Entrechat - Sagarika Dev

Entrechat with Sagarika Dev

“Women entrepreneurs are creating synergies with other women to get ahead in the game.”

Soon after completing Master Degree in Media Science, with a specialization in marketing, Sagarika Dev started her own clothing label ‘Raaika’, the brand which has got the attention of online shoppers. Today, it is growing rapidly to reach an even wider range of audience. 

Originally from a small hill station called Haflong in Assam, Sagarika moved to Kolkata 7 years back, and since then she was determined to do something unique that would lead her towards her goal.

 In conversation with Shree Lahiri, she reveals where she gets her inspiration from. “A girl should be two things: who and what she wants” said Coco Chanel – this is from where she gets the energy to follow her dream and move forward, despite many obstacles that life had laid before her.

1) Tell us a little about your venture. How long ago did you start up? What has been your motivation and what do you aim to achieve?

Raaika is an online clothing brand of women’s western outfit. It represents every fashion-conscious and independent woman who wants to look good, feel great and confident about herself. With our extensive research and fashion forecasting methods, we bring out the designs which are unique, latest and trendiest – yet truly affordable.

The venture was incorporated on February, 2017. However, it was April, 2017, when Raaika went live online for the very first time. That’s when the dreams started to come true. It is more than a brand to me, it is a seed which we planted and now we can witness it growing.

Self-confidence has always been the motivating factor for me as I have always believed that right outfits always bring the best out of a woman, by making her more confident and self-assured in whichever role she is representing. On that account, the aim is to be the brand which should always be present in the wardrobe of every single fashion-conscious woman.

2) Where did the inspiration for setting up a business come from?

Whenever I bump into people I know but not very close, a common question I get asked is –“Wow you’re running a brand now! Did you start it after you completed your fashion designing course?”

But, I believe things do not work in that way all the time. Inspiration does not always come from what you study. Even though being from Media & Marketing background, apparel designing and visualising has always been an important part of me. So, the inspiration comes within. It is the inner-self which has inspired and motivated me to chase the dream and make it a reality!

It is not always necessary that a specialist of a particular field can be a good entrepreneur and vice-versa. Moreover, in my case, self-inspiration plays a big role to motivate me as I have looked at things from different angles. Being passionate about apparel designing and shopaholic at the same time has helped me to acquire a lot of knowledge about brands, textiles and their designs. My post-shopping excitement never ended with a selfie or donning new outfits. My excitement has always extended to the technical knowledge I acquired by researching and studying every new outfit that I used to purchase. I still do the same!

On the other hand, being from Media & Marketing background I have always been a great enthusiast understanding human behaviour & psychology. With the evolution of social media, my interest in understanding and researching human behaviour on social media platforms has grown immensely and hence, the connection with the fashion industry has grown even stronger. It has helped me to a great extent to understand my potential business opportunities way before my venture was incorporated. These have played an integral role, inspiring me to start this venture.

3) How easy or tough has it been for you, as a woman entrepreneur, to set up and promote your business?

It has never been an easy journey. Things cannot be special if they are easy to achieve. It doesn’t matter which gender you represent as an entrepreneur, because the process remains the same.

The challenge for every entrepreneur in this clothing industry is the competition. Competing with international labels as they all have online presence and also with the booming domestic online brands – it is never easy to fit your products in as a start-up brand. However, with proper management, a balanced working team and understanding consumer psychology – things can be set. Also, it is important to understand that promoting your business is not all about spending money; it is more of a tactical approach by doing things which are relevant and which increases the awareness of your brand.

Nevertheless, being a woman in this ‘still’ male dominant culture, I feel blessed that I am an employer of 15 people currently, and it feels great to be the reason for someone’s employment where the majority of your employees are men! This shows gender can never become a pivotal factor, if you have the intensity.

As I have mentioned previously, entrepreneurship doesn’t represent any gender, it is a regular practice and discipline attached to your mind and soul.

Coming to a big city like Kolkata from a very small town called ‘Haflong’-  in the hills of Assam, I have never felt for once that I am inferior to anyone because I am a woman! That I belong to a small town, who is now in this “City of Joy”. The same confidence and message I would like to convey to every individual woman and the upcoming woman entrepreneurs. Things are never meant to be easy, so in hard situations don’t let yourself down by comparing yourself with your corporate counterparts. If you have the belief and the self-confidence, you can reach any heights regardless of what gender you are!

4) Do you think women entrepreneurs support other women across the value chain of business? How have you impacted/ supported/ mentored the careers of other women?

Yes, I do think women entrepreneurs are creating synergies with other women to get ahead in the game. They have figured out a ‘pay-it-forward’ mentality through mutual respect and ingeniously want to see each other succeed.

It really feels great to be the person and, as a woman who can make an impact on other women’s career or life. In my case, one of my employees, decided to handover her notice period at work. It was really unexpected from her and when I asked the reason, I heard the same old story which we all are used to. Her parents want her to get married as she has younger sisters, who need to get married too. Initially I thought not to intervene as it is their personal matter but, later on when I spoke to her personally I realised that being a woman myself I just couldn’t let another woman be forced not to fulfil her dreams! Marriage is not everything for a woman. So, I decided to speak to her parents personally (without thinking what would be the outcome!). I was well aware it would not be an easy task (as I know how uncompromising Indian parents could be, where marriage is concerned)!

