This entrepreneur aims to make formal wear stylish and comfortable for Indian women
First generation entrepreneur Harshita Gupta is a keen observer and self-starter, qualities that helped her climb the ladder from being a ground level clerk to starting a women’s formal wear brand, Hail Women in 2018.
Targeting working women and college students, her idea was to help women break free from the monotony of professional attire.
According to Harshita, Hail Women not only offers various trendy professional wear but ensures they cater to the body curves of Indian women. Further, her collection allows customisations as preferred by customers.
Harshita Gupta, Founder of Hail Women
Harshita is tapping into the booming women’s apparel market in India that is expected to reach nearly three trillion Indian rupees by 2028, according to Statista. More importantly, it is believed that the rise in the country’s working women population are among the major drivers of this growth.
Stepping stones to entrepreneurship
In 2009, Harshita completed her schooling at the Mariampur Senior Secondary School in Kanpur and went on to pursue bachelor’s in Commerce.
However, she could not continue her studies due to financial constraints and took up a call centre job at Airtel in Kanpur, with a salary of Rs 3,000.
“Gradually, I started learning and after a year, I landed a job as a consultant at Zentex Institute of Banking and Government Services and worked there for almost a year,” she recalls.
Harshita shifted to Delhi for better opportunities and landed an operation manager’s job at a real estate brokering firm, Young Planners.
She says, “I learnt about the real estate industry and it was a completely new chapter to me. The real estate industry was booming at the time, and the incentives were lucrative,” adding that she also dabbled her hands at sales and became one of the best salespersons in the company within two years.
Later, she joined the real estate company Cosmic Group in Noida as a sales manager before becoming a freelancer in the event management space in August 2015. Harshita says she handled several good projects working with Shaadi Squad, The Event Pillars, and Rapid Waters Entertainment.
However, the inspiration to start up came after she attended an international event at Taj Maurya in New Delhi in 2017.
“During the event I noticed that there is no formal wear that fits the style and the body type of Indian women. Most of the formal wear available in India is as per the standard size of the UK or the US,” she says, which led her to research on the subject.
Harshita says she looked at problems faced by women and the kind of products that were available in the market for nearly five months before starting up.
Starting up with an initial investment of Rs 11 lakh, Harshita began working on samples, stocking, websites, packaging and other aspects under the brand name Boss Women.
Immediately, she had an “expensive setback”.
“As soon as I applied for trademark for the brand, Hugo Boss claimed that I could not use the word ‘Boss’. And I had to redo the whole process which cost me a lot of money.”
Though she had exhausted most of her funds, she managed to rename the brand and launch it in December 2018.
However, the New Delhi-based entrepreneur still ploughed through several phases when she faced a money crunch and had to compromise by reducing the marketing budget and packaging process.
Getting investors on board was another challenge. “I started looking for an investor but nobody was ready to believe in what I wanted to sell. They wanted something that everybody was doing and just looked at the profit margins. I don't blame them as that should be a priority as an investor but it was difficult for me to put myself in that particular box and start working like everybody else,” she explains.
She decided to work on the brand and then approach investors. Today, Harshita has a manufacturing unit of her own and the products are priced between Rs 1,200 to Rs 6,000 depending on the fabric and design. From around 40 to 50 monthly orders in the beginning, her startup now registers nearly 300 orders per month.
“I am moving forward steadily so that I do not disappoint my customers in any way. They need to feel that they have made a good investment,” she adds, stating that she ensures their products are fit for various body types.
This includes a collection of professional attire such as dresses, skirts, tops and blouses, trousers, and suits.
Harshita had planned to launch her second collection in March 2020 but had to postpone it due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, she is working on her third collection.
Currently available across India through its website and present on ecommerce sites like Amazon, Myntra, and Limeroad, Harshita says the startup is looking to boost its online presence further.
Additionally, the entrepreneur says her startup has been receiving many queries regarding bulk orders and hopes to enter the international market soon.