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Kavea Kalaneca Uppada Sarees

Naaree Interviews Kavea R Chavali, Anchor and Co-Founder, Kalaneca Uppada Sarees

Kavea R Chavali is an award-winning Anchor and the Co-founder of Kalaneca Uppada Sarees. She has a strong passion to promote the handlooms of Uppada, Andhra.

As the co-founder of Kalaneca, she looks after the daily activities around the hand-woven sarees, connecting and collaborating with the weavers of Uppada to introduce newer designs and luxurious sarees to people around the world.

KALANECA, is a women-run organisation started by Kavea, her sister, Ramya Rao, and her mother, Lata Rao. Naaree.com caught up with Kavea to learn what inspired her to start her company and what lessons she learned along the way.

What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out?

So one of the many common challenges would be making the people aware of the idea/product/brand.

When you think of silk sarees you will say a Kanjeevaram or Banarasi, but bringing the heritage and luxurious weaves of Uppada and explaining the intricacies took us time…the faith in our brand built when they started shopping with us.

Straight from the weavers to your closet
Straight from the weavers to your closet

When we started most of our customers were from South India but now close to 35% orders come from the USA as well.

Secondly, as it was a bootstrapped business model, every penny mattered. We have had some of the agencies who tried wasting our money on digital marketing and other technology-related products but thankfully we kept our intent very strong.

One common challenge was the inventory. Our initial business model of retaining the inventory did not really work on our favour. We changed that model and shifted the gears eventually increasing the sales by 45%.

What are all the things that an entrepreneur/achiever in your industry needs to keep in mind? Apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?

One needs to be armed with a consistent intent to start and tremendous patience. My brand doesn’t serve a need like an Ola/Uber. It serves a want.

Patience is very important because everyone is talking about unicorns and billion valuations. The brand has to serve the very same intent it started with at the start. Do it well and do it at your pace.

Secondly, in the age of social media, there are so many brands investing so much on the popular platforms – Instagram marketing or Facebook marketing. This may make them popular but not necessarily successful.

My team cannot sit and compare the number of likes we have vs. another niche handloom brand every day and this is why focus your target audience well. There is tremendous competition but there is room for every honest product too.

Thirdly, enjoy what you do. You are filled with a zillion ideas but once you start a brand if you do not enjoy the process, you will perish. The brand is run by the people so you have to be motivated even if you are on a holiday to fulfil the requirements. So if you do not enjoy it, you are part of a wrong idea.

Did you have a mentor to guide you through your journey? In your opinion, what does a mentor bring to the table?

I never had a specific mentor but I was constantly engaged in startup discussions and digital related conferences thanks to my work. The fact that I have hosted almost 800 shows surrounding technology, digital and start-ups… it gave me an idea on how to go about with my brand.

I interact with the best of the speakers to gain an insight and thankfully as an Anchor for the show I get enough access to them and their ideas.

Having a mentor, of course, brings about newer and matured perspectives. My sister and I have friends who brainstorm wonderful ideas as well and that really helps.

Kalaneca Uppada Sarees

Please describe some successes and failures you have experienced as an entrepreneur.

As our brand is a B2C business, customer satisfaction is the biggest measure of our success. We are just 4 years into this business, but 2 years ago we received a brilliant order from a client in the US.

As the bride, she had certain requirements and we went the extra mile to fulfil it in terms of the weaving, packaging, shipping and getting them done on precise time.

Till date, that experience taught us how we could control time in our hands if we were driven so passionately. That grew our orders in the US market big-time.

Failure would be the year 2016, where close to 180 of our sarees came out of the loom with a weavers blot.

Now this concept of the Weaver’s gum/Mark doesn’t hamper the saree, as it goes away after the first dry clean. But how can one sell these sarees to a customer even at a reduced price? This resulted in a heavy loss for us.

At Kalaneca we do not spend time in brooding over the unhappy things and we do not try repeating those mistakes again. Its a lesson learnt- the hard way but we dust off the bruises and work on an immediate action plan.

What are 3 key lessons that you have learned as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, you have to be your own boss, your own peon, your own assistant, your own photocopy vendor and the delivery boy too. One thing that I learnt is that no work is small and that just because the world calls you an entrepreneur you can never, never feel entitled.

