Pivot and Persist: How this woman entrepreneur reinvented her business amidst COVID-19
Last October, we featured the enterprising story of Rakhi Khera, an entrepreneur, who started her own fashion brand with an initial investment of just Rs 5 lakh, and became a top seller on Myntra.
The modest investment in 2014 saw an upward surge in revenue, with Rakhi clocking Rs 3.6 crore revenue in 2019, an interesting and inspiring feat indeed.
Rakhi’s Abiti Bella Enterprises owns a range of western wear and maternity clothing called Abiti Bella and Mine4Mine.
Rakhi Khera - Founder of Abiti Bella Enterprises
Until 2013, Rakhi remained a happy homemaker in Gurugram, caring for her family, which also included her two children. The thought of venturing into fashion, however, resurfaced, and along with the support of her husband, she decided to step into maternity wear.
When a nationwide lockdown was announced in March this year following the spread of the coronavirus, online businesses like Rakhi’s went into a total shutdown, what she calls, zero business.
“During this period, there were no online sales for more than two months, and people only spent on necessities. My business went to zero,” she recalls.
Taking a different course
That’s when her entrepreneurial spirit took a different course and she decided to pivot and work on something different that would be of use during this period.
Rakhi took inspiration from the 10,000 Women Programme, a Goldman Sachs initiative, along with IIM Bangalore that helps women to unlock their full potential as entrepreneurs.
“There was a chapter that spoke of the red ocean where you have to push your way into a crowd and make your presence felt or opt for a blue ocean where you have to endeavour to do something different. I chose the blue ocean and found the will to pivot in an uncertain situation,” she says.
After a discussion with her brothers-in-law, a doctor and another a social entrepreneur, they decided to manufacture and sell overalls that can be used by domestic workers in low-risk zones during this period.
“My brother-in-law, who is a doctor in the Army, has to wear a uniform every day. He thought it would be useful to have an overall protecting this uniform while being comfortable,” she says.
Keeping the business afloat
Rakhi clarifies that the overall cannot be used in lieu of a PPE kit. Called Enklose, it is reusable, washable, and convenient for those working in large housing societies, beauty salons, and hotel chains.
So far, Rakhi has sold 1,000 overalls to 20 housing societies in Gurugram for their staff and is talk with a large hotel chain and salon chains for supplying them. Another product she introduced is the domestic worker kit – a coverall with hood that she has sold through Facebook ads, WhatsApp, and word-of-mouth publicity. The kits are outsourced to a manufacturer in Gurugram. The domestic worker kits are priced at Rs 999 for a set of two, and the overall is priced at Rs 1,199.
“The important thing is, in the last four months, I have been able to pay salaries to my staff on time, and did not cut down on incentives either,” she says.
The other thing that is keeping the business afloat is the consistent demand for its maternity wear line. Rakhi says, the line is doing well as “maternity wear will never go out of fashion”. She also wants to increase focus on this line and introduce a range of lounge wear, lingerie, and T-shirts for people working from home.
“While we are not looking at additional profits, we are on track to clock the same revenues of last year, Rs 3.6 crore, through this timely pivot,” Rakhi adds.
The entrepreneur believes ecommerce will take off in big way soon, and Indian brands will gain popularity, especially with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on Aatmanirbharta (self-reliance) and the ‘Make in India’ policy.
“I came into the business without having any clue of the road ahead. I owed it to my husband who has pushed me to reach out for the stars. I think with a little bit of ingenuity and lots of determination, we can set the course for our businesses even during trying times,” Rakhi says.
YourStory’s Pivot and Persist series spotlights Indian startups that are pivoting to seize new business opportunities, transforming their business models, and offerings to navigate the current COVID-19 crisis.