This mother-daughter’s chikankari venture bagged Rs 75 lakh funding on Shark Tank India
Aakriti and Poonam Rawal started House of Chikankari in October 2020 to offer authentic chikankari-embroidered garments. The duo recently raised Rs 75 lakh at Shark Tank India.
In January 2021, Aakriti and Poonam Rawal had no thoughts on raising funding for their venture,. Started in 2020 during the pandemic, the mother-daughter duo had already made good headway in popularising the brand, closing the first year with a revenue of 33 lakh.
More than two years later, they are expected to close the current fiscal at Rs 17-18 crore with a net profit of around Rs 2 crore. Furthermore, they have provided employment to over 5,000 women karigars, and have 15,000 paying customers only through their website.
When Aakriti and Poonam pitched on Season 2 of Shark Tank India, they were offered deals by three out of four “Sharks”. Finally, they decided to go with the deal offered by Peyush Bansal and Aman Gupta - Rs 75 lakh at 3.75% equity at a valuation of Rs 20 crore.
“Our head of marketing, Aishani Sipra, convinced us to pitch at Shark Tank India. We are at a growth stage, so much happening every day. The team was expanding but we understood that it was the right time to share our journey with the world,” Aakriti tells HerStory.
After an audition and five rounds of preparation, Aakriti and Poonam presented the final pitch in Mumbai in October 2022.
“The whole experience has been unreal and overwhelming. Though we practised a lot, nervousness kicks in. Once the Q&A starts, you have no idea what questions will be thrown at you. You have no choice but to be real. If you lie, you are surely going to get caught, so it’s best to be yourself,” Poonam says.
Aakriti says the constructive feedback is very helpful to understand how to move forward.
On why they closed the deal with Aman and Peyush, Aakriti says: “Even before we got to the final round, we had decided that from a business perspective and considering the stage our business is at right now, they would be the right investor fit to take House of Chikankari to the next level.”
While their pitch may be pragmatic and practical, setting up the business happened by accident.
After completing her undergraduate degree from King’s College, London, and working in the city for four years, Aakriti returned to India in 2019 and worked with a fashion startup for a year as marketing manager.
She decided to quit at the beginning of the pandemic and use the break to dabble with a few courses and understand how ecommerce works.
Poonam, a graduate from Delhi University, says she’s been a homemaker all her life while dabbling in designing and embroidery.
“During the lockdown, a karigar known to me approached me for some work, and Aakriti hit upon the idea to research further into intricate hand embroidery,” she says.
Aakriti says her mother showed her collection of chikankari kurtas that piqued her interest. “While studying the art, I realised it was a highly unorganised sector. But, in the first few months, I wondered whether we were doing the right thing. There were a lot of challenges in organising the processes and starting an ecommerce business,” she says.
However, they fared better than they expected because it was the festive season. The timing was perfect. In the first three months, their followers grew to 10,000 on Instagram and sales started increasing.
Innovation the way ahead
Chikankari is handcrafted embroidery and a karigar can take up to two days to embroider a kurta. They reached out to women karigars in Lucknow, famous for its chikankari, and now employ more than 10,000, most of them women. Many of the employees comprise women known to Aakriti and Poonam – children of their domestic help, some skilled and others were provided training on the job.
The women karigars are offered a steady supply of work, which has helped them support their families and give their children an education.
House of Chikankari runs with a team of 70 people in New Delhi. The garments are stitched by third-party manufacturers in Lucknow, some of them who work exclusively for them.
With most of its audience comprising millennials and Generation Z, House of Chikankari innovates regularly to differentiate itself from the clutter.
“The styles and silhouettes have been designed for a younger audience. We have a velvet collection for winter, kurtas and palazzos, western wear like strappy tops…we are constantly innovating to be a leader in this industry,” Aakriti says.
House of Chikankari apparel is priced between Rs 2,000 and Rs 13,000.
It's been two weeks since their pitch was aired on Sony Television, and Aakriti says they were unprepared for the response it generated - orders have increased by 5x.
“We want to use the funds raised on Shark Tank India to better our tech systems, to increase efficiency and build customer satisfaction. We are also looking at guidance from Aman and Peyush,” Aakriti says.
Edited by Teja Lele