At Kalaneca, my sister used to pack the bags and would write handwritten notes herself. My mother would visit weavers and procure the designs herself. I once delivered a saree travelling in a local train just because my delivery boy didn’t turn up, but we had to get the job done, so it had to be done.

Secondly, you have to be aware of the industry so read well. Learn what the government schemes are so that you can make the most of it and don’t feel bad if you are seeking help or opinion.

Just because you want to make it on your own doesn’t mean you do not include the people around you. Kalaneca for us is our passion but unless we do not get to connect the right stakeholders the growth will only be derailed.

Marketing. We as Indians have started to believe in the power of marketing now more than before. One must hesitate to make his brand especially when you have such a great product to offer.

There are so many of those who spend so much money on marketing but have a bad product which is why the consumer doesn’t approve of it after a while.

But when you do have a great product get the people to know it in whatever marketing budget you have. Our brand mantra is simple – Straight from the weavers to your closet.

We stick to this mantra and we believe in it 100% and which is why our customers also believe in it.

Naaree Interviews Kavea R Chavali, Anchor and Co-Founder, Kalaneca Uppada Sarees

 

Naaree Interviews Entrepreneur Sumati Parmar of Bharatsthali

Sumati Parmar is a young co-founder on the cusp of a sustainable fashion breakthrough. Her startup, Bharatsthali, is a conscious and contemporary approach to get handloom sarees to your doorstep.

A saree is often seen as a byword for cumbersome affair in the times of slide in and get moving clothing. At Bharatsthali, she is trying to make sarees a part of day-to-day life for those for it isn’t. She aims to make sarees fashionable and feasible by bringing utility and aesthetics together for the quintessential women of today.

Naaree caught up with her to find out about her motivations, vision and learnings from her startup experience.

Please describe the vision for your startup, Bharatsthali.

I think about the saree in a contemporary way. Before Bharatsthali, I would ask myself if I was buying an original handloom saree or was paying the right price?

In fact, there were times, I would like to buy a handloom saree but there were no means to buy it. Unless of course, you travel to the place and get it personally. Not exactly a pocket-friendly and sensible idea.

We have collaborated and partnered with artists and weavers directly to bring the best in natural fabric. We are transforming a saree, maintaining its traditional connotations while asking women to adopt it as a fashion trend– just like any other outfit.

That’s the only way forward to strike a balance between traditional and modern sensibility. It is 2018 already. Don’t you think it is high time to bring forth a change?

We are asking women to think of a saree as an outfit that embraces them as they are and is perfect for Indian weather. While we are proud of its being a cultural icon, there is much more to a saree than just representing India on a global stage.

As far as offering sarees are concerned, we ask for a price that the work and art deserves. No middle channels between us and the artists mean that we have a robust framework in place that governs the quality and financial well-being of the artists. This fair trade is what makes us unique.

We believe if our work model is harming anybody’s interest along the value chain, our purpose is defeated. Therefore, our customer pays the reasonable price and the artists/weavers get the best value for their work as well.

What does Bharatsthali offer and why is it unique?

We want people to understand the value of a handloom sarees – especially the kind of efforts and perseverance that goes into it.

We want the buyers to know how a weaver sits and manually weaves for 8 hours a day for a month or two, to bring you a saree that is forever and for generations to come.

Our exclusivity lies in the fact that we have partnered with weavers and artists directly to promote a fair and ethical marketplace. We have the direct control of the quality whereas the weavers get what their art deserves.

We see sarees from a woman’s point of view. The sarees at Bharatsthali are handpicked by women. Issues like a fabric being too sheer and not apt for a workplace or an event are eliminated.

This is an important process because we are introducing the saree in their lifestyle. If they are facing a problem as small as stitching a fall to the saree and getting a tailor-fit blouse, we can’t do that. Therefore, we have everything for them as a one-stop destination for saree shopping.

The landscape of a saree is beyond the 9-yards and GI tags. It is extensive and volatile. A lane beyond the said address and you can’t have the GI tag to ensure the purity and originality of the yarn.

This makes it very tricky because if you don’t know the processes, understand the technicalities and have a thorough knowledge of what you are bringing to the fore, you lose your exclusivity and originality.

