The latest editions in the Real Women series will feature women of “Shakti”. These are strong women in business who have had the strength to translate their passions and ideas into successful and thriving businesses. It takes a lot to turn an idea into reality and these women have aced in their endeavour. Our first feature celebrates Poonam Rawal - Co-founder of House of Chikankari. A brand that aims to bring structure to the traditional embroidery craft industry of Chikankari and give it an e-commerce platform to thrive with modern aesthetics and approach of selling to the craft.
We bring to you a heart to heart conversation with Poonam, delve into the conception and the exciting journey of her e-commerce label which is only a few years old but already a label to reckon.
What inspired you to take traditional concepts and infuse them with a modern twist in your entrepreneurial journey?
House of Chikankari was co-founded by my daughter and I in 2020. The main inspiration was born out of an adversity during COVID. I had been a homemaker for 22 years, and my embroider who I was working with for my personal work, was out of job and wanted some additional help. He got in touch with me and that’s the idea of taking the unorganised art form of Chikankari to a younger and a modern audience came to life. We saw the huge potential in the way the craft could be presented and made relevant.
Could you share a bit about your personal background and cultural influences that led you to explore this path?
I had been a homemaker for 22 years but was passionate about designing clothes and would exercise the passion by designing for self and my daughter for the longest time. It was never a profession. My daughter studied Economics and Business for her undergrad and pursued Masters in Strategic Marketing. Just a mix of both our skills - my passion and her business acumen led us to building the brand of House of Chikankari.
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What were some challenges you faced while adapting to a modern audience and the new digital world? How did you overcome these challenges?
One of the biggest challenges that we faced on introducing the brand to a modern audience was the new-ness of the brand back in October 2020. Gaining the trust of the consumer and standing out amongst the plethora of existing brands came with the new-ness. Looking back….we managed well. Then came Shark Tank Season 2 in January 2023. That has helped us tremendously in the last 6-7 months. Hoever, even before Shark Tank, we focussed a lot on building a community. We focused on our customers and relationships with the influencers that helped us build a community which eventually led to building trust.
Can you share a particular instance or story where your innovative approach led to a significant triumph or breakthrough?
Close to 80-85% of the Chikankari industry is highly unorganised. The biggest challenge we faced while working with the artisans was ensuring consistent quality. It wasn’t easy but after having spent enough time with the artisans, setting up SOPs for them to follow, helping them understand the concept of e-commerce and enabling an organised structure of operating, we have managed to achieve a streamlined system which has been one of our biggest breakthroughs. We are in this for a long term and by overcoming the challenges, we strive to deliver quality in this unorganised industry.
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What kind of impact do you hope to create in your community or industry?
Our endeavour is to revive this art form. It is important for us to have a strong impact and follow a right path for the upliftment of the artisanal community. Eventually, we hope to become a medium for the artisans to enhance their craft and increase its demand through generations which eventually uplifts them.
What moments or milestones do you consider as particularly emblematic of your personal triumphs within this endeavour?
The biggest milestone for us has been Shark Tank Season 2 which aired in January this year. We received funding from 2 sharks - Aman Gupta and Piyush Bansal and offers from 4 sharks. It’s been an amazing journey for both of us. We have seen tremendous growth as a brand and personally. The growth has also brought with it a set of new challenges. Looking back on our experience, we couldn’t have imagined this for ourselves 2 years back. We are excited to witness and be a part of the next leg of growth for our business.
What strategies or considerations do you keep in mind to strike a balance between honouring tradition and catering to contemporary preferences?
The biggest strategy to strike a balance between the traditional craft and contemporary aesthetics is to listen to our customers. We primarily cater to millennials and take their feedback very seriously - their likes, dislikes, their demands and reviews matter to us and we act according to what our customers want.
Is there any advice you would give to women in business?
Our biggest advice to women aspiring in business would be to block out all the noise, have faith in themselves, no matter what anyone says. People will come and tell you that one doesn’t need to work but trust your instincts. Work for yourself and not for anyone else.
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What are your future plans for your venture?
House of Chikankari is in its next leg of growth after Shark Tank. We aspire to reach to a much broader audience in near future along with venturing into new product categories that aids us in taking the brand to new people.
Looking back on your journey so far, what legacy do you hope to leave through your innovative approach ?
Our journey is relatively a new one but looking back, both me and my daughter would like to leave behind the legacy with a good impact, build a sustainable business that generates employment for people around, build a good team and strong leaders for that team.
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Poonam styles the Navratan jewellery from our Shakti collection with a pristine backdrop of a white House of Chikankari kurta.