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Image Management consultant and entrepreneur Jainee Gandhi shares an very candid account of her journey – ups and downs, joys and sorrows all.
Entrepreneurship for a woman is a web of pursuits pulling her life in different directions. It seems apt therefore that I get to share my life experience as a woman entrepreneur on Women’s Web! I hope you, who are reading this find it interesting it enough to finish it and it leaves you at the end with a chuckle.
So to begin, I am a 32 year old Gujju woman (with the heart of a teenager – like all of us) with a 6 year old son (whom I love like crazy – for he drives me crazy in every way) and a very loving husband of 10 years (I mean to whom I am married for 10 years – but he behaves like a 10 year old as well at times, so pun intended!).
I decided to start with this introduction as this is the first string of my web – my family, that defines my responsibilities, sets my boundaries and at the same time gives me the support for all the other pursuits, with no strings attached. Also, it puts me in the ‘normal’ bracket of society so that whatever I do beyond this is more than or rather ‘extra’ ordinary!
I was born in my native place – a non-descript village in the hinterland of north Gujarat in a relatively well to do farmer family. My grandfather had the foresight to educate us (even though we were girls) and more bravely, push my father to the city when I was 5 years old so that we (my bratty sister and brother and I) could get a better education.
Studying therefore was not a choice, and I ended up graduating in commerce from a reputed college in Mumbai and doing my post graduation in HR from the same city. Then I got married – which thankfully did not stop my pursuits, but initially took me in a different direction. I worked as a recruiter and a headhunter for a good six years before realizing that my interest lies in being a head turner! And while I gave up the HR business, it was fun while I was there – I learnt a lot about people and it gave me the finances to independently fund my passion.
The seed of that passion was sown in summer of 2007 when I was visiting New York and saw the signboard of an image consultant. It intrigued me to no end and I googled it up – I thought it came naturally to me and I could do it without any further coaching or support. Lo and behold, I started ‘Bella Signora’ the moment I came back to India.
I tried my best but the image management venture went nowhere; partly because of my lack of structured knowledge and partly because India was just not ready for such an offering at that time. So I went back to my bread and butter business – as a recruiter but with my own firm “RecrueNow” this time. I did reasonably well there with the connections that I had built but that urge to do something in image management never left me alone. It kept haunting me like Casper – the friendly ghost you want to nurture rather than shoo away.
Finally, in the summer of 2011, an institute (ICBI) started the formal course on image management and I flew to it like a moth to a flame. I completed my course quickly and started my firm Image Redefine in 2012. It is a firm, which focuses on the ABCs of one’s image (appearance, behaviour and communication). It now has a team of five people including a colleague who focuses on behaviour and communication, a junior image consultant, an executive assistant, a marketing manager and myself, who apart from overall management, focuses mostly on appearance related issues.
We have worked with a number of corporates for workshops on personal branding, and executive presence and scores of individuals for personal styling, wardrobe makeover, event styling, personal shopping etc. We conduct a lot of open workshops – the one on lingerie (The Perfect Fit) however is quite popular.
Business however did not grow overnight… it was a slow and trying affair. Thankfully I had the opportunity to train new consultants as a trainer with ICBI in the initial years. This helped me brush up my skills – it exposed me to my strengths and weaknesses, kept my bank account engine running and also kept me in the industry.
Business came however mostly from networking and creating visibility. Meeting new people gives me a lot of new perspectives – apart from some business at times. Networking takes time, and one needs to enjoy different people’s company – else, you cannot sustain doing it. I like it and hence I am a part of IMPA (VP Marketing), FICCI Flo (committee member of Swayam) apart from the Women’s Web Mumbai chapter (Coordinator) and a few other online communities.
Jainee modelling a piece from The Indie Attire range
I am thankfully able to give time to all this as I work from home – which allows me to spend time with my son and manage my home as well. That being said, it would be impossible for me to run my business without the support of the nanny we have at home and that of my husband, our parents and closest friends who pitch in whenever required (which my guilty mind wants to believe is not often) to manage my child.
I also keep going as I genuinely have a passion for what I am doing right now… I really like helping people portray the appropriate image. Hence business ideas also come naturally to me. Presently, I am launching a clothing line The Indie Attire, a unique Indian range of clothes for today’s working woman. The aim of this line is to bring Indian silhouettes back to boardrooms with smart, innovative Indian outfits.
As far as my routine goes, each day is different for me… there is no routine as such. On some days I am in networking meets, some day with clients, some days I am catching up on business plans (open workshops, new business ideas, etc.) and on some days, I am just with family…except for my morning tea and shouting at my kid to eat, I actually have no set routine!
The journey has hence been interesting so far… and I believe it has only just begun. For I have a dream (yes, doesn’t everyone!) of being the most well known name, the go-to person when it will come to individual image consulting – especially on appearance… and I can only see myself at that post in the far distance right now.
I do not know if I can guide anyone in entrepreneurship at the moment but if you were to look at my story so far, you would find quite a few business ventures – some were successful, some were not…but it is important to keep going. And you can keep going if you are passionate about what you are doing – for that fuels the effort when there is no money and success for it in the short term.
You need to connect with people, to share ideas, to get inspired, to get business… and lastly you need a support system – for as women we just have too many roles to play.
I hope we enjoy all of them… I certainly am!
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If you want to get back to work after a break, here’s the ultimate guide to return to work programs in India from tech, finance or health sectors - for women just like you!
Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend related to personal financial planning and she shared how she had had fleeting thoughts about joining work but she was apprehensive to take the plunge. She was unaware of return to work programs available in India.
She had taken a 3-year long career break due to child care and the disconnect from the job arena that she spoke about is something several women in the same situation will relate to.
More often than not, women take a break from their careers to devote time to their kids because we still do not have a strong eco-system in place that can support new mothers, even though things are gradually changing on this front.
A married woman has to wear a sari, sindoor, mangalsutra, bangles, anklets, and so much more. What do these ornaments have to do with my love, respect, and commitment to my husband?
They: Are you married?
They: But You don’t look like it
Me: (in my Mind) Why should I?
Why is being married not enough for a woman, and she needs to look married too? I am tired of such comments in the nearly four years of being married.
I believe that anything that is forced is not right. I must have a choice. I am a living human, not a puppet. And I am not stopping anyone by not following any tradition. You are free to do whatever you like to do. But do not force others. It’s depressing.