Bharatsthali silk sarees have recognized by Silk Mark India for their purity and authenticity. The sarees on the portal are the result of our extensive travels through the handloom villages and communities all over the country. So, we know what we are talking about.

What inspired your achievements?

The risk and potential of calling something of my own! My husband made sure that I do because I think more than me, he believed in what I can be. I am glad that I mustered the courage and tried it out! I guess, it has turned out really well!

What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out? Please share specific examples with advice to other women on overcoming their challenges?

Don’t try to have it all! There will be some testing times when you would need to set your priorities all over again. So be it.

Women tend to feel guilty when they can’t strike a balance between their family and professional life and my advice to them is – don’t. You can’t have it all, so there is no point to bother about it. If there is a PTA you can’t make it to, owing to your pressing schedule, ask your spouse to fill in for you.

There might be several people trying to explain things that you know about and work with. How crazy it might seem, but you need to maintain your calm. This calmness is going to take you a long way.

What are all the things that an entrepreneur/achiever in your industry needs to keep in mind? Apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed
with?

Perseverance and common sense! You need to think contemporary that has a reflection of times ahead. You can’t be working on an idea that might be dead within five years. That is a sheer waste of time and resources.

There is no substitute for knowledge. A great idea, when combined with knowledge becomes unstoppable and invincible.

Did you have a mentor to guide you through your journey? 

Throughout this, my mentor has been my husband. He encouraged me to explore my entrepreneurial side and it is still unravelling!

While the decision-making and core management is my KRA, I seek out his advice when I am stuck and need a fresh pair of eyes to look into something that is troubling me or I can’t find a solution of.

How did you recruit your first team? What advice do you have for building and nurturing teams in your startup?

A team that is as passionate about sarees as I am and is bursting with energy.

We are a bootstrapped startup and we need to understand that no matter how hard we try we have certain limitations and our energy, zeal and desire to create something awesome can’t replace the money.

We needed a team that looks up at the stars and keeps feet on the ground. I got lucky, I would say.

Please describe some successes and failures you have experienced as an
entrepreneur.

I still have trouble putting forth the idea that handloom sarees are supposed to be worth a fortune – literally and figuratively. They are going to be a treasure trove for you, as well as cost you extra. You are paying for a human connection and efforts here and that can’t be bargained with.

My success is the reason I am here. We have put together sarees from every state of India in one place. Our extensive travel and research has brought artists and weavers and drove such an unorganized industry to a digital stability.

What are 3 key lessons that you have learned as an entrepreneur? 

  • Your mind matters and so does your point of view to see things. Never underestimate your perspective to look at and understand things.
  • Learn to take everything in your stride, be it bouquets or brickbats, success or failure. You don’t have the time or energy to stop midway and take everything to the heart. If feedback is constructive, take it and implement it but don’t overthink anything.
  • Start seeing your business and time in terms of money. I know this is something that you have been advised against all your life and that, money can’t buy you everything, but if you value your time and others’, this advice is going to have your back in long run.

Naaree Interviews Minal Anand, Founder and CEO, GuruQ

Minal Anand is a young enthusiastic millennial entrepreneur and the founder of her first venture, GuruQ, a unique digital integrated platform that connects tutors and students with ease.

As Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) she is the innovator at GuruQ, an ed-tech platform that promises to bring high-quality standards and new age methodologies to the way education is delivered in India.

She completed her degree at Boston University in three years instead of the designated four with a sparkling alacrity to join the professional world where she could apply theories to real-life situations. She returned to India to join Delhi-based HPL Additives as Assistant Manager – Corporate Development.

However, the urge to do something in the field of education drove Minal to explore the Ed-tech sector – one of India’s most prolific segments. She had previously taught several underprivileged school students and it is this very experience that helped her with the business idea.

Minal sees the importance of equipping tutors with the latest teaching methodologies and keeping them updated with international and national innovations. Her quest for doing something innovative made her delve deeper, understand the challenges and create a platform that would revolutionise the education system.

Hence, she conceptualized GuruQ as a single, simplified & cohesive ed-tech platform that provides online and offline tutoring and designed it based on insights drawn from comprehensive consumer research to address the need-gap for quality tutors.

