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Meet Manali Shenoy Kamat, the woman entrepreneur behind Indian Concepts – which offers ethnic wear for women at work in India.
Interview by Aparna V. Singh
Manali Shenoy Kamat decided to launch Indian Concepts when she realized that many working women in India are not too comfortable with western wear and yet have limited options otherwise. Indian Concepts aims to bridge this gap by providing comfortable and elegant ethnic wear for women at work.
Aparna V. Singh (AVS): What was the inspiration behind Indian Concepts? Why did you feel the need to launch this venture?
Manali Shenoy Kamat (MSK): I was into Advertising before I started Indian Concepts. During my tenure in advertising I got married and we were soon on our family way. After 6 months of maternity break when I was planning to resume work, I was looking for a flexible working option. Due to a lack of such facilities in India I was faced with a dilemma; should I leave my baby at the mercy of maids or should I quit work and take care of my baby?
Quitting work would have meant frustration and depression! At the same time continuing an 8-10 hour corporate job would have meant lesser care and attention for my baby when it needed me the most. So that’s when I decided to start my own venture in April 2011. Thanks to a lack of flexibility in full time jobs and a lack of good day care facilities for babies, here I am today, a first generation woman entrepreneur handling two babies – one being my biological one and the other Indian Concepts. And I love every bit of it!
AVS: How is Indian Concepts different from the many kurtas we find in other large and small stores? What is your USP?
MSK: Our corporate kurtas are crafted keeping in mind the structure of an average Indian woman. The fits are comfortable, designs are not too revealing and embroidery or patterns are very subtle. We mostly use hand woven fabric for our kurtas. The fabric properties are such that it helps to regulate the body temperature in any season. Especially in a humid climate like India the fabric helps in quick evaporation of sweat and keeps the body cool, thus preventing rashes and skin infections. We therefore call it a breathable and skin friendly fabric.
Our other USPs like high quality underlock stitching provides longer life to the garment while retaining its original form and shape; body friendly fits facilitate easy stretching and free movement of your body. All these key features collectively set Indian Concepts Kurtas different from other kurtas for women.
AVS: Tell us a little about how you develop your products. What are the “must haves” for an Indian Concept’s product?
MSK: During my research for a business idea, I remembered how difficult it was during my corporate days to shop for decent kurtas to wear to work. The gaudily embroidered kurtas and jazzy printed kurtis did not suit the sophisticated corporate environment. I was thus left with no choice but to wear tight fitting western wear that restricted free movement of the body during work. I had also noticed my colleagues facing similar issues while shopping for comfortable office wear.
After a research and product development period of about one year we launched Indian Concepts through our online store. Indian Concepts attempts to promote the rich cultural heritage of Indian hand-woven textiles by offering products with contemporary designs.
AVS: What have you learnt about your consumers in the time you have been operating? What is the Indian woman today looking for?
MSK: Women are very quality conscious and are more inclined to buy kurtas with good fabric and contemporary styles than simply what looks good. What you wear in office reflects a lot about the personality and hence women are very choosy while selecting their office clothing.
Many brands offer unbelievable discounts on their collection by using low grade fabric; they manage to attract customers initially but none of these customers go back again after their first experience. It is necessary to build trust by offering a good product and service to build a long term customer relationship.
AVS: Going forward, what plans do you have for your venture?
MSK: We are increasing our offline presence for which we are looking for partners like multi brand outlets and boutiques in Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad in 1st phase.
We are planning to launch silk kurtas for corporate wear by beginning of next year and also intend to extend the Indian Concepts brand to other categories targeted for corporate women, like accessories, office bags, jewellery and footwear.
All these expansions would require substantial funds for which we are open to investments from likeminded investors and venture capitalists.
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