Growing up in the beautiful town of Dibrugarh, Assam, Sonal Garodia was very sure about one thing – she would not waste her education only to get married, sit at home and have babies. The young girl decided she would travel the world and make a name for herself.
The youngest of three siblings, Sonal got through into NIFT Mumbai after school. Four years later, she graduated with a gold medal. She began working for an American company, but the global meltdown of 2008 put an end to that. “I got a pink slip in the first year of my job,” the 32-year-old recalls.
But she has no regrets – her job had taken her around the world to Dubai, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, China, South Africa, Egypt and several other destinations. Sonal’s childhood dream of travelling the world had come true.
After working for a few years in Bengaluru and Mumbai, she got a job with Temperley London. The UK brand, which makes garments for the likes of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, opened up a world of opportunities for the young Sonal, who realised just how big a fashion business could be: “I got inspired to start something of my own.”
Observing the global demand for hand embroidery, Sonal decided to revive it among craftspersons in India. “It’s a dying craft – the younger generation is moving to other professions. And yet this is India’s USP, we have to keep it alive,” she avers.
By this time, Sonal had married an old friend, Pritam Pritiraj Mohanty. With his constant encouragement, she took a personal loan of Rs 5 lakh and set up an export house in Mumbai to supply hand-embroidered pieces to influential designers worldwide in 2013.
The business grew quickly and, by 2016, Sonal felt established enough to plan a family. “New mothers in full-time jobs struggle to manage baby-care, so I made sure I owned a company by the time I had a baby,” says the pragmatic boss lady.
Sonal’s son was born in 2016, and motherhood only inspired her to set her targets higher. A year later, she set up her own fashion label Kiaan, which now has stockists in Australia and India. She makes a turnover of Rs 2 crore every year and has won several women entrepreneur awards. And she’s already thinking of a third venture.
“Mine is a story of ambition,” she says. There are no limits except the ones in our own mind.
First published in the April 2018 issue of eShe magazine