Enterchat - Rekha Devi

Entrechat with Ms. Rekha Devi

“Becoming independent is really a great feeling!”

Indian women in remote areas find it very difficult to take the decision to step out of their homes, to take up the responsibility of doing something independently, on their own – at their own terms. Rekha Devi, based in Bagru, near Jaipur, in Rajasthan explains to Shree Lahiri how she made this effort, pushing herself beyond her limits. Today she feels it was indeed a wise decision, and both she and her team are happy.

  1. What was the starting point for you, when you decided to do something on your own?
    In the beginning, ladies used to just sit around and discuss that they wanted to do business. They wanted to make money, have a regular income.
    We formed a group of nine ladies, and joined Apani Sahakari Sewa Samiti, which is a self-help group in Rajasthan, took a loan of Rs 10,000 each and then got into producing decorative, carved items like elephants, peacock, horse, even Ganeshji; there were other items like sindur dani, pen holders. Then we got another loan and purchased a machine, so that we could work at home. The machine is a great help and our ladies now work efficiently.
    We also go out of Rajasthan, to Delhi, Goa for melas organsied by the Government. We sell our items here. In Delhi, we are setting up a shop in Dilli Haat, and we plan our products.
    Let me tell you, I also felt that I can move out of my home and get involved in making something which can bring in income. Now we are happy to work together and share the income.
  1. While starting the business activity, how did you get the funds?
    Like I said, we first took a loan to start the business, and then took another loan to buy the machine for making the decorative and carved items.
  1. Do you feel becoming independent has helped you?
    Yes, I feel every lady should go through what I did. We all can do this, and becoming independent is really a great feeling. In this way, we can also do something for our families – our children specially. This way, we feel we are doing good work and also contributing to the welfare of the family. So, becoming independent is something that every woman must try to work towards.
  1. Did you get trained to take up this work?
    No, I started on my own. At that time, my husband used to have a small job, but soon left that job to join me. Now he helps me with the sales. As we travel to sell our products, he also accompanies us.
  1. If you are offered training, will you accept it?
    Yes, I will be interested. We do not sell our products online, but if we are given some training, to make our products available online, it would really help us get online orders. That would help us in taking our business activity ahead.
  1. What were the problems you faced in your journey?
    There were a lot of problems. In the beginning, the ladies did not want to leave their homes and join me. They said they have more work at home. So it took a lot of coaxing, to make them decide. I actually went against all negative signs and went ahead and started with the production of our decorative items. Now the ladies are also happy that they finally decided and moved out of their homes to do something independently. They are also earning an income and they are all happy.
  1. Where do you plan to take your work activity in 3 to 5 years from now?
    I want to be involved in the same work that we are doing now – that much I am sure. But I also want to move ahead and set up our own showroom in Jaipur, as so many tourists visit the city, who can buy our items and thus help us expand our business. Currently we sell our items in Amer, which is a tourists spot, and tourists do buy our products.
AnterChat - Ms Geeta Jain

Entrechat with Ms. Geeta Jain

I am in the world of fashion and fashion keeps changing.

‘Fashion’ was in her mind right from the beginning. Ms Geeta Jain, from Indore explained how her family business involved fabrics, jeans as they were wholesalers. So, it was quite natural that she was lead into this world. She talks openly to Shree Lahiri on how the germ of this idea came to her, how her team of women are working together, the courses she conducts and more….

