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“I failed miserably in my corporate career and was always at the bottom when it came to ratings in comparison to my peers”
Mani Agarwal, the founder of I Wear My Style comes from a Commerce background. With no education in fashion, and a failing corporate career, Mani at the age of 24 quit it all and started her e-commerce portal. “Prior to my entrepreneurial stint, I worked corporate jobs for 3.5 years and was not successful at it,” she says.
In 2012, she stared with a laptop in her hand and no investment. The company managed to do revenues of INR 60,000 within the first month only and has grown exponentially since then. “. We have tied up with over 25 e commerce websites till date and sell through our website and a network of other big websites. Our Facebook page has almost 40,000 members acquired organically. We haven’t raised external funding yet and the firm is self-funded. We plan to grow slow and steady and raise funds eventually,” says the founder.
I Wear My style is almost 3.5 years old now and remains bootstrapped. It has grown 4x in revenues from the first year of operations having served over 25,000 satisfied clients with a marketing spend of less than 1 lac in over 3 years. Mani has recently won the ‘Karmaveer Chakra Award’, launched in association with the United Nations and International Confederation of NGOs, and the ‘Priyadarshini Award’ launched by the Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs for ‘Outstanding Woman Entrepreneurship’.
She believes that in today’s day and age, with the burgeoning start up community, it is a bliss being a woman. “Yes, I am aware of the difficulties faced by rural women in terms of socio and economic hindrances, but in reference to urban women, the community is more than welcoming if you start your own venture. People want to see women progressing and its easier being lauded than a male counterpart doing the exact same thing,” she adds.
It’s not always easy in any phase of life. Whether it’s a corporate job or a start-up. It is the one field where your hard work is not directly proportional to your success. You can work 20 hours a day and yet fail miserably. It is very easy to start a business but sustaining it while scaling up is the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs. 80% of the start-ups fail within the first 3 years of inception. “I feel very proud to say that we are in our fourth year and profitable,” says Mani.
Business also comes with a lot of uncertainty. It could be running smooth right now but one glitch tomorrow and could lead to a career bust of the team. “The probability of something like happening is much higher than in a start-up than a corporate job. As a start-up, we face issues every second week, so thinking with a calm mind is a challenge in itself. To accept that stress is an occupational hazard and to deal with it comes with time and we all have to learn slowly,” she says.
Particularly, in reference to Indian working women, family support is very important. Due to cultural and societal norms, a lot of women have to sacrifice their careers. Unfortunately, we still live in a generation where our parents are happier having grandkids than see their daughters prosper in their careers. Marriage and children are still considered over career and a question against the former always raises eyebrows and a woman is judged ‘too independent’ as if that’s a bad thing. “Often more than not, I have heard acquaintances or even friends say that their wives don’t really need to work when they themselves are earning well. Men need to change their attitude and in fact encourage their wives, girlfriends or daughters to work hard and make something out of their lives, says the founder when asked about the norms that she has broken.
Mani says that she was respected more in her corporate career. “When I started off, I think I lost all that respect. A lot of people would judge me as the ‘girl who sells clothes through Facebook’!” she sighs. Apart from what people have had to say about her starting up, she and her organization has faced is customer returns. The online apparel industry has an industry average of 20-40% returns since the customer cannot touch and feel the garment. “Luckily for us, the demand for our product is pretty good and stock rotates very fast,” she adds happily.
While Mani has grown as a person while running her start-up for over 3 years, she humble likes to consider herself a learner. Her advice to the future entrepreneurs is to analyse if entrepreneurship is what they are made for and not do it because everyone is doing it today. Business requires 100% passion and hard work.
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