New Delhi: Fashion entrepreneur Ankita Mallika Bansal, featured on Netflix's popular show 'Indian Matchmaking' and was the talk of the town for her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to her business. Bansal says she always had a knack for business and that, she and her sister and co-founder Gayatri Mallika Bansal, were fascinated by the way their mother would experiment with fabric, right from early days.
In a chat with IANSlife, the co-founder of the denim brand THERE!, Ankita speaks about entrepreneurship at length.
How would you define true entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship can be cultivated at any age and at any time. It is essential to stay focused on delivering value and becoming consistent. You have to stay true to your vision, remain aware of the market scenario, and agile to cater to the needs of your customer.
How did you start your journey as an entrepreneur? What inspired you to do so?
I have always had a drive for entrepreneurship! Since we were little, my sister, Gayatri, and I were fascinated by the way our mother would experiment with fabric. Although neither of us are formally trained in design, we are immensely passionate and have a knack for spotting trends. Using our fashion instincts and industrial learnings from business school, we created our label There! in 2018. Our designs are focused on celebrating the people and our individual personalities. Towards catering to these individual personalities, our brand offers the option of customised measurements with every order. We decided to go online to capture a larger market. Shopify eased the process of going online and set up our website in no time.
How has your association with Shopify helped you successfully establish and promote your business?
A: Running a business can be time-consuming and satisfying at the same time. With the right guidance and support, you can turn your idea into a successful and thriving business entity. When we started out, we registered ourselves on Shopify in order to create a strong foundation for our online business and establish a direct-to-consumer channel. Since our launch, Shopify has been our one-stop destination aiding us with end-to-end solutions for all our key requirements with technical assistance. Their support has helped us to rely on them for these requirements while we could channelize our energies on our core product and scaling of our business.
How did you manage to cope from the impact of the lockdown?
I feel the impact of the lockdown has hit every sector, every company & every individual at a personal level too. A lot of small business owners have had to shut operations because of the pandemic. We too had to temporarily put operations on hold in our store as the whole country was in a lockdown phase. As the lockdown restrictions began easing out, we used our store to kickstart online selling. While we had consumer demand/curiosity which was amplified post Indian Matchmaking, having a store online was a blessing in disguise. with Shopify as our only online we were able to together address & ensure business continuity.
What changes did you note in your business after your appearance in Indian Matchmaking?
We had never anticipated that Indian Matchmaking could actually impact our business. However, following the show, customers all around the world got to know about our brand and what we offer. Our online sales grew 700% overnight from the day the show first aired. We had to figure out international shipping within four days of the show's launch. At first, customers were excited and stunned to learn they were speaking directly with a contributor from Indian Matchmaking. After two minutes or so, they got over it and started sharing their stories which continue to inspire us as we design new collections.
Gayatri & me both, have been so grateful to this experience and all the love that has come through our way.
Any expansion plans?
Being present on Shopify has given us the advantage to expand internationally. Presently we are focusing on expanding our business in India. Towards extending our support to Indian craftsmen and weavers who have been hit by the unprecedented crisis, we are exploring the idea of using their expertise in creating designs. We recently launched our new collection - 'Hauwa' in Arabic means 'first woman' as a token of gratitude for all the women who have supported us. All the products in this collection have been named after the women who have purchased from us.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: Firstly, as an entrepreneur in a highly competitive world of startups, one has to take risks but on the other hand also needs to have a backup plan to ensure sustainability if the risk backfires. This is especially important in case of financial challenges. Having a clear business plan in place on the basis of your objectives is key to ensure that you stay focused throughout. Secondly, don't hesitate to ask for help when required. Most successful start-ups are results of the guidance and assistance from many people including family, friends and mentors. Lastly, in an organisation, big or small, you are only as strong as your team. Hence make sure that you invest in only the best people who share your vision.
Combo image of Manish Arora (left) and a model presenting his creation. Image courtesy: IANS