A robust survival plan, ingenuity and creativity is important in this trying time, says Medusa head Sonal Jindal
Sonal Jindal, Founder-Director, MEDUSA (a B2C exhibition platform), and Managing Partner at Medusa Source, is an inspiration for budding designers in India.
Known for her impeccable personal style and her no-nonsense approach to business, Sonal took the world of fashion business by storm.
In a tete-a-tete with YourStory, Sonal discusses the world of fashion and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry
Q. What brought you into the fashion business? Who has been an inspiration behind your choice of career?
A. My in-depth research got me into the fashion business which helped me find the gap between the seller and the buyer. I identified this lack of connect and a real B2C platform, which is an important link in the experience of shopping. My grandmother is the inspiration behind me choosing this career. When I was just 11 year old, she asked me what I wanted to become and that question inspired me to be a working woman. Though she was a homemaker, her journey of winning many awards in her life for her home-made pickles inspired me. At 16, I made a business plan with her to start my own Pickle and Jam business. However, that plan never flourished since my father told me to get professional education to start another business.
Q. What has been your main focus as an entrepreneur – money or experience or both? What does Medusa do ?
A. To be straightforward, both were my main focus since Medusa was created out of zero investment with in-depth R&D. In this context, it was equally important for us to explore more opportunities and to evolve money. Medusa functions as the fertile ground on which creative designers of fashion, jewellery and footwear get the right environment to flourish. We take care of promoting their talent, making the world aware about their unique qualities and help monetize creativity. This leaves them to focus on what they do best – creation. We do this through exhibitions and shows at select venues, handling entire logistics and marketing. Each show, each event, is marked by a unique theme and presence of leaders in respective segments. Event support includes security transportation and catering at the back end. The result is seamless flow of an event that impresses and achieves desired objectives.
Q. What was your eureka moment as a businesswoman? Would you like to share the credit with anyone?
A. My Eureka moment came when I saw a lot of women entrepreneurs being born out and alongside Medusa. It gave me a new sense of social responsibility as a businesswoman and since that day, my focus has been on women empowerment. The credit for this also goes to my mother. Since childhood, she has rooted in me a sense of social responsibility.
Q. Do you think even in the 21st Century, a glass ceiling exists in the business world, especially for women?
A. Yes, definitely there is a glass ceiling which exists in the business world, especially for women leaders. I would say gender inequality is the biggest challenge I have faced so far in my professional journey. This is the reason behind my initiative to work towards women empowerment and building a strong sustainability on gender equality in my organisation. Despite substantial rise in the number of women joining the workforce in India, gender parity continues to suffer, especially at senior positions. In fact, 16 percent of organisations have no women on their boards. Even as a businesswoman, it has been tough for me as well since our world is not yet ready to see women in the role of serious business.
Q. Do you think in comparison to men, women find it more difficult to maintain a balance between professional & personal lives?
A. I think women are way ahead in their skill sets because we can multitask. We are emotional as well as practical. We can balance the work life and family very efficiently. The most important thing I figured out is that we women are very strong. Being strong is all about multitasking. Males and females alike recognise that women in positions of power must be strong to survive the pressure of power. . I feel the five major areas that women can multitask in are -
Women are self-aware. They are adept at leading well and seeking out feedback that alerts us to our blind spots and helps us identify areas of growth and development.
Q. What are the major concerns for the Indian fashion industry arising out of COVID-19?
A. The major concerns are loss of business and job cuts. The industry forecast says that it will take large and small companies anywhere between 6-12 months to recover and revive. With the apparel manufacturing industry employing about 12 million people, seven million in just the domestic sector, job losses and salary cuts are going to have a severe impact on the sector.
Q. How can Indian fashion industry review its sales and sustain its future post-COVID-19?
A. A robust survival plan is the need of the hour. I believe that it will be the ingenuity and creativity that the manufacturers as well as the retailers will show at this juncture, which will see us through. I would say the businesses need to look after the workers’ safety and sustenance. Out-of-the-box thinking is required to move forward during and post-COVID-19 era, just like the world gathered itself and survived the World Wars, Spanish Flu, The Great Famine, etc.
Q. The Medusa Source’s vendor network is spread through India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. What problems are you facing with respect to COVID-19?
A. Our problems are the same as the rest of the world. We are concerned about the future of our business interests as well as the well-being of our employees and workers. We have taken suitable measures to take care of our staff and we have ensured that our facilities follow all the guidelines prescribed to fight this disease.
Q. What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
A. The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that you get to call the shots and make the decisions that ultimately determine the success or failure of your business. Nobody can get in the way of your vision, of creating something out of nothing. Every business starts as an idea. You get to create it from the ground up. As an entrepreneur, people will look up to you. You have the ability to be a role model for family, friends, employees and community members. Your success serves as a motivation and inspiration. It is a great feeling to be able to step back and say, “This is my company,” while holding your head high. Being an entrepreneur takes an incredible amount of work and those few words feel so good coming out of your mouth. There is no age barrier, I want to keep working till the last day of my life.
Q. Your inherent sense of style is the talk of the town. How do you look at that? Do you consider it a burden or your strength?
A. As per the Merriam Webster dictionary, “inherent” literally refers to something that is "stuck in” something else so firmly that they can't be separated. A plan may have an inherent flaw that will cause it to fail; a person may have inherent virtues that everyone admires. Since the flaw and the virtues can't be removed, the plan may simply have to be thrown out and the person will remain virtuous forever. So I consider my inherent sense of style an inherent virtue and it is a part of me. It is one of my strengths.
Q. What message would you like to give to women who want to become an entrepreneur?
A. For all the women out there, just remember you are strong and you can multitask. If somebody tells you otherwise, they are scared of your strength. To be an entrepreneur, getting yourself educated is vital, as professional education does help one in their entrepreneurial journey. I have learned a lot and have acquired skills during my MBA days. This has helped me a lot. So, for any aspiring entrepreneur, I would recommend them to enrol in a suitable professional course. By doing so, they can navigate well through their journey as an entrepreneur.