“The low women entrepreneurship rates are part of a broader gender gap in economic participation and opportunity,” says Founder & CEO of Tjori Mansi Gupta
Imbibing cultural and traditional crafts from around the globe, Tjori is known as a platform for treasured designs across apparel, footwear, bags, decor, and jewellery.
Mansi Gupta started Tjori on a small whiteboard with a huge foresight for the brand, an opportunity that was explored due to the lack of knowledge about the traditional and heritage handicrafts of India on a global platform. The inspiration was Zara, which started from a small boutique in Spain and now has taken over the world of fashion.
The company was started with my savings of Rs 10 lakh and now clocks an annual turnover of Rs 50 crore. Today, Tjori has become an integral part of the everyday lifestyle of modern contemporary women in India. The brand aims to bring together traditional crafts and modern designs, creating contemporary products that are one-of-a-kind. Working closely with designers and artisans, the brand passionately infuses quality and comfort into everything it creates.
In an interaction with Apeksha News Network, Tijori Founder and CEO, Mansi Gupta talks about how she tackled the innumberable challenges she faced as an entrepreneur, and how Tjori grew as one of the most preferred brand amongst customers. Check out her successful journey in excerpts!
Tell us something about your life before Tjori.
Life before Tjori was slightly incomplete. I completed my MBA from Cardiff Business School and soon after that I joined IMB. After a few years of work, I decided to take a sabbatical from IMB to pursue a specialization in Finance from the University of Wharton. Post the course; with a huge foresight on a small white board, Tjori began.
What does your role at Tjori include?
Honestly, as a Founder, you are the heart and soul of the company. From managing the vision of the company to brand value, revenue and financing management, everything is on your plate. Founding and growing a company is probably one of the most challenging things I prefer doing as my core role in the company, and on a daily basis you have to ensure that the product roadmap is in alignment with the company vision.
What is the USP of Tjori?
Tjori is a brand that believes in promoting Indian handicraft and art with a modern contemporary touch throughout a globe.
How has been the journey so far for you as an Entrepreneur?
To turn this passion into a business and to accomplish it, you need to become a leader. We started our brand ‘Tjori’ with a minimal amount of 10 lakhs from our family, and soon we started receiving an overwhelming response from our customers. This gave us the confidence to scale up our thoughts for a bigger venture.
The early day struggles of money, less manpower and the task of figuring out how to deal with technology, logistics, etc. were our biggest issues but every problem was dealt with great zeal and enthusiasm.
Overall, the entire journey has been a process of learning and something I am going to be happily on for the rest of my life. Tjori presently caters to 195 countries across the globe through digital marketing and our e-commerce website, with a few new SIS stores with Central.
With so much competition in lifestyle segment, how do you manage to stay at par and attract customers?
Tjori is growing and keeping a strong foot in the market of physical retail and distribution, while growth in the lifestyle segment for us has been taking shape with the launch of a new category catering to the Indian men. These tiny efforts help us attract more customers, creating more authentic pieces inspired by different Indian art forms and creating happiness for our customers.
Needless to say, the products we create are inspired by the diligent work of Indian craftsmen. We strive to provide authenticity with global standards in terms of quality. The goodness of the traditional Indian heritage in our brand definitely keeps us at par and grows a stronger base.
With the boom in digitalization, people have shifted to online purchasing. Do you think that malls and retail shops still have a scope of business in next 5 years?
We agree that digitalization is the new trend, rather a diversification to the field of marketing because that is where your customers are these days, and hence we extensively market our products through them. Our entire performance marketing runs on social media platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, etc. and this also remains the primary source of advertising for us. No wonder, the growth is largely driven by robust investment in the online space and rapid increase in the number of Internet users.
The retail sector is at the verge of innovative breakthroughs that will help it sustain the new era of digitalization. The new technology like endless isles, etc. are going to make the difference physical retail needs to survive.
Tjori deals with ethnic brands. There are so many art forms like certain block prints, etc. that are gradually dying. There is scarcity of artists who can create them. What steps have you taken to help such artisans and their art in terms of lifestyle products?
