Aditi Bajpai is the co-founder and designer at Almirah . She pursued a Bachelor’s and a Masters Program in Political Science from Delhi University and in 2014 pursued a program at Parsons, New York. In 2011, she started Almirah with her mother, Divya to bridge the gap between sustainable fashion and the handicraft sector. Over the past five years, Almirah has expanded to stores across India, USA, Canada, Dubai, Singapore, Europe and has also been represented in fairs and pop-ups across these countries.
Brief introduction about yourself and tell us something about Almirah, a unique portal?
Founded in 2011, Almirah (Anglo-Indian for cupboard) is a special place for things to be stored away: a world of colours, smells and textures. Almirah was started by my mother, Divya Bajpai and me in New Delhi. My mother has been a garment entrepreneur for almost three decades; and so I have always grown up around fabric and handicrafts. It was during my Masters in Political Science that I realised my passion for design and conceptualised the need to revive an Indian aesthetic and create something that was made, conceptualized and designed in India.
Almirah specializes in making clothing, nightwear and bedding for children that are distinct and are increasingly going missing in a flourishing mass-produced retail sector. Our products reflect our deep seeded belief in sustainability with crafts and sourcing locally from India i.e. cotton, linens, handloom weaves and silks. Over the past five years, we have grown to have three exclusive stores in New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. We are also selling to boutiques in India and abroad with a similar philosophy to ours.
What ignited the spark in you to create such an innovative platform to pioneer a much needful change?
With Almirah we wanted to establish a balance between commercial, handmade and fashionable wear. We wanted to give Indians memory wears of some sorts through our products and motifs. At the core of our brand was the need to generate employment for skilled workers, weavers and artisans and create newer meaningful products with their crafts.
Please share your future goals for your portal.
Through Almirah we want to bring back what Indian fashion stood for: timelessness, affordable, simple, sustainable and handmade. We feel privileged that in five years, we have worked with artisans and produced products across 550 SKUs and evolved an Indian design that has a global appeal.
What all challenges did you face during starting phase of this platform.
Like any other entrepreneur, having no formal education in design or business was an initial setback, but that makes you work harder and learn from your experiences.
What are your views on the thought, that women entrepreneurs are equally or more capable and they must be supported and encouraged, to come up front and bring a radical change?
We have to challenge the norms and stereotypes that constrain our growth but women entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs at the end of the day. Your product, your service, your quality are what matters. A customer doesn’t see your gender when they come into your shop!
What piece of advice would you like to give to the females who wish to pursue their dream of becoming an entrepreneur?
Take the risk and jump into the deep end because there is nothing more fulfilling than following your dream.
According to you, what are the top three essential skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Hardwork, frugal thinking and a sense of humour.
How do you manage the work-life balance?
Delegation is most important in having a work-life balance. While entrepreneurs tend take on more than we can do, every successful start up or business requires a solid team that works together.
What are your views and opinions towards the ambiguous need to promote women entrepreneurship and women empowerment in India?
It is hard to move beyond systematic inequalities and norms that exist for women in India but there are many of us trying to challenge these biases. At Almirah, we’ve stayed focused on iterating and moving beyond problems that come with running a business, where manufacturing remains largely a man’s world. We definitely need more women centric initiatives to counter not just rigid regulations but to help young women entrepreneurs striving for change.
Words for IWIL.
The Indian start up ecosystem will benefit from organizations like IWIL working for women entrepreneurs. When I started Almirah five years ago, there were fewer avenues to seek advice and every entrepreneur needs mentors, platforms and guidance in order to succeed. Wishing you all the success!