  1. How was it in the beginning when you got into this business?
    In the beginning, I had joined up with my cousin sister and we started working for the NGO – Mahila Bal Vikas Mantralaya. Here we used to do ‘sewa’ for women and children like helping them out, giving gifts during festivals and so on. Then, later on – I thought why not start something of my own?  And, it was quite logical that I chose the world of fashion, since my family has been into various businesses in this area. So I started working in my Boutique called ‘Origin’ in Indore, where I live.  Actually I had this boutique before and used to make ladies’ garments. Today I stitch ladies’ tops, kurtas, skirts, party gowns, saree blouses etc.
  1. Where did you get the funds?
    Initially I worked with my cousin, as she asked me to join. But then I suddenly developed cervical problems and my health was affected. So I focused on the boutique. My sister’s funds helped me to get the rented place , which is just two kms from where I live. Then customers increased too. I also conduct courses for ladies who want to take up this job – so they are taught designing, cutting, stitching – all the functions of a boutique. It is still going on.
  1. How large is your team and how do you encourage them?
    There are six ladies in my team. The work is divided among them and we work as a team. We are like a family and we help each other. On festivals, we try to have our own celebrations like in Diwali, Holi etc. In Indore, there is the Malwa Utsav in March, where we participated and the sales are quite good.
  1. What are the changes you see today, in the business that you are in?
    I am in the world of fashion and fashion keeps changing. It’s been 10 years since I started. First it was salwars, churidars, suits that were in fashion and today, it is leggings, kurtis, gowns, tops that are in demand. Today ladies take extra care with their clothes and they spend more and make special clothes for festivals like Navratri, Diwali etc. Ladies have become more fashionable. They have their own choice. They even see patterns online and then they ask us to copy them.
  1. Are you aware of government schemes?
    No I have not availed of any government scheme. There’s a lot of running around involved like to banks etc. I feel I am getting along fine with family support.
  1. Have you been trained for this business? Would you like to get some more training?
    I have been trained. I did Fashion Designing course form NIFT in Indore. If I do get more training and I will get more scope to increase my business, then I will be interested.
  1. What were the problems you faced in your journey?
    In the beginning I faced problems in the family. My husband was busy with his job and my daughter was 8 years old. My shop is in a residential area, near the airport and I stay in Kalani Nagar, which is 2 kms away.  But since I got into my family business, I managed.
  1. Where do you see your business going in the next 3 years?
    I really want to increase my business. And, I want to continue with my training classes. I tried to start a college for fashion design, but I could run it only for a few months as there were many problems. The costs involved were high, and the students were also less, so I had to discontinue. Then I wanted to take a larger space, and even got offers, but they were far away. So, I decided to remain here. But I want my showroom to be bigger and widen the scope of classes.
Rekha Parihar (31-5-19)

Entrechat with Ms. Rekha Parihar

“If a lady is not afraid, and has the courage to move ahead and aim for something higher, then nothing is impossible!”

At one point of time, she never dreamed that she would be working on her own and managing her work independently. Ms Rekha Parihar from Pilibhit, in UP today took that vital step when she decided to pull herself up and move out of the confines of her home, and even encourage other women – to join her in her business. She shares with Shree Lahiri the initial problems, how her husband’s support helped from the beginning, her immediate future plans and more… 

  1. How did you think about becoming an entrepreneur?
    I was a housewife and I used to be happy living an easy life – staying at home and spending my free time sleeping. Then it was my husband who pointed out something that actually changed my life. He suggested that instead of sleeping, why don’t I seriously think about something that I could do to keep myself occupied. To be frank, I was scared at the beginning, but he encouraged me all the way.
    I started my business by going around and encouraging ladies to step out of their houses and get involved in some activity that can take care of their wants in life. So, I started the Samaj Seva Shiksha Committee where I went about urging women to start something of their own – like cultivation of mushrooms, creating handicrafts from water hyacinth and products like mosquito repellants from cow dung too. We collect these and sell them at markets like Dilli Haat. The ladies work independently, and we buy the products from them and sell these at haats. We also sell dry mushrooms, wet mushrooms that are cultivated by the women. We have also taken these products to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jabalpur, Chandigarh, Chitrakoot and Gujarat too.
  1. What are some strengths that a woman entrepreneur should possess?
    The daily needs of a woman cannot be always satisfied by a husband’s salary, so to fulfill her needs she needs to start something on her own, which can bring in some income. It is important she should not hesitate to be independent, and must take the risk. She must be hard-working, because that it key to success. She should not be under the pardah, and should be ready to go out of her house and start something of her own.
  1. Could you tell us about the challenges faced by you?
    I started out in 2014 and at that time, it was extremely difficult to motivate women to come out of their houses. They were hesitant and some even said that their husbands would not allow. Now that they have taken the step, they have formed groups to work, according to the location they stay and are independent and growing!
  1. How did you get funds?
    First we used our own funds and invested in providing women training and financial support to start on their own. It’s like taking care of a child, first feed them, help them in every way and then they learn to stand on their own feet!
  1. Do you think the current business scenario encourages women entrepreneurship?
    Yes definitely. If a lady is not afraid, and has the courage to move ahead and aim for something higher, then nothing is impossible! Today everything is possible. She can overcome her fear and also get support. This is applicable to men too, if they want to start something, they will need support.
  1. How do you handle the fierce competition?
    As of now, there is no competition. It competition does come up in the future, I don’t think we will face any problem, because we have enough experience. We also have support from the village MP, who is in favour of women empowerment! 
  1. What are your future plans?
    As of now, we are working in one district – Pilibhit, near Bareilli in UP. We plan to go to other districts too. We hope to go to Uttarakhand and Sultanpur so that we can encourage more women to enter the business world and become independent.
  2. Any tips for someone starting out today?
    They should have confidence to Once she starts, she should continue. Even if she faces  failure, she should not get discouraged or break down, for failure is a part of success!

