Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh is best known for its grid oriented, well planned layout, Nek Chand’s Rock Garden and Sukhna Lake among others. But this city is fast evolving as a hub for startups. Chandigarh– The City Beautiful is giving wings to many women entrepreneurs. About 15 years back, Sohni Makkar was working as a systems analyst in Ranbaxy and gave up her career in computing to dabble in design. After a long break of 5 years, she realised it wasn’t so easy to get back to life. Not one to sit idle for a moment, she decided to do something where she could work at her own convenience. With no formal training in design, she let her talent and an inherent love for Indian fabrics and embroideries do the work. Today her studio named Sohni Apparel Studio, located in Chandigarh, showcases her love for fabric and design and is a testament to her hard work.
The initial experiment
Exploring various aspects and having least expectations, she started by experimenting. She set up a business arrangement with her sister in law in London, wherein she would design ladies suits, source the fabric, get them embroidered and stitched from a local boutique which would later be sent for retail.
Not quite satisfied with the quality of the products, she soon set up her own venture and conducted a small exhibition of her collection of Indian ethnic wear which was a huge success and since then there has been no looking back.
Her mother’s insistence on attending sewing classes after high school and a convent education where nuns made sure the students excelled at embroidery are the reasons behind her sound knowledge of sewing.
I was very lucky really to get good craftsmen from day one. And I started my business from a room at home, with a small investment, and have grown slowly and steadily. What was tough was juggling household, children and a nascent business in terms of time management. But I guess sheer grit and hard work helped me overcome most issues.
Hands on approach
Working with a hands on approach to inculcate higher levels of learning, involvement and creativity, she
manages a team of about 30 workers including karigars and supervisors. These artisans outsource a lot of small hand embroidery work to a team of ladies for whom it has become a steady source of income.A muslim lady who has been taking small pieces for embroidery from me over the years once broke down and said that thanks to me she had been able to pay the tuition fees of her 4 children one of whom is now a engineer and another studying to be a nurse. It was overwhelming.
She owes a lot to her degree in management. That has held her in good stead when it comes to dealing with a mostly illiterate task force on the one hand and demanding clients on the other in a very systematic and efficient way. Juggling between the workshop and her studio, she tries to look into as many production issues as she can.
“I remember I would actually sit down and teach embroidery stitches and mirror work to these poor muslim housewives I managed to find with great difficulty as I was hell bent on hand embroidering my line of cotton kurtas,” she says.
Experience so far
Sohni enjoys being her own boss in doing something she truly likes. Known for showcasing a variety of clothes with excellent finish and attention to detail, she fabricates a collection for the discerning woman of today using traditional fabrics and contemporary styling. Each piece speaks for itself and she has tried hard to provide high quality and a designer element to the clothes at affordable prices.
Surviving the stiff competition, she has been constantly reinventing styling and the ever widening range of designs along with stringent quality control.
I have to admit that in the initial years I was satisfied just keeping busy and having my work appreciated, but since about 5 years back when I moved my studio to a commercial hub I have become more professional in my approach towards making it a successful business venture. And we’ve seen remarkable growth.
In the course of time
The future prospects of her venture’s growth lie in showcasing on e-commerce platform to widen the customer base. She plans to diversify her collection by stepping into formal wear and trousseaus as she feels there is a void in the market for subtle formal wear which her clothing line could help fill.
There is no easy escape from your circumstances. You just have to tag along even when you want to give up because on the other side is either a greater stage or a better you. Sohni, with her passion for designing has set a platform for every woman to know that the curtain is up and you’re on