Well, workshops are being organized that enhance the skills and also the knowledge of the people. Skill showcase, design education, creative and product development workshops followed up with pricing, marketing, branding, micro-finance, etc. These workshops help artisans eradicate the communication gap between the two representations of society and bring in a better understanding of demand and supply. Thereby, initiating traditional art awareness. Not to forget, we are initiating lot more collaborations between the artisans and the urban designers, influencers and brands to explore the opportunities together. Through these kinds of activities, we can save our crafts and promote our traditional craft nationally and globally with the various art and craft forms to find place in the dynamic art culture of the world. We also have in house artists. These initiatives will bring out the traditional craft and also introduce the hidden talents in India.
Government of India is promoting art and culture as well as artisans. How far have they been successful? Any suggestions to the government on same?
Plenty of schemes are running such as the Rajiv Gandhi Shilpi Swasthya Bima Yojana and the JanshreeBima Yojana for Handicrafts Artisans, under which artisans in the age group of 18-60 receive health and life insurance, in association with the Life Insurance Corporation of India for themselves and three dependents, which provides some social security.
One of the most widely lauded efforts of the Government in the crafts sector has been the establishment of Dilli Haat, an open-air crafts bazaar in the national capital modeled on a traditional village market where artisans from around the country can rent space and display their wares for two weeks at a time. Dilli Haat has provided artisans with much-needed market linkages and access to consumers.
In the recent years, the government has moved its focus towards sustainable development of crafts through the participation of artisans. Capacity building efforts such as the Artisan Credit Card scheme and the Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana scheme are generally led by the Development Commissioner of Handicrafts. Efforts include skills development, technological intervention, design and marketing support and reviving languishing crafts. The Development Commissioner for Handlooms runs Weavers Centers in many parts of the country along with the National Center for Textile Design to provide market-based design input for handloom weavers. Each year, the Ministry of Textiles recognizes the work of several master craftspeople through the distribution of national awards. These are highly coveted accolades that enhance the reputation enjoyed by master craftsmen and function as a quality approval of sorts.
There is a lot more which needs to be done in a structured manner on various aspects to leave a big impact in terms of promoting art and culture. For Government efforts to have the maximum impact, government bodies implementing programs need to be reformed and a policy environment that is more conducive to greater participation and specialization by different stakeholders needs to be created.
Do you think the existing programs introduced by the government for entrepreneurs needs enhancement? Any suggestions to the government?
The low women entrepreneurship rates are part of a broader gender gap in economic participation and opportunity. Thus, it is crucial to provide equal access to education and encourage women to use their acquired skills by joining the workforce. Policies aimed at including more women in senior and leadership positions are needed and will help women gain experience and knowledge, which in turn will enable them to start their own businesses.
Secondly, awareness for unconscious biases and how they create a disadvantage for women entrepreneurs needs to be raised. However, as changes in mindsets take time, women entrepreneurs need to deal with negative attitude of the society.
What is the biggest struggle of a woman entrepreneur today in India?
A woman, in general has to fight twice as hard to live her life. The struggles of being an entrepreneur in general are a lot and the women in this field have a to go through all of it to even be acknowledged in the industry. The disparities are felt while you sit through an investor meeting or through any vendor meeting. The biggest struggle is the lack of confidence the society has on women.
Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career as an entrepreneur?
One advice I would give to everyone who aspires to be an entrepreneur is that you need to want it enough to have and if you don’t have it then you never wanted it enough.
Is (gender) equality an important issue for you? If yes, why? If no, why?
Yes, gender equality is important. Like the justice system of Indian doesn’t judge a criminal bases its gender but instead their crimes, then why does the rest of the society has disparities? We all should be known for our work and not our gender!
What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?
The next generation girls are to be strong and extra determined to achieve everything they set their eyes upon.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?
I would tell my younger self to put in a little more hustle and little less stress, and to have confidence in myself.
What woman inspires you and why?
My inspiration is Mother Teresa, a woman who had nothing but love to offer, a true form of an angel who healed the world and made it a better place to live in.
What qualities make a great leader?
A determined leader is the best leader anyone can have!
International Women’s Day celebrates the scientific, political, economic and social achievements of women. In your experience as a successful woman, what is its significance?
The reason for this day is very simple because in the society of disparities we need to celebrate women on this special day, without which the daily life achievements are just overseen. The ideal case scenario would be not to celebrate this day, and have an equal status for everyone.
Apeksha News Network congratulates Mansi Gupta for her remarkable journey so far and wishes her good luck for her future endeavours!