Naaree.com caught up with Minal Anand to discuss her startup and the lessons it taught her about entrepreneurship.

Please describe your startup, GuruQ. What does it offer and why is it unique?

Guru Q is an educational technology or Ed-tech company that provides customized learning solutions to students through a structured tutor-connect platform. The company lays a zealous focus on assisting tutors and equipping them with the right tools and processes to recast the focus of the test-prep industry.

The online platform offers tutor connect for primary, secondary, higher secondary, undergraduate and postgraduate courses including Gmat, Jee IIT and other entrance courses.

What sets Guru Q apart is the fact that it provides value-added services that are paybacks for tutors including seminars by reputed personalities, awards and competitions.

With the Indian Edtech market pegged at over $70 billion in 2017, Guru Q’s inimitable services have found several takers thanks to its online platform that comes equipped with a technology tool on the dashboard that is a one-stop solution allowing students to schedule classes, receive assignments and take tests.

It also allows tutors to keep a track record of the student improvements. The payment system is managed by Guru Q eschewing the need for tutors to collect fees from the students.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

During my college education in the USA, I saw a dramatic difference in the education system there, vis-à-vis that in India – its quality, the predominant use of the digital platform and ground-breaking teaching methodologies.

Even back home, I witnessed a huge disparity between students who had studied abroad and those who had not. A big reason for this difference is that the educators in India are not well-equipped or well-versed in innovative teaching methods.

I realized that the need for quality education in India is palpable. Also, since many Indian parents are highly dependent on tutoring, there is a pressing need for the ubiquitous tutors who can guide students.

What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out?

 The journey so far has been one of exploration and experimentation. This is best exemplified by the fact that just 5 months into operations and we have already begun revamping our entire digital infrastructure including the website and dashboard.

While the challenges have been across various areas such as the processes, technology, design etc. but we have overcome them all keeping only one thing in focus – the ‘Experience’ we are able to provide by integrating the various ingredients of our operations.

It has been only 5 months since its inception and GuruQ has got over 15000 tutor registrations and has certified over 1500 tutors on its platform. We just completed 500 hours of tutoring and the best is yet to come after the launch of the GuruQ Platform 2.0.

Our focus is on Delhi NCR for the 1st year but we intend to eventually cater to all major cities through a phase-wise expansion. But we have begun online tuitions Pan India since the medium transcends all boundaries.

What are all the things that an entrepreneur needs to keep in mind? i.e. apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?

  1. A Good & reliable Team cause nobody can do it alone
  2. Financial backing – unfortunately this is the hard truth of life, to succeed you need some form seed capital and then continuous funding if you wish to grow your business at a rapid pace
  3. Perseverance – without hard work and the utmost dedication nobody can achieve success – there are no shortcuts in life

Did you have a mentor to guide you through your entrepreneurial journey? In your opinion, what does a mentor bring to the table?

No, I didn’t really have a mentor in particular, but I did have people that I idolized and wanted to embody starting with my father and grandfather whose sense of business and drive has always been a huge source of inspiration for me.

Furthermore, prominent female figures like Sheryl Sandberg, Indira Nooyi, Priyanka Chopra who have been trailblazers, influencers and conquered their respective industries have been an embodiment of courage, strength and perseverance proving that hard work & dedication does lead to success

How did you recruit your first team? What advice do you have for building and nurturing teams in your startup?

I recruited my employees through various HR consultancies and firms. Surprisingly in a country with a population of approx. 1.3 billion, finding and forming a team with reliable, responsible and motivated people is probably the toughest part about starting your own venture.

Therefore, my biggest piece of advice will be to not settle for the first few people you meet. It is important to fully pre-vet the people and ensure that your visions align.

Today’s youth is much more exposed and require very high levels of job satisfaction. Therefore it is vital to keep your team motivated though incentives and provide a conducive and engaging work environment.

Please describe some successes and failures you’ve experienced as an entrepreneur.

My successes are closely tied to my failures, and which is what makes me sure that the more failures I encounter the more assured I can be of future successes.

So the first success was due to my failure of choosing the wrong partner due to the lack of technical knowledge. But behind this failure was a lot of learning on what I needed to know to get the right platform developed.

