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Founder of The Label Life, Preeta Sukhtankar did everything on her own, right from starting the brand to making it as popular as it is. Here is her story!
“Have you interviewed any interesting women, someone more interesting than me?” laughs Preeta Sukhtankar, as she jokingly begins the conversation. Preeta is the founder of well known fashion start-up, The Label Life.
No, she is not like ‘that serious entrepreneur’, for most of the times one can find her being her jolly self and making people laugh. But when you speak to her, you can be assured of one thing – she talks and breathes fashion. As founder of the lifestyle and fashion e-commerce portal, is certainly living her best life by building her dream business.
Making her name in the fashion industry was one thing she knew she wanted, ever since as a kid. But like many others in high school, Sukhtankar was confused about and how and what exactly she wanted to do.
With limited time on her hands, she could only focus on her studies. She moved to Dubai very early on in life and did most of her schooling there. After completing her 10th in Dubai, she moved back to Mumbai.
The fashion diva studied English Literature at St. Xavier’s in Mumbai. “That was just another phase in my life when I thought I became an intellectual. I read Kafka, and fashion, automatically took a back seat,” she says.
Though Sukhtankar was busy reading all the best sellers, her aunt (who worked at newspaper The Sunday Observer) convinced her to start writing part-time for the paper.
The 16-year-old, mostly wrote for the young section of the paper. Very early in her career she became the editor for their ‘New Generation’ in 1994. The same year when Sushmita Sen became Miss Universe. After that, Sukhtankar worked as a journalist for a while.
That age, she believes, was the time when the fashion industry in India started blooming. “I always tell people that I have always been following how Indian women have transitioned from 1990s to today. For instance, that was the time when beauty pageants had become famous,” she says.
Till this stage of her life, no thought ever occurred to her to enter the entertainment and fashion industry. Fortunately, as soon as she completed her education, and left her job at The Sunday Observer, she got a letter from the Elle magazine.
“You know I am talking about the time when people could not even pronounce Elle properly, the name was so new to everyone around. They probably thought it was a new fashion portal,” Sukhtankar quips.
But, none of this could ever bother or stop the style icon from pursuing her dreams. She joined Elle as a core member of the photography and styling team.
Everything was going quite smooth for her at Elle. And it was during this period that her career path took a turn. It happened during an interview for a column with Natasha Malhotra from MTV.
Sukhtankar ended up talking to Malhotra about her other interests. She managed to entice Malhotra so much that before she knew it, she was asked to write for one of MTV’s shows. It was for a show named MTV’s Most Fashionable. At that, 24-year-old, Sukhtankar bade farewell to Elle, and made her entry to the fashion world.
Sukhtankar’s journey at MTV began with writing for the style shows and events. These had her driving the show concepts while working on all aspects of it. Slowly and gradually, she also started production and direction.
She also led the MTV Talent Hunt team, handled all their applications, auditions, tapes and portfolios for the various talent shows. Describing her MTV journey as ‘crazy,’ she left that job after four years since her boss moved.
After spending four-years in television, Sukhtankar decided to move out of this medium all together and go back to her first love- publishing. She joined another fashion magazine called L’Officiel, in 2005 as a publisher and as the in-charge of the advertising features.
Sukhtankar spent almost a decade at L’Officiel and that gave her an opportunity to talk to a number of women about taste in fashion.
“Knowing how the styling sense of these women evolved over time, made me realise how there was a gap between the consumer and western companies making the product.
“Zara and all other famous labels had started almost at the same time then, and that was it for me. I knew there was a need for a homegrown brand that meets their consumer’s needs’ directly,” she remarks.
Sukhtankar at The Label Life is certainly doing it. She is building a DTC brand. A brand that is backed by three renowned celebrity fashionistas: Bipasha Basu, Sussanne Khan and Malaika Arora.
This, Sukhtankar admits, is done as the celebrities with no doubts have a good reach amongst audience. And of course, because all three leading ladies personally have a keen sense of fashion.
“You package the reach of our celebrities and our content together. And I promise, you can sell even a basic black dress,” says the proud founder.
When asked about the resistance that women in business generally face, she says she comes from a middle class Maharashtrian family. She also said that no-one in her family was ever in business. “They are all very sincere,” she says.
The only question that came along her way from her family was if she was sure of quitting her secure job. “Well, editorial does not pay well, so my family always said, it is not a highly well paying job, but it is a secure one,” she says. That was the only time they questioned her but soon she gained their trust.
Like any other entrepreneur, Sukhtankar too had her own fears.
“I do feel it was not easy for me because I did not have an MBA. Every time, I left a job I was afraid that where will I go from here? But, at the same time, I was becoming the Jack of all trades. And maybe, too good to be only a journalist.
“Therefore, I decided to use a little bit of everything I learned and created The Label Life,” as she puts it. During the first three months of her company, Sukhtankar was ambitious about every little thing.
Though, everything was new for her, she admits that she was not familiar with SEOs, or anything related to websites. Given her experience in print she never got to learn all this.
But, she set deadlines for herself. “I believe passion is one thing, but pace is everything. Every time I quit a job, I told myself that I had three months and I have to get through to something else,” she says.
Sukhtankar, successfully started her company in 2013, and that was also the year she decided to adopt a baby girl. Managing motherhood and running her start-up was certainly not easy for her. However, she says that, she never gave herself an option, perhaps managing both the worlds well had to happen.
She and her team raised a funding of Rs 1 crore from Kalaari Capital and launched three brands — The Home Label with Sussanne Khan, The Closet Label with Malaika Arora Khan, and The Trunk Label with Bipashu Basu.
It was in 2015, that Sukhtankar combined all the three labels and claims that they saw a 5x growth. For a few years after that, the brand grew organically.
And in 2017, they garnered Rs 20 crore in funding from Kalpavriksh, Centrum’s PE fund. The company’s investors include Mithun Sacheti, Co-founder of CaratLane; and Haresh Chawla.
From starting with fundings to now clocking revenue of Rs 2 crore monthly, the start-up has come a long way. And if you are wondering how are their designs different, it is not only because of the touch given by their celebrities team. The credit also goes to the famous designers they work with.
Some of the known names are, Payal Singhal and Lekha Washington.
“You know bringing these designers on board has really helped us, as we get you attires by your favourite designers at half the price that they would charge,” she says.
Sukhtankar’s short and sweet journey in the industry has definitely earned her a name.
She only aims of creating content that is unique yet desired by her customers.
Picture credits: Facebook
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