, founder and chief executive officer

In 2012, Falguni Nayar made a decision to leave her lucrative job of managing director at Kotak Investment Banking and pursue her passion for beauty and fashion. She recognized a gap in the market for a beauty and wellness e-commerce platform, which inspired her to start Nykaa. Initially, Nykaa begun as an online beauty retailer. Under Nayar’s leadership, it has grown into a comprehensive omnichannel beauty and wellness destination, providing personalized advice. By prioritizing customer satisfaction and offering an omnichannel shopping experience, Nayar has transformed Nykaa into a trusted brand in the Indian market. Currently, Nykaa has a network of over 100 physical stores across India.

  1. Reliance Jio Infocomm and Reliance Retail Ventures- Isha Ambani, Director

Isha Ambani is a prominent businesswoman and the daughter of India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani. She is the director of Reliance Jio Infocomm and Reliance Retail Ventures. Under her leadership, Reliance Jio has become the largest telecom operator in India, with over 400 million subscribers. The company has disrupted the Indian telecom market by offering affordable data and voice plans, leading to increased internet penetration and digital transformation in the country. Ambani has also played a crucial role in the expansion of Reliance Retail, which operates over 12,000 stores across India, ranging from supermarkets to fashion and lifestyle outlets. The company’s focus on customer experience and innovation has helped it to establish a strong foothold in the Indian retail market. Additionally, Ambani is a member of the board of directors for Reliance Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Reliance Group, which has made significant contributions to healthcare, education, and rural development in India. Her contributions to the growth and success of these companies have cemented her position as a leading businesswoman in India.

  1. The New Shop- Aastha Almast, founder

IIM Calcutta-educated Aastha Almast founded The New Shop in March 2019. Prior to embarking on her entrepreneurial journey, Almast worked at Bank of America and Standard and Poor’s. In 2012, she founded a game development company along with a few early smartphone gamers. In 2015, she founded a Singapore-based Online Reputation Management company which she sold in 2017.

Since the establishment of The New Shop, which is the first Indian company to be funded by a Shark, Kevin Harrington, multiple rounds of funding have been raised from renowned angels and VC funds. Almast is the co-chairperson for Startup and Entrepreneurship of Delhi Management Association, one of the oldest professional organizations in India, and works closely with various government bodies to promote Atmanirbhar Bharat, Make in India, and VocalforLocal.[/bs_input_restrict]

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