“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!