The second success was due to my failure of not prioritizing my expenses. This experience made me money wise and helped me cut down on unnecessary expenses, and treat the necessary expenses as investments that have their own returns.

The third and the most critical success which is yet to come is due to my initial lack of foresight but with time, experience, constant learning and engaging with my peers in the EdTech sector, I have now developed the vision of what direction I should take GuruQ towards.

What are 3 key lessons that you have learned as an entrepreneur?

My first key lesson is that successful organizations are built on ‘people energy’ and successful entrepreneurs need to know how to find the right people for the right task-activity-job.

The second lesson is that entrepreneurs need to develop a balancing act whereby internally they should be like a student – constantly learning and evolving – while externally they should exude the self-confidence of a Maestro – inspiring and motivating everyone around.

And last but not the least, entrepreneurs should have the single-minded focus on how to provide ever-increasing value to their customers. For this, it is essential that they remain in constant touch with their target audiences and develop the empathy to comprehend their ever-changing needs.

© Naaree.com

Naaree Interviews Minal Anand, Founder and CEO, GuruQ

Priya Paul, Chairman, Apeejay Park Hotels

Indian Women Entrepreneurs: Priya Paul, Chairperson, Apeejay Park Hotels

Priya Paul is the epitome of the superwoman. Not only is she the Chairperson of the Hospitality Division of the Apeejay Surrendra Group, which owns the prestigious line of The Park Hotels, she also embraces a multitude of other roles with equal ease and grace.

A successful woman entrepreneur, loyal wife, devoted mother, strong feminist and an active industry supporter, it is clear why she has often been dubbed as the leading lady of the Indian Hospitality Industry.

Some may say that she was born with a silver spoon. The daughter of Surrendra Paul, the founder of the first Park Hotel in Kolkatta, Priya Paul was certain from the tender age if 10 that she was going to grow up to be an entrepreneur. Despite her illustrious lineage, getting there was no easy feat.

Her career decision lay in the hands of her family, who toyed with several industry portfolios including shipping, tea, real estate, construction and financial services before finally settling on the hospitality industry. A decision, which in retrospection, was the perfect career choice for this creative and sociable woman.

Armed with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Wellesley College, USA, she returned to India in 1988 to join her father as Marketing Manager of The Park Hotel, New Delhi. She was only 22.

Fate however, had other plans. After her father’s untimely death in 1990, with just two years of experience in the hospitality industry, Priya Paul stepped in to fill her father’s (rather large) shoes as the Chairperson of The Park Hotel chain and there has been no looking back since.

With this creative young entrepreneur leading the reins, the hotel chain soon underwent a transformation. With a vision of turning the hotel into a space where guests did not just stay confined to their rooms but indulged in an experience of luxury and comfort throughout the hotel, she set about creating a hotel that was architecturally unique.

Drawing from her wanderlust and travelling experiences, she managed to create for the first time in India, a hotel chain with sophisticated interiors and decorative themes. Thus, Ms Paul single-handedly pioneered the concept of boutique hotels in India.

Today, The Park Hotel chain is a name to reckon with in the hospitality industry with a nationwide presence in Kolkatta, Chennai, New Delhi, Vishakapatnam, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

The hotels have also won international acclaim with the UK’s Tatler magazine rating The Park Hotel (Bangalore) as one of the 101 Best Hotels Worldwide in 2003.  This, incidentally, happens to be Priya Paul’s favourite hotel.

It is not only her hotels which have won national and international recognition. Priya Paul was named the Young Entrepreneur of the year by the Federation of Hotels and Restaurants Association, India in the year 1999-2000. She was won the Economic Times Business Person of the Year in 2002-2003.

Juggling her many roles as Chairperson of Park Hotel, President if the Hotel Association of India (HAI), member of the National Tourism Advisory Council, founding member of the World Travel Tourism Council India Initiative, member of the board of trustees South Asia Women’s Fund and member of the Advisory Board of Directors, Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, are enough to keep anyone’s plate full, but with up-coming hotel projects in Mumbai and other parts of India, there seems to be no task that’s too much for this superwoman.

© Naaree.com

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Image source YouthKiAwaaz