Juliette Boursier, originally from France, is an entrepreneur striving to make it in the fast-growing Indian lingerie market. She shares her exciting journey of creating Jalouse.
Juliette Boursier has been in India for over 7 years now, and before she turned entrepreneur, had a job in the hospitality industry that seemed to be consuming her. She found that she was working round the clock but while career has always been important to her, she found that she was not deriving personal satisfaction from her job. Her own desire for work-life balance and for all-round growth led her to realise that surely, many others needed this too.
Thus was born Jalouse, a French-inspired lingerie brand. With her start-up, Juliette has twin goals of offering quality lingerie in the Indian market, while also providing women employment by offering them the opportunity to sell Jalouse as consultants. She kick-started the enterprise with working with a team of knowledgeable French designers to ensure that the products offer modernity, style as well as the best fit. Juliette says, “We have developed the French ‘fit’ which is non-existent currently because the expertise is not easily available here.” Of course, this challenge is what she converted into an opportunity.
Naturally, the beginning was fraught with challenges, as she explains, “As I wasn’t coming from a design background nor from the lingerie industry, I had to start from scratch, starting with a core team comprised of designers and pattern makers to give shape to our idea of a modern, stylish and affordable lingerie brand for women in India. We worked to create a collection that brings a radical improvement in the quality of fit.”
Starting off meant bringing in a method and organization to check off all items on the long to-do lists, especially the registrations and legal matters. Without prior experience in this regard, she says that the administrative tasks seemed like big hurdles until they were broken down into smaller lists of tasks. With determination (and a good dose of patience), she did it and met the people she now works with.
Among the myriad challenges and setbacks all young brands have to overcome, the biggest challenge for Jalouse was to find a manufacturer who was ready to accommodate their initial volumes and who was sensitive to details and quality. Good bra making requires precision and several rounds of prototype adjustment. They finally found their manufacturer in Sri Lanka and worked hand-in-hand with the factory to develop the collections and deliver a fit that she says, is unmatched at this price.
Was all the stress worth it? But of course, says, Juliette, “Building everything from scratch is like having a baby, with all the fears, doubts, lack of sleep, stress and all of the unknown, but that’s your own thing. That’s my biggest joy and that’s what I want to share with other women: the opportunity to accomplish something the way they want.”
Getting the first order was a big ta-da moment! When Juliette sent out her launch email, and got her first order just an hour later, she was elated. She recalls the excitement packing it; she actually put a dash of sea salt in it as a small superstitious tradition learnt from an old colleague. (It’s supposed to bring good karma.)
Business has also taught Juliette that even a signed deal is not a done deal. She knows now that things might take a 360 degree turn. It is important to have a contingency plan to survive, adapt and overcome such unexpected setbacks.
Every woman wears a bra! Yet, shopping openly for a bra is not always socially accepted in India as it is with a tee-shirt or a dress. Juliette says that when she participated in collaborative pop-up shops at the start, she experienced a few women being uncomfortable browsing lingerie in an open-display.
However, she recognized the key point that women were struggling to find a good product, especially one with a good fit beyond 36C and one that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg!
The Jalouse model is an experiment in using personal networks to sell lingerie. Jalouse consultants are encouraged to engage genuinely with their customers, who in turn enjoy spending time with their friends. Through this, Juliette believes that she is also targeting the craving for true face-to-face interactions, besides the fact that women have no inhibitions when discussing lingerie with close friends. She firmly believes that while online shopping options exist, it’s more fun to get together with your friends rather than just clicking ‘buy now’. Plus, she is thrilled that Jalouse supports a community of women each time a purchase is made.
The Jalouse community is slowly expanding. Presently, they have distributors in Bangalore and Chennai. The next destinations would be Mumbai and Hyderabad. Their goal remains to reach out to women, inspire them to meet new people and make new friendships. Juliette adds, “Jalouse is not about only lingerie, it is about women getting together to have fun.”
Recognising the entrepreneurial potential in women and unleashing it, is a big part of her vision. Juliette states, “I often tell our distributors: we are the master of our own lives and everything is possible. Just do it, just try. Start with setting small goals and then build up, one step at a time. I think the vast majority of us are NOT born entrepreneurs, we become one. There is no right or wrong entrepreneurial style. Each of us has her own very personal strengths. I’d like to compare it with parenting, when we slowly discover our child’s personality and what motivates her/him. It’s a process and we grow along with our child. As a parent we often make the decisions for our child without knowing what will come out of it. We have a master plan, but we keep adjusting to our child’s personality. That’s what running a business means to me.”
After 7 years in Bangalore, she says that her friends tease her about becoming more Indian than them. From being a Project Manager for the opening of a five star hotel and asserting herself in a masculine workforce to becoming an entrepreneur who works extensively with women, Juliette’s journey has been a dynamic and interesting one. Here’s to more success!
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Top image of Juliette Boursier with a customer, courtesy Juliette