Women’s Day: How these 5 women entrepreneurs started small but went on to become huge successes in their fields

On Women’s Day, HerStory presents five extraordinary women entrepreneurs, who started small, had faith in their dreams and went on to clock good revenues, and are now encouraging more women to be part of the ecosystem.
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International Women’s Day isn’t just a day to celebrate the idea of womanhood but to also inspire, motivate and encourage women entrepreneurs and leaders in various fields. 

According to a report by Googleand Bain & Company released in February 2020, 13.5 to 15.7 million women-owned enterprises make up 20 percent of all the enterprises in the country. 

Women’s entrepreneurship, if accelerated to meet its full quality and quantity, can create over 30 million women-owned enterprises. It can potentially transform employment in the country with 150-170 million new jobs, which is more than 25 percent of the new jobs required for the entire working age population, from now until 2030, according to the study. This is one of the reasons why our country needs greater participation of women.

HerStory celebrates the achievements of five extraordinary women from across India, who started small, had faith in their dreams and went on to clock good revenues, and are now encouraging more women to be part of the ecosystem.

Top (L-R): Mithi Kalra, Priyanka Thakur, Swati Sutaria Vakharia; Bottom: Pallavi Mohadikar Patwari (L), Surbhi Bhatia

Surbhi Bhatia, The Mom Store

Surbhi Bhatia is the founder of The Mom Store, a Bengaluru-based online portal that features maternity wear, including dresses and gowns, tops and denim, nightwear, and nursing covers, along with baby products. 

Started with a capital of Rs 3 lakh, the bootstrapped startup has managed to rake over Rs 8 crore in revenue in the two years of its existence. 

“The Mom Store's rapid growth is attributable to finding a niche market of millenial women - expecting and new mothers who are conscious of their choices for themselves and their babies and researching their way through motherhood - be it health, lifestyle, or parenting techniques,” Surbhi tells HerStory

“This, coupled with creating a strong digital and social presence with a community of more than 1,20,000 women followers, The Mom Store has managed to become a household name for expectant and new mothers who rely on it for its superior quality, customer service and timely deliveries.”

Surbhi had always dreamt of being an entrepreneur since her college days at St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi. After completing her MBA from IIM-Kozhikode and globe-trotting as part of her consulting projects at Deloitte Consulting, she joined Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail to drive strategic projects that gave her an insight into the fashion industry. While at her stint, she also became a mum, and realised the need for maternity apparel and infant clothing brands - both of which were virtually absent in the Indian market. She quit to start her entrepreneurship journey with The Mom Store in 2019

The Mom Store now has over 28 categories and 2,500 SKUs. In 2020, when the pandemic hit and uncertainty rose, the startup claims to have clocked a 200 percent growth largely due to its commitment to customers by completing every order on time. 

In the last year, The Mom Store received more than 50,000 orders across its website and marketplaces like Amazon, Myntra, Firstcry and Flipkart. It is also a 100 percent Made in India brand with design, production and sourcing all happening in India. 

Swati Sutaria Vakharia, Nabhi Sutra

Swati Sutaria Vakharia is the founder of Nabhi Sutra, a Vadodara-based healthcare startup that produces belly button oils for brain development, acne, hair care, skincare, menstrual pain relief and joint pain relief.

A strong believer in home remedies, Swati often found herself drawn towards Ayurveda. She knew that precautionary measures were important for herself and her infant, and this compassion for healing led her to form Nabhi Sutra in September 2019

“With Nabhi Sutra, I wish to re-introduce the exotic, natural and pure Ayurvedic practices that the world may have forgotten and can benefit from,” says Swati.

Currently, Nabhi Sutra’s products are available through its own website and via third party platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Seniority, 1MG, Snapdeal, Etsy, and Limeroad, among others. 

“We are planning to launch raw forest honey, flavoured raw forest honey, and ayurvedic oral care kit in near future. We are also planning to start our first retail shop in our local area,” Swati adds.

Nabhi Sutra has served more than 40,000 customers in India so far. Started with an initial investment of Rs 5 lakh, the firm had crossed Rs 1 crore in turnover in its very first year, without any third-party funding. The startup aims to add investors in its second phase of business.  

The startup hopes to clock Rs 2-3 crore in revenue in its second year.

The venture’s expansion plans include new markets like Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia among others. Apart from India, it is currently available in the US market via Amazon.

Recently, Swati has also launched a brand named “Nuskha” made products from Granny’s Diary, the ancient way of dealing with wellness. 

“Under Nuskha, we have launched our very first product i.e. scalp therapy oils in a box, and are soon going to launch our next range of products,” she says.

Pallavi Mohadikar Patwari, karagiri

Pallavi Mohadikar Patwari is the Co-founder of handcrafted saree brand Karagiri.

