Fashion Entrepreneur Jigna Shah on Loss, Profit and Purpose

By Jigna Shah

My chartered accountant father was very particular about academic excellence. He pushed me into doing my Master’s in commerce and taking up a position teaching economics in Ahmedabad. But after he passed away, I didn’t see any reason to continue in a profession I wasn’t fit for.

My heart was in fashion design, so I left my steady job without telling anyone, and joined NIFT to study textile design. My mom wasn’t happy about it

But after that there was no stopping me. I started my own label Revé Fashions, participated in trade shows, held exhibitions, and was invited to panels at Lakme Fashion Week. I set up a store on the ground floor of The Pride Hotel in a tony part of Ahmedabad, and was the first place Bollywood stars shopped from when they came to town for movie launches.

I am patronised by all the industrialists’ wives here. I was covered widely by the media and several online voting polls have declared me the most popular fashion designer in Gujarat. The hotel brought me foreign customers and airlines staff, so I branched out into Indo-Western clothing with superlative international standards.

I married my life partner in my late 30s and days later, my mom passed away. I broke the news to people about my wedding and my loss in the same phone call.

My husband is an industrialist from Mumbai, so I moved here. He taught me to think big and to go global. We started promoting ‘ahimsa’ silk (non-violent silk) and are opening a store in Ahmedabad for VIP customers. I am also working on an organic wellness range.

I’m in my mid-40s now and we married too late to have kids. Instead, we are focused on helping less privileged sections of society by teaching skills, generating employment, and helping them grow.

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Over the years, this is what I’ve learnt about life and business.

Daydream with abandon: Nurture those dreams and allow yourself to break your own barriers.

Be patient: Nothing happens overnight. You have to persevere and be at it for many years before the results start to show. I am not from a wealthy background. It took me 20 years to reach this point when tycoons wear my products.

Reassess and restart: Sometimes you have to cut your losses and start again. At one point, I began facing factory losses. I had to completely restructure my way of doing things and move my factory to Sri Lanka. Then things picked up again. Don’t hesitate to change direction if you have to.

Be solution-oriented: If you keep focusing only on the problems, you’ll never start or do anything.

Don’t con people: This goes without saying but don’t fleece unsuspecting customers. A lot of male tourists visit my store to buy clothes for their wives back home. These men are easy to dupe because they have no idea of Indian sizes or price points. But my entire team sticks to professional ethics, and these customers send us more clients in the future because they trust us. Short-term gain based on a lie is a long-term loss.

All work is your own work: No work is too small for a businessperson. I keep working all the time – whether it’s midnight or 2 am. It is a habit, not a job for me.

First published in the August 2017 issue of eShe magazine