Sudha Agarwal

EntreChat with Ms. Sudha Agarwal

“We strive to provide health benefits to people all over India by our result-oriented herbal products. We also strive to expand and get into exports.”

Sudha Agarwal, started her business way back in early 2000 when she saw positive healing effect of ayurvedic medicines in Chattisgarh. She noticed that allopathy did not provide permanent remedy to people with health problems, they suffer from serious side effects. She shares with Shree Lahiri how she started her own business – Ayurved Health House in 1995 and how she worked hard to keep the business going. Today it is manufacturing more than 100 proprietary and classical Ayurvedic products.

  1. How did you get the idea of starting this business?

I used to see sick people around me and most of them had taken recourse to allopathic medicine, which often left serious side effects. I also remembered my grandmother’s natural medicines that she recommended for any kind of illness. These were more effective and had no side effects. So, I thought why not serve people by giving them good medicines when they fell sick.
Our mission is – “To be recognized around the globe as the essence of true Ayurveda – in its purest form” which is clearly put in our website: www.paawanherbal.com.

  1. What was the support from your family?

I got full support from my family – from my husband and everyone else. My children being small supported me at their best. My husband helped me a lot and advised me to take on this business. It is because of his able guidance and complete support, both in production and marketing, I had been able to achieve success in business.

  1. Where did you get the funds?

I started my business with small savings that I had done and had further I had taken bank loan to supplement my further requirement for plant & machinery and working capital.

  1. Did you get any training?

Initially Ayurveda was a new subject for me. So I read a lot of ayurvedic texts, had discussions with ayurvedic doctors and vaidyas for development of herbal formulation. We had formed a team and with various trials we were finally able to develop formulations with good results. Today, my daughter is also an ayurvedic doctor, and got gold medal in her finals. I discuss with her for new innovations in Ayurveda.

  1. Are you aware of any government schemes that support women entrepreneurs?

I haven’t taken support of any government schemes. I came to know that government is supporting women entrepreneurs and there are various schemes for them. But most of the schemes are for starting a new business. I would like to know if there is any scheme for expansion and renovation of existing units. I definitely look forward to expand business with government support.

  1. Did you face any problems in your journey?

Definitely, we face various problems in running a business. And being a women entrepreneur marketing is a tuff job for me. Besides in our state there is not much support for local units in government purchase. Moreover, Chhattisgarh being a small state we have to be dependent on other states for procuring packing material, for getting lab test of our products and various other things.

  1. Any achievements of that you would like to share with us?

Our unit got National Award for Best Small Scale Women Entrepreneur from Ministry of SISI Central Government in the year 2002. It was given by Hon’ble Ex Finance Minsiter Jaswant Singh and Hon’ble Ex Industry Minister Vasundhara Raje Sindhia under Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

We received another award in 2014 – State Award for Best Woman Entrepreneur by Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Hon’ble Dr Raman Singh.

  1. Would you like to meet other women entrepreneurs like you, if you get the opportunity?

Yes, I would really like to meet them.

  1. Where do you see your business going in the next two years?

In next two years we would like to expand our presence across India. We also want to expand and get into exports. Already we have customers who carry our products abroad. We also send our products through VPP to most of the parts on India which gives us confidence about its acceptability across nation. If I get some training for improving my online sales, I will definitely take it up as only then we will be able to progress.

  1. How large is your team and how do you motivate your team to do better?

We have around 15 – 20 people for marketing and production consists of around 10 – 12 people. So, a total of around 30 members are there in our team. We inspire them by giving regular perks on the basis of their performance. We also provide residential facility to our employees who are in need for them. Our aim is to build conducive environment for them so that they can give their best.

