Voices

She Started Pop-ups to Help Her Mom Sell Saris, Then Became a Brand of Her Own

When her 50-something mother started a sari brand in Kolkata, Shalini Agarwal decided to help her promote her saris in Jaipur by holding exhibitions. Gradually, she became an event organiser to reckon with.

By Shalini Agarwal, Jaipur

Born and brought up in Kolkata, I have been living in Jaipur now for over three decades and call this my hometown in every sense. Having completed my BA from Kolkata, I had an arranged marriage at a very young age to a businessman who has his own marble production mines in Rajasthan.

Over the next several years, I devoted myself to raising a family and being the perfect wife, daughter-in-law and mother.

In the meantime, my mother, who had started her own sari brand in Kolkata at the age of 55 after my sister and I left home, expressed that she wanted to expand her business. To encourage her, I began holding exhibitions in Jaipur for her saris in 1999. Slowly, other friends joined in, and we made it a regular event.

I kept working quietly but diligently at organizing regular exhibitions until my own daughters grew up and went away. After that, I decided to take the next step and make my hobby into my career. I called my brand Aspiration, and began holding lifestyle exhibitions in cities like Jaipur, Udaipur, Surat, Ahmedabad and Vadodara.

We now do about 10 a year, and are associated with FICCI and FLO, besides several international names. I also co-hosted two editions of Nine Dot Squares, the only design festival of its kind in India that gives space to startups and regional craftspersons.

India is going through a tumultuous transition at present, but the future generation will benefit from all these changes and sacrifices. I dream of a time when India will no longer be a third-world country. Private enterprise and collaboration is definitely a good way to get there.

First published in the January 2018 issue of eShe magazine. Read it for free here, or buy the print edition.

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