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Dressing up dreams
August 02, 2003
Anita Kulkarni always dreamt of helping her father in his business involving onsite electrical turnkey jobs.
After studying in places like Iran and Abu Dhabi, and then doing a masters in business administration from Mumbai University, Kulkarni worked with Rallis India as a management trainee in the garments export division.
She quickly realised that the export market excited her enormously. With a small investment of Rs 25,000, that she saved during her time at Rallis, she set up a garment export company in 1994.
Today, after struggling to deal with the unorganised sector and other ups and downs, Kulkarni's firm -- Sakshi of Bombay -- has posted a turnover of Rs 1.8 crore (18 million).
I always knew I would go into business. I worked with my father for a year. But the desire to start something on my own was extremely strong.
While I was in college I would do odd jobs just for fun, like selling books for Lotus Learning. I took up a management course after my graduation and after finishing the course, I joined Rallis India as a management trainee. I worked there for three years in the exports division. My job involved looking after the garments production line.
That is when I realised that I wanted to be part of a garment exports business. So, I started Sakshi (named after a little girl I met in a train) in 1994. I got my first order eight months later.
I naively looked at it as a training ground rather than realising how difficult it would be initially. I was everything from peon to packer to business-woman, working out of home, employing a couple of job workers.
My first batch of garments went without a label. After sending of 1-2 export consignments, I realised there was a huge shortage of quality Indian clothes abroad.
But there were issues to tackle like which countries would come under the quota and which wouldn't. So, in order to make things simpler, I decided to export and concentrate on the Gulf market.
The business was chugging along slowly when I decided to sell to the domestic market as well. I held a small exhibition at a friend's place.
We literally hung about 20 or so outfits on a nylon wire and called friends and their acquaintances to come have a look. The response was so encouraging that I decided to take it further. However, in December 1994, I got married and had to shift to Bangalore. Business took a backseat for sometime.
One day my sister-in-law, who was based in Mumbai, came to Bangalore and asked me to get back to work. She took care of production while I looked after marketing.
She would send me the completed products and I would hold exhibitions in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. The brand -- Sakshi -- began to be known as Sakshi of Bombay and the name stuck.
My husband, who worked with an advertising agency, designed a logo for us. We became so popular, that I was able to employ freelance and part-time designers.
We continued like this till I moved back to Mumbai. I can't describe how thrilled we were when turnover touched Rs 12 lakh (Rs 1.2 million) that year.
In 1997, I bumped into a college friend who had studied at Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow and was looking for something interesting to do. We entered into a partnership and worked together for a few years.
We held three exhibitions a month and also exported special lines. We tied up with housewives who would host the exhibition and call people. The investment was ours while the effort to market was theirs.
In 1998, we opened a store in Dadar. Around the same time, my friend exited the partnership since she was shifting to America.
However, my father invested some money in the business and I started supplying garments to retail outlets like Shoppers' Stop but it wasn't under my brand name.
I opened my first franchise store in Pune in 2002. By then we had established ourselves as an organised set up. Today I plan to sell more of my label to stores like Shoppers' Stop, Globus and Pyramid as well as increase the number of outlets.
Today, I have a team of 10 people including full-time designers from fashion institutes. Things are going to get much better this year.
As told to Arti Sharma