  1. Tell us something more about your business ?

Our products are GMP (Goods manufacturing Practice) certified are available in various Khadi Stores in Delhi, Mumbai, Nagpur and so on.

Our range of products includes – syrups, tablets, capsules, ointment, soap – shampoo, herbal juices and classical medicines like guggul-vati, asav-aristh etc

We manufacture medicines for all age group of any gender. Our range of medicines covers therapeutic indication like – joint pains, gum problems, liver disease, gynecological problem, men’s health, children’s health, digestive issues, obesity, diabetes, piles, blood pressure, cold-cough, and others.

We take part in various National Trade Fairs on regular basis. It gives us good exposure and helps to reach out to new people.

Moreover, we also support the NGO for publication of  a quarterly health magazine “Herbal Health”, which has a circulation all over India, since 2007.


EntreChat: Mrs B Bhuvaneswari

Mrs B Bhuvaneswari started her business with her husband, Krishnamoorthy, who was a social worker before he ventured out. They are for sure, “enjoying this experience”. She shares with Shree Lahiri, how the whole started, the challenges faced, opportunities and more….Without any hesitation, she endorses that  “the person who is working enthusiastically, is the one who gets all the sweetness at the end”!

  • How did you start this business?

We started in 2012, in the handicrafts sector. Our beginning started through the NGO – Rural Education for Action and Change at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. We were organizing skill upgradation training for different artisans on products like terracotta pottery, banjara embroidery, kalamkari paintings, appliqué work, bamboo items and so on. We were promoting small production efforts at the village level. We also started a showroom at Tirupati and also went on to participate in exhibitions. 
The first four years, we concentrated on village artisans to create production centres. Today we have six production centres set up.

  • Where did the funding come from?

For upgradation, we took funds from the Ministry of Textiles and from the district level government funds – District level Rural Development Agency (DRDA).
In Tirupati, there is a “shilparamam”, like Dilli Haat  in Delhi, where the state government allots stalls at concssetional rates and we took one stall and put our products for sale.

  • What were some challenges you faced?

Our day-to-day customers want new designs and innovative level of products. At the village level, this really tough. Then there is the competition between plastic goods and machine made goods. Machine made goods are made in bulk and cost less than hand made products, where the cost is high.

  • What about any training you conducted?

When training new artisans, it is impossible for them to learn. If they are from a family of artisans, it is easy, otherwise training unemployed youth is a waste!

  • Are you selling online?

There are a lot of problems selling online. One person may order, but the payment is made on receiving. Tracking the sale is difficult. Some may bargain or say it is not ok, after receiving the goods. So it’s not clear whether they will pay or not!

  • How big is your team and how do you stay inspired?

We are four members – me and my husband, and two other people. We have got our day-to-day sales increased. This is encouraging. But competition is very much there. Customers are interested in buying hand-made products, and we have to work hard to push ahead.

  • Would you need any further training to improve?

Yes, definitely, we will welcome that.

  • Where do see your business three years later?

Currently our monthly business is reasonably good. We hope to double our sales, in the next three years!

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EntreChat with Ms Bhavana Gulati

Ms Bhavana Gulati has her business established in fashion accessories, jewellery, home décor, office décor, educative toys for children. Based in Jaipur, Rajasthan she is trying really hard to expand her business. She talks to Shree Lahiri on how she is eager to get funds so that she can work out bulk orders, which would really mean business for her outfit.

Enterchat - 20-12-2018 (1)

Entrechat with Ms. Rajkumari Patidar

“We have a lot of talent, but it has to come out and then only can we become independent.”

Working quietly in the city of Indore, is Rajkumari Patidar, a woman entrepreneur, who took the first step ten years ago.  She talks to Shree Lahiri about how she started the business, how she has been constantly fighting challenges and how she wished she could expand her business. Read on….

Sangita Pal

“Starting something on my own and building an enterprise from scratch was always a dream.”

Setting up an enterprise of her own was a dream for Sangita Pal, Founder of www.pulsatech.comwww.arteastic.in. Having spent more than 25 years in the IT industry, she has served in many leadership positions in leading IT firms like HCL Technologies, Tech Mahindra and Tata Infotech Ltd (TCS) across India, Europe, US, MEA & APAC regions. When she returned from South Africa to India, she got the chance to break out on her own. She chats with Madhura Chakrabarty to reveal her story….

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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