However, the outcome was sweet, though not expected! Her parents postponed her marriage for a year and surprisingly, they are looking for a ,son-in-law who would let their daughter work even after marriage!!

5) How has the support of friends and family played a role in your being a successful entrepreneur? How do you balance your professional and personal life?

Parents did play a significant role for what I have achieved so far. Without their support and patience, things wouldn’t have happened the way it has! Being the only daughter, it is always obvious to assume that any typical Indian family would think of marriage; or, they would always prefer their daughters to work in a MNC company, because setting up a business takes time and money (with huge risks involved!).

But things were different for me; I got immense support from my parents. Every day, they always show their great interest in helping me move my business forward. It really motivates me a lot and makes me even stronger as a woman!

Yes, sometimes it does get hectic to balance professional and personal life but, I always try to maintain an equilibrium. It is very important to realise we work to live the life we desire to. So, paying attention to your personal life is more of a reward to yourself!!

6) What is the road ahead in 2018?

Within a month, we are going to launch our fourth collection, which I am sure will mesmerise our existing brand audience!!

Also, we are digging more and more to understand the market gap, the opportunities and the psychology of the consumer –  which will lead us towards better product development and will also cater to the needs of every woman’s wardrobe.

Later this year, our fifth collection will also go live.

A very busy and important year ahead!

 

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Imparting entrepreneurship skills to the next generation is very important today.  Whether they are students or children in the family, the big question remains – how can we teach them to build successful businesses? Noticeably, there are also a host of skills that successful business leaders use that they can adopt.

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Entrechat - Neetu Bajwa Malladi

Entrechat with Nitu Bajwa Malladi

 

“Being a woman, the first thing that innately comes to us is empathy and the ability to connect to a person.”

 Nitu Bajwa Malladi, Nutrition and Fitness Coach describes herself as mother, a fitness freak, a former mountaineer and amateur chef. She shares her story with Shree Lahiri on how she managed to shed loads of fat and took up fitness as her goal in life. Then she worked in a fitness centre and now has branched out on her own, giving consultation in fitness and wellbeing. Read on, to find out what she has to say…

1) Tell us a little about your business venture. How long ago did you start up? What has been your motivation/inspiration and what do you aim to achieve?

I have been in the fitness industry for over 2 years now. Initially I was associated with an online health portals a fitness consultant where I managed a good client base, ranging from doctors, working professionals, business heads, house wives, young professionals, pilots ,CEOs, bankers etc. Recently, I branched out on my own with my brand ‘Nitu Bajwa’. The motivating factor being the ability to help and assist people with their health and fitness goals, making them achieve their dreams of a better health, through my expertise.  What really thrills me is the part where I can help them understand and achieve their health goals, hand-holding them. The connect one makes with an individual during the consultation gives me immense satisfaction and motivates me. I am a firm believer of educating people/clients about their lifestyle and how easy it is to make sustainable changes in it – to maintain good health and fitness levels. It’s my way of giving back to the society I am a part of.

 

2) How has your experience been so far, with setting up an entrepreneurship business?

Things have been on a roller coaster pace till now, with tons of work. Setting up  the tech support and website – it’s like giving birth to a child, where you have to be mindful of every tiny requirement the infant has, till she grows up to be independent. It’s been a good learning experience till now – with so many aspects, right from making sure that client service, finance, legal, tech support  everything is in place. I have taken professional assistance to get all these in place form venture.

 

3) How easy/ tough has it been for you, as a woman entrepreneur, to set up your business? What are your plans to scale up?

I would say it’s been super easy! Being a woman, the first thing that innately comes to us is empathy and the ability to connect to a person; and these two aspects are extremely important in my business. I am working on associating my brand with a few other brands in the fitness sector, and there are plans to expand.  There are many things in the pipeline, like to get in more coaches on my platform.

 

4) Do you think being a woman entrepreneur worked to your advantage or brought challenges to your path?

Fitness industry till now was a male dominated one, but with time a lot of female experts have created their own niche. Today it’s a very balanced field, where the gender has no importance, what makes a difference is how knowledgeable one is about the latest developments and researches, how well one can guide and help the clients and above all, your personal fitness levels – you got to walk the talk. My biggest advantage being my age, having brought up two kids and gone through the stage of a very unhealthy lifestyle which integrated into a healthy one. I have been through the different stages and that helps me a lot to identify and solve issues with others.

 

5) What would be the top 3 things to watch out for, if you’re a woman looking to start her own business?

A man or a woman, the three things that I rate highest to start your own business are – vision, hard work and integrity. Rarely, you would find businesses not working inspite of these three aspects in place!

 

6) How has the support of friends and family played a role in your being a successful entrepreneur? How do you balance your professional and personal life?

My family has been very supportive of my venture, and without their support it would have been very difficult to pull it off! My husband has been in the corporate field for many years and his expertise came in handy, while getting all the legalities and the website work in place. I work 5 days a week and the weekends are strictly for family and ‘me’ time. My kids are in a growing stage and they require my undivided attention. I am also into dramatics, trekking and I love cooking….these things help me unwind and spend quality time with my family and friends.

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