This German-born ‘Tamil ponnu’ builds fashion for Indian women
Embracing entrepreneurship, Jacqueline Kapur has made India her home, and is now the Founder-President of prominent lifestyle brand Ayesha.Athira Nair
Jacqueline Kapur dons many hats – entrepreneur, designer, equestrian sportsperson, restaurateur, and mother. She is now famous as the founder of Ayesha Accessories, a contemporary fashion brand for young women. One among the very few women solo-entrepreneurs in the country, however, is not Jacqueline’s only claim to fame. Her relationship with India itself is special.
Born and brought up in Germany, Jacqueline moved to Puducherry in 1989 with her then-boyfriend Dilip Kapur, who founded lifestyle brand Hidesign. She had also studied Japanese at the University of Bochum and the Japanese Language Institute in Tokyo, Japan.
After getting married to Dilip, Jacqueline was instrumental in starting Hidesign’s garment division and oversaw and designed jackets. In 1999, Jacqueline opened Casablanca, one of India’s first multi brand department stores. In 2000, she opened ‘Titanic’, a garment outlet in Puducherry that houses European styles at affordable prices.
Having made Puducherry her home, Jacqueline calls herself a ‘Tamil ponnu.’ She lives with five dogs, 15 cats and 26 horses at the Red Earth Riding School, which she established in 2000 with a few friends.
Now in her fifties, Jacqueline also runs a BnB guest house ‘The Black Box’ made of recycled shipping containers, and opened a 50-seater casual dining bistro in Puducherry called ‘PY Love (in symbol) Café’. She has personally designed it using recycled furniture and mirrors.
Around 2008, Jacqueline noticed a gap in India’s fashion market – there was no fashion jewellery brand to cater to women who prefer contemporary and western designs. To fill that gap, she launched her own brand – Ayesha - with her savings and a small team of women who worked with her in Hidesign. Besides jewellery, Ayesha slowly grew to include bags, sunglasses, scarfs, hair accessories, etc.
In the last decade, Ayesha has expanded to dozens of outlets across the tier one cities of the country. Being a 'woman entrepreneur' has not discouraged Jacqueline. She says, "I am often perceived as an outsider; but I have always felt welcomed. But I think women are yet to take over major roles in Indian workforce."
Watch the video for more insights from Jacqueline:
After her divorce in 2016, Jacqueline tells YourStory, there was a slump in business for a short period. But now Ayesha is back to its best mode, and received an invitation to expand its operations in the Middle East. To expand further, Ayesha is in talks with external investors for funding.
Jacqueline’s son Milan, 27, works abroad. Jacqueline’s daughter Ayesha, who played the protagonist Michelle McNally (Rani Mukherjee’s childhood) in the Bollywood movie Black in 2000, is a partner inthe firm named after her. The 24-year-old is now a student at Columbia University.