Mani Agarwal – An accountant by profession, with 4 years of experience in the Auditing and Consulting sector, forayed into a fashion retail business at the mere age of 24. The entrepreneurship bug had bitten her. Now six years later, her venture I WEAR MY STYLE has worked with over 25 e-commerce companies, has had thousands of satisfied customers with negligible marketing spend. The business has been bootstrapped and profitable from day one. Her work has been featured in leading journals such as IndiaToday, Yourstory, Sheroes and the likes.
She has also been awarded the ‘Priyadarshini Award’ for ‘Outstanding Women Entrepreneurship’, by the Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs , ‘The Karmaveer Chakra Award’ by the Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship in associated with the United Nations and was 'Burgundy Achiever by AXIS Bank', for The Digital Women Awards (in association with shethepeopletv.com) for recognition of women in the online and digital space.
Q.1 Tell us about the beautiful journey that you have travelled so far ?
I completed my Certified Public Accountancy from the US and my Bachelors of Commerce from Delhi University, post which I worked with Deloitte and had a brief stint with a boutique M&A Consulting Firm. Throughout my tenure in the sector, I underperformed and was discontented with my work and self. With a dearth of ideas, but a vehement urge to start something of my own, I started ‘I WEAR MY STYLE’ an online fashion retail brand for women pan India, between the ages of 16-35. Albeit, I had almost little knowledge of fashion, the brand was an instant hit from day one and we clocked revenues of INR 60,000 within the first month itself. We grew aggressively for five years post that, clocking an average y-o-y growth of 25%.
Most of our manufacturing was done in China but post demonetisation, imports became costly and cumbersome. In the past one and a half years, the entire model was overhauled, a new team for manufacturing was setup, product line was changed completely and I am proud to say that all our designs are now 100% Made in India. We have a stellar team for design and production.
Q.2 What motivated & inspired you to start your business?
As mentioned earlier, I was not too successful with my corporate career, usually being at the bottom of the barrel in my year end appraisals and that was simply because I didn’t enjoy my work. As is the story of majority of the entrepreneurs, I gave up my job and took the entrepreneurial route instead.
Q.3 According to you, what are the key aspects that can help an Indian woman to achieve professional and business success?
Key aspects are pure self motivation. In the past 3-4 years, I have observed how the entire ecosystem for Women Entrepreneurship has become very conducive. A lot of women feel that due to gender biases, they would face problems in starting up but in my 6 years of running my own venture, I have faced no discrimination based on my gender or my age. All the people that I have dealt with, whether customers/ investors/ suppliers, have only cared for the potential of the business and the product.
There are a large number of initiatives such as collateral free loans, Awards & Development Programs and media coverage taken up by Corporates, the Government and NGOS to push women in Business. The Media has played an important role, with dedicated sections highlighting the roles of Women in Business and hence inspiring a lot more to start up on their own. There are also dedicated Venture Funds for WOBs, such as the SAHA fund with a corpus of INR 100 crores and has Kiran Mazumdar Shaw as one of the key investors. The opportunities are colossal with no paucity of people willing to help you. If you’re driven with a goal and have support from your family, there should be nothing stopping you.
Q.4 What is the greatest obstacle you had faced in achieving the success you desired? How did you overcome it?
Starting a business is an easy task but sustaining it and keeping it profitable over the years is the greatest obstacle. There are so many external factors which impact the business immensely; however one has no control over the same.
Overcoming the same is through pure adaptability, keeping the product dynamic and simply not giving up.
Q.5 Do you manage your finances on your own and do you have knowledge of all your investments ?
Thankfully because of my Accounting and Finance background, I am able to manage most of my finances and have 100% knowledge of my investments.
Q.6 Should women have financial knowledge and how much important it is for a woman to be financially independent?
Yes, extremely important to have financial knowledge and to be financially independent as it gives one a great sense of freedom. For example, having studied US GAAP only, I can still file my own GST returns with the help of You Tube Videos and an easy software purchased online. My marketing is handled by an external party but over the years, I have learnt digital marketing myself for my business just so that no third party be it my accountant or marketer can ever over budget us or ask for what is more than required. Knowledge of your finances is cardinal.
In today’s time and age, being financially independent is more of a necessity than an option. In my past ten years, I have neither taken any external funds for the business to grow, nor have I been dependent on a personal front. It has made me work extremely hard, kept me driven and helps me be a key decision maker in my life on all fronts.
Q.7 What advice would you give to the young women entrepreneurs about being more organized and informed about startups ?
Any profession, be it a business or a corporate job requires one to be organised. The same is indispensible. Keeping abreast with your competition and ecosystem is imperative and goes without saying helps you mould your product/ service line better. So many times, I have discovered new opportunities to grow just by being well informed and keeping a good network.
Q.8 The young entrepreneurs will love to know your SUCCESS MANTRA, so that they can also use it for their business growth.
When they use the clichéd ‘Never Give up’ line, they usually mean it. On a personal front, I am very harsh on myself and keep striving to grow but I always believe that business is part hard work and part luck.
I have been through many low phases in my business, which have made me want to capitulate and shut down. Many a times, outcomes have been unanticipated but one door closes and another opens. Until and unless, you have not tried every option available and not left any stone unturned, you have to be relentless and keep trying. Most of the times, the passion for your work is so strong, you would not give up till until all options are genuinely exhausted. I still have a very long way to go and I believe success comes to those who remain patient and keep working.