Lay Down Your Own Success Definition. Make Your Own Goals, And Work Each Day To Smash Them!
By Ms. Ankita Chaudhry- SAAJ by Ankita
Beautiful Minds - 'Wings of Inspiration'
ANKITA CHAUDHRY – A phenomenal fashion designer started her label 'SAAJ' at 19, and today, Delhi-based Ankita Chaudhry has now made her label her middle name. Established in 2005, SAAJ was born out of the need for a creative outlet for the young designer Ankita, who was then studying commerce in Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC). Having learnt how to work the trade, she polished her inborn creative and aesthetic capacities at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi, gaining expertise in the field of fashion and design. Whether it’s her Indian-international collection of dresses, capes, pants or her bridal-wear line, bright colours are the common thread running through Ankita’s collections. Her forte is Indian wear; the Jodhpur pants, the Anarkali dresses — there’s so much history, character, and depth to them. SAAJ today not only uses Ankita’s creative traits to conjure masterpieces of great elegance and grandeur, but also the team’s exceptional & immense tact and insight to steer the company on to a path of growth and success. SAAJ has a flagship store in New Delhi and also retails from around 40 designer boutiques and Multi-Designer-Outlets in India, with its presence overseas in UAE, UK, USA, Turkey and Italy.
Tell us something about yourself?
I did not know what I wanted to do in my life but I feel, it's during the youth that one acquire the skills because as kids, one doesn't know what one really wants to do – One has to explore ! Fortunately enough, I was able to acquire lot of skills and was complemented for my personality as well. My father was in police services and my mother loved embroidery and fabrics. She worked with the welfare centre and would teach war widows and jawan's wives to sew. Then they would hold exhibitions and sell the finished products, giving employment to these ladies. Since, I liked the entire idea so much, I would hang around with my mom and was able to understand the basics about the science of garment making and embroidery techniques. I have always been a sports person and had the privilege of representing India at an International level in pistol shooting and I hold a few National records in the sport. I had science in 12th when I realised that this is not what I wanted in my life. I had a creative bend of things and one has to see my room to believe that. I used to dress my mom for her meetings as I had a good observation power and sense of creativity. So. I decided to drop engineering and opted for design but at that time also, I didn't know if it was fashion. I did B.com Honours from SRCC keeping in mind that I will shift to design in the 2nd year as I never wanted to be apart from design. According to me college life is all about friends, youth and positive energy and SRCC had all of that. The atmosphere of SRCC moulded me and I realised the importance of hardwork. Everybody is talented, but if you’re hard working, you have the capacity to make something of your talent.
How was SAAJ born and the journey that you travelled during it's birth ?
SRCC gave me everything but the only thing that was missing was the design part as there was no creative outlet and I felt that there was a certain piece of me that was missing. I was feeling uneasy and incomplete. I realised that I cannot survive if I don't do something about it and I was not one of those kids to laze around. I had to do something, had to create and just be productive. Whenever we were posted around hills in India, we had lot of activities to do but in Delhi, it was very much confined. One cannot go trekking in Delhi while in hills, we would skate down from Mussoorie to Dehradun when we were bored but it was not at all possible in a place like Delhi – 'Creative outlet had to be found somewhere'. My dad was posted somewhere in Jammu and Kashmir and mom was teaching in Kendriya Vidyalaya and my sister was persuing engineering from Pune. So, Mom and I use to stay alone in Delhi. This was the time when opportunity came my way. My mom had a friend in school whose sister was getting married in London and they wanted 15-20 outfits from india. This is where I jumped in and grabbed the opportunity requesting them to trust on me for this project. I took on the project and did the entire look for the wedding. They were so excited as they just loved my creativity and my designs. I gave entire collection to them and received a cheque of a very small amount and that too at a young age of 17 this was a huge achievement for me. I made another set for me and went to stores to get them stuck for us and we started getting the orders. my mom quit her job so that she could help me in making the karigars understand what I exactly wanted. By the time, I was in final year, I travelled North India like Punjab, Rajasthan and got stores to stock us. At that time, I had no place of manufacturing and no money to invest. So, I used to get stuff made from here and there and sell it . I didn't know how to do business as I had no business background. 98% of my family was into uniform services. But like it is said that experience is your best teacher, likewise, experience taught me managing business in the right and utmost manner. After I graduated, we made our business concrete. We got the space in Shahpur Jat and started our journey with one of the rooms for 3 tailors, 1 kadaiwala and 1 masterjee. The other room was the office and the front area was the showroom. So, this is how SAAJ was born. We did a lot of exhibitions in India and grew the scale of our business. By the time we started supplying to various stores in India, I realised that for me to pursue further in this industry, I needed a formal education in fashion. So, I decided to do my post graduation in fashion designing from NIFT and got through it. While the business was also running on a huge scale and post graduation was also going on , so, it was getting tough for me to handle the financial aspect of the business due to which we made Avantica quit her job so that she could join in for managing the finances of the business. SAAJ was taken at the next level when we got the certification and support of Fashion Design Council Of India (FDCI) as it helped us to grow our business at the international level. FDCI gave me a chance of showcasing my designs in Paris and there were only 5 designers who got this chance and I was the youngest among them. So, this is how SAAJ has been evolved. SAAJ revolves around the strength of we 3 i.eAvantica , my sister looks after our forward supply chain , my mother looks after the merchandising and production and I am the creative head of SAAJ.
What are the key aspects that Indian women must follow in order to gain professional and business success ?
Success doesn't depend upon whether you are a man or a woman. It's about commitment that you have towards your dreams or towards your goal. Nobody else can stop you from being successful , it is you stopping yourself from growing and achieving your goals. You have to break these barriers at first. Success depends upon you. I am blessed as my family is very supportive and allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do in my life. According to me family support is very important in order to succeed in life and just be sure about what you want in life. But moreover it’s about your self-belief.
What are the obstacles that you faced while establishing SAAJ ?
I would never call anything an obstacle – it's a challenge. The minute you face a challenge , you must think that you will grow over this also. I believe that you always face challenge when you are becoming stronger. You will never face a challenge when you are facing a weak opponent. Challenge comes in when you are rising in your life. So , there is a challenge at every single step be it in terms of workers , with a new buyer , new payment terms , changing atmosphere among industries , number of people copying you in the fashion world etc. and they are numerous. I believe that you grow with every single challenge that you face. If somebody's copying me , it definitely means that I have done something worth it. Every challenge that I face makes me more confident and makes me feel better about me. When I entered the international markets , I found market was completely different there which itself was a challenge as I felt I was lagging somewhere. So, sustainability itself was a challenge. Once there was a fire in our factory 2 years back and we lost a lot. Our shipments , raw materials , office , everything was destroyed. But we did not lose our hopes and were back in functioning within 1 day. So, I would say , never victimize yourself . Just have a right mind set and right sense of confidence and determination and you will be able to overcome every challenge that will come.
Is financial understanding important for women be it a homemaker or a business person ?
Yes , it is very important for every women to have a financial understanding in order to grow anything in life , in order to allocate your money in the best and effective manner. No women should restrict herself in any aspect. Financial understanding is important in order to know where are you investing and in order to ensure that funds are available at the time of emergency.
I don't say that I am successful , I have a lot more to achieve and I believe everybody has their own way to define their success and every woman is successful in their own way . A women who is a homemaker is successful in her own way . Just keep doing good things and good work and success will come on it's own. Lay down your own success definition. Make your own goals, and work each day to smash them! Also, NOTHING beats “hard-work.” So work hard and don’t give up. All good things take time, so don’t lose patience.