It all began in Tirunelveli when a lady decided to help a seamstress who was struggling to make a living and feed her twin babies without the support of husband or family. What started as an effort by Ranitha Rajendrasingh to help another woman find means of earnings is today a startup looking to scale its operations.
“I strongly feel that women can achieve everything provided they try persistently. If women hold on to their values in life and never compromise on the quality of work, they can achieve any heights in their profession,” says Ranitha, the founder of Neha’s Bags. A mother and a grandmother, too, she decided to get started when all her kids were married and settled and she could devote her life to what she wanted to do.
Early years and family life
“My driving force is my father, his life, ethics and principles.”
Born in 1961 to a doctor father and a homemaker mother in Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu, she did her schooling and her BA in English literature from her hometown.
While growing up she saw her parents helping out people in every possible way. That left a lasting impression and shaped her personality. “My family is traditional but very protective at the same time. They never stopped me from doing anything, always extended their support and gave the freedom do what I like. I am very thankful to my parents for my upbringing and the values they instilled in me.
At the age of 19, she got married to a businessman and moved to Tirunelveli. Her husband was the 10th child of the family, so post marriage she was the part of a huge joint family. She has two children and five grand children whom she adores.
Driven by the desire to help others, especially the seamstress who left and started on her own, Ranitha is now employing other workers in the village who were earlier working with tobacco and those who need financial support. She says, “My husband and his family were very supportive when I approached them with my business plan. They gave a factory and showroom space for Neha’s Bags at lower rentals.”
The Green Silk Bag
Ranitha remembers being drawn to a Central Silk Board of India ad about an exhibition where exhibitors could exhibit only 100% silk products. She decided to attend to. In two weeks, her team stitched day and
night to make 500 bags. “I attended the exhibition in Palace Ground, Bangalore and was stunned by the overwhelming response from people. In two days we clocked a sale of one lakh per day. Our silk bag was a very unique product in the exhibition.”This was the first time Ranitha had travelled alone out of Tamil Nadu, stayed in a hotel for a week and worked as a sales women person during the exhibition. “All these were new to me but people were kind enough and very supportive. Being a woman entrepreneur I got a lot of attention and respect. A few customers got angry because I was quite nervous and wasn’t able to cope up with their speed. But from the response I received at the exhibition, I understood the products’ demand in Indian market.”
Shortly after this experiment, Ranitha presented 25 bags to a Belgian lady who was visiting her and asked her to choose one as a gift.
The intention was to find out her taste and the lady selected the only silk bag in the lot, a bright green silk bag. This was an impactful moment because it helped Ranitha to understand the demand for her product in the international market. “When I started my business, silk bags were not common or easily available in the market and the silk bags were quite costly. Another thing that I noticed while attending functions was that people draped themselves in beautiful silk sarees, but carried either a brown or black leather bag that did not complement their attire.“
Based on all these observations, she decided to invest in manufacturing silk bags only.
At present the team makes bags in pure silk and spun silk only. The company is now Silk-Mark certified by the Central Government Silk Board, validating the usage of pure Indian silk.
Once the decision to go with pure silk as raw material was taken, Ranitha did some reverse engineering on the bags. She bought a silk bag from the market and dismantled it to find what were the elements and raw materials required for production.
The word about Neha’s bag has spread through the Central Silk Board exhibitions, the shop in Tirunelveli and hoardings in and around Tirunelveli and two shops in hotels in Kodaikanal (that belong to her son-in-law).
Neha’s Bags went online recently. They have tied up with Just Dial, Indiamart, Snapdeal etc.Ranitha’s family, too, is involved in what she does. Her team, her husband and her son help in the tech aspect and in marketing the product. Her daughter and daughter-in-law help with the updates on latest trend and design. The core team is about 12 people and the main verticals are still managed from Ranitha’s end.
Ranitha says that on the personal front she has not faced major challenges but at the work front there have been many challenges. The greatest challenge she faced in business was a huge loss in an export order that did not get delivered by the courier company on time. She lost out on a huge sum of money. Apart from the trained labour force leaving every now and then, the other major challenges she faces are not receiving payment on time or no being paid at all.
To avoid these payment issues, Ranitha decided to go online to ensure she gets paid in advance and does not need to give any credit facility.
My team motivates me.
“They are good at learning new things and proactive in implementing the same. The computer embedded embroidery machine was just a basic model, but my team uses it very effectively. Now it gives the results of the advanced machine. They also possess a very strong will to take the company to the next level. Their skill and will to do anything inspires me,” she says.