Meet the momtrepreneur who balances her life as well as cashbook. Read her inspiring #PassionToPaycheck story below.
A lot can happen over coffee, as the brand declares. Manasi Kelkar was contemplating her life over an aromatic cuppa when she did some thinking aloud with her mother-in-law. The financial analyst, on her maternity break, had always been passionate about Indian fabrics and wondered if she couldn’t make a career of them. By the time she had downed the last drop, an idea was born: her mother-in-law was very good at tailoring and Manasi decided to take a shot at creating stylish accessories out of ethnic fabric.
She had already quit her job to focus on her baby, but the entrepreneur in her kicked in. Thus, was born Tilika, conceived with a vision to design contemporary products, woven with the ethical thread of trust and durability. Manasi knew the way ahead would be tough but, as she puts it, “Keep challenging yourself: you wouldn't know your true capacity until then.”
Tilika signifies love for handmade products and its USP is reasonably priced, classy accessories. Today, the brand is known for everything from strikingly attractive pouches and slings to big totes and laptop bags. Its impressive product catalogue has lifestyle products too, such as desk stationery, lamps, customised cushion covers, placemats and bed runners.
But before Tilika became a brand denoting fusion fashion, Manasi had to stitch together a business plan. The project kicked off with the single sewing machine at home being put to maximum use. While she busied herself with product design, her mother-in-law put her skill to good use, and even roped in her friends.
The initial feedback was encouraging as family and friends snapped up the accessories fashioned from block-printed fabrics and the classic woven Dharwad khana. Tilika’s fame spread via word of mouth and the brand’s handmade pieces landed in pop-up markets next. The response beat all expectations. So, it was no surprise when it caught the fancy of one of Bengaluru’s reputed boutiques, which offered Manasi shelf space. This collaboration is now three years old and has brought in bulk orders both locally and from Chennai. According to Manasi, many stopped buying leather bags after they started buying Tilika.
With orders pouring in, she outsourced the basic stitching work to a group of women.
In the seven years prior to launching her brand, Manasi had worked with Maruti, KLM Cargo, Oracle and Amba Research in corporate finance, budgeting, managing information system (MIS) development. She is a certified ISO internal auditor for 9001:2005 and 27001:2005. This experience has aided in maintaining impeccable financial hygiene at Tilika. She initially funded her venture with money drawn from her freelancing stint as a financial analyst. The first big order from the boutique helped the cash flow. With a clean financial system in place, her prime concern now was delivering orders without a hitch. Since Tilika was new, any delay would have diluted the fledgling brand value. To meet deadlines, part of the work was outsourced. But most importantly, Manasi’s mother-in-law volunteered to stitch herself, generously sharing the load of bulk orders.
In the meantime, Manasi was blessed with a second child, and getting back to a full-time corporate job seemed very inconvenient. Though she was freelancing as a financial analyst, her heart seemed to be with fabric creativity. The family again stepped in with full support.
Today, Manasi personifies the modern Indian woman, balancing her family and business. Her day typically starts around 5.30 in the morning, with a to-do list. She believes this simple exercise helps balance household priorities, children and Tilika.
Thereafter, her routine is streamlined, monitoring the stitching progress of current orders, looking for fabrics, boutique visits, discussing customised orders, meeting prospective clients and networking meets, all singlehandedly. Her husband pitches in for any flea market events and inventory support, and looking after the kids when she is super busy.
Manasi believes that flea markets are a boon to women who balance both their entrepreneurial spirit and their home life. They also create awareness about handmade products that are exclusive, classy and eco-friendly. Social media also plays a big role in promoting businesses such as Tilika.
Today, Tilika caters to three boutiques. Plans are afoot to proliferate on e-commerce platforms. Currently, 20-25 pieces are produced daily but its resources are equipped to handle soaring demand during the festive season.
For Manasi, acceptance of products and encouraging feedback from the customers are prime motivating factors. The accessories are elegant, stylish, and affordable. For customised orders, clients can choose from the stock of fabric and the design is finalised in consultation with the customer. Being a momtrepreneur, Manasi plans to expand at a gentle pace “to get the best of both worlds”. As she says, “For home entrepreneurs, taking the business seriously and giving the required push, networking, reading, understanding the market and jotting down plans are a must. Plan well and have schedules to make the most of available time.”