“We started with five weavers in Maharashtra, and now we have over 1,800 weavers across India. We paid a great deal of attention to the product quality, unique designs, and customer experience. Our repeat purchase rate is 35 percent, which says a lot,” says Pallavi.

Started in July 2017, Karagiri claims to be growing at 150 percent month-on-month. Over the years, the Pune-based brand has expanded its product range from 40 SKUs in 2017 to 12,000 SKUs as of today. 

The startup claims to have served around 50,000 orders in 2020, with an average order value of Rs 6,000. 

Apart from selling on its website, Karagiri has two exclusive retail showrooms in the Koregaon Park area in Pune that contributes to around five percent of the total revenue generated. The firm caters to customers across 25 countries including India, the US, the UK, Dubai, Australia, Singapore, Canada, UAE, Malaysia, and the Netherlands, among others.

The startup is planning to deliver around one lakh orders and create a family of 5,000 weavers this year. 

“We are also on track to generate a revenue of Rs 50 crore for the current financial year and Rs 150 crore in the year 2022,” Pallavi adds.

The startup had generated Rs 30 lakh, Rs 75 lakh, Rs 12 crore and Rs 30 crore in revenues in the fiscal year 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Her husband, Dr Amol Patwari, who is the co-founder, is an orthopaedic surgeon.

Karagiri, which currently hosts around 25 different saree specialities from different parts of India, aims to be a one-stop platform for saree shopping.

Mithi Kalra, mithikalra.com

Mithi Kalra launched her eponymous brand in 2012 after graduating from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), with a studio in Noida, along with a team of seven. Since then, Mithi has been selling via her offline store and social media channels like Facebook and Instagram.

“Since its inception, a positive response from my customers made me expand the offline presence further by making my collection available at multi-designer stores named - Muse, Delhi and Talasha, Hyderabad and Topaz, Ludhiana,” says Mithi.

Mithi launched her second bigger offline studio in Noida recently, due to paucity of space in the first one and increasing demand and visits from customers. 

Actors like Pooja Sawant and Sonali Kulkarni have been seen wearing her brand. 

Her Moonlight Collection inspired from the magic of the moon and stars was displayed at India Runway Week.

“My business grew at a rate of 70 percent last year even during the time of COVID-19, as people started shopping online at a wider scale. Despite selling via Facebook and Instagram, I have also launched my website, mithikalra.com, last month due to the positive response from the audience. My collection range begins at Rs 5,000 and goes upto Rs 4 lakhs,” Mithi tells HerStory.

She says that the major 50 percent revenue comes from offline studio-sales whereas 20 percent revenue comes from online sales on social media. 

Her overseas clientele is scattered in Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai, which are her biggest source of revenue. While her collection in India is scattered in major cities such as Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Gujarat, Kolkata, Bangalore and Pune. 

She served more than 20,000 customers last year and plans on taking this number to 50,000+ customers this year.

“I am also planning to open a store in Udaipur, as a lot of my clientele resides there and have been purchasing from me. I also plan to tap into Men's wear this year and is launching my own real jewellery collection,” Mithi says.

Priyanka Thakur, Nirwaana

Priyanka Thakur is the founder of Nirwaana, a Bengaluru-based online silver jewelry brand that was founded in the last quarter of 2016

Nirwaana jewelry is contemporary, majorly handcrafted in sterling silver base, manufactured in limited numbers to make each purchase almost exclusive for its buyer. 

“The styles are a mix of the right amount of bling with consciously planned designs and property rich ‘gems and crystals’ making the product timeless and keepsake worthy. Our gold-plated jewellery is 18 carat “micron plated”, which is more durable, appropriate for frequent use and as per globally recognised standards of plating,” says Priyanka.

The startup claims to offer customisation of existing styles made in silver to various carats of gold. Gemstone customisation is also offered on selected collections. The pricing starts at Rs 1,500 and goes upto 50,000.

With a total of 215 SKUs on its website, Nirwaana is currently selling seven product categories and two more categories (for men) will be added this year.

Roughly 70 percent of Nirwaana’s revenue comes from online websites (various marketplaces it sells at and its own website), 20 percent from social media and the remaining 10 percent from offline exhibitions.

“Our goal is to develop a parallel revenue from the B2B segment in the next two years,” Priyanka tells HerStory. “Our clientele today is from all across the world. Our jewellery can be purchased online from any continent.”

“We are already shipping B2C to most countries/continents. We want to partner with international labels for a niche market. We have been fortunate that some of these labels found the right combination of aesthetics and meaning in Nirwaana jewellery collections and have approached us to design and manufacture specific lines for them, tweaking from our original jewellery themes,” she adds.

Priyanka is a postgraduate in International Marketing from the Delhi School of Economics, with 18 years of experience as a sourcing and marketing head in India for renowned European fashion and accessory labels.

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