Life is About Creating Yourself

She is someone who believes that comfort for a woman is as important as fashion, and if you can main- tain your femininity, enjoy your comfort, and look superbly fashionable, then you would feel on top of the world. Meet the founder of Kaftan Company, Prakruti Gupta who is here to paint the world with her designs that are subtle, comforting, and cheerful. In a conversation with the Corporate Citizen, Prakruti talks about her corporate journey, how she overcame cancer, and much more.

Corporate Citizen: Tell us a bit about your growing up days.

Prakruti Gupta: I was born and raised in a humble Gupta family. My father owned two businesses, a pharmaceutical company-it is a 45-year-old, Ayurvedic ointment compa- ny, which, I later took over. And a chain of sweet's shops which closed a long time ago. I studied in a boarding school. At the age of 17, I left for Canada to study at the University of Windsor where I pursued my Bachelor of Commerce Honours, Business Administration and Computer Science. I completed my MBA in Marketing, Strategy Management, at York University The kind of exposure that I received as a child, made me realise that I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but just did not know when. With that, I also was into computers and the corporate world. It's just not easy to give up your corporate life and start a business. And I enjoyed working for a huge company. Howev er, even there my manager felt that I had a little more than what I exuded. Just to put my jour ney in short, I started my career as a custom- er service representative at Daimler Chrysler Canada in 2001, and since have moved a very long way, in terms of work and geographies. Born to a business family, I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. After working for a few years, I started my own business in India, in the field of garments and home furnishing manufacturing.

CC: You spent a fair amount of time in the corporate world, walk us through that.

In 2004, I interned with Mercedes-Benz Fi- nancial. Within no time, looking at my prog ress, I was hired there. I worked there for five years and was promoted every year. I started in the customer service position and within nine months I moved to an analyst position. After handling various positions, my last job there was as a global team lead for a project. There is no secret to success, you ought to keep learning at every stage. My splendid corporate journey pushed me to understand the nuances it had to offer. For- tunately, I learned a lot, so much that I still apply the learnings in my business. I had one of the most amazing managers, who enlightened me with the philosophy of working-how to work together and how to showcase empathy. I had watched my father quite closely; he was the first one who showcased the importance of empathy in the workplace. For me, it was simple-leadership is all about empathy and we should relate and connect with our employees. One more thing that I learned at work was the work-life balance which I still carry forward. I also understood the importance of technology and how to implement it.

CC: Were you hesitant to hang your corpo- rate boots?

Some things in life happen and unfortunately. you don't have any control over them. I wasn't hesitant to leave my corporate job, rather, I had no choice. Got married to Navin, who is a Ca- nadian citizen. He wanted to move to Dubai. Now, my team in Canada loved me, so, my manager, called our Dubai team saying that our star employee is moving to Dubai, and it would be great if they had a position for me. Sadly, they did not have a job for my calibre. But Fiat and Chrysler did. So, we moved to Dubai. Un- fortunately, one month into the job and I was diagnosed with cancer. Hence, we had to shift to India for the further process. In turn, I had to quit my corporate job.

CC: Can you walk through your journey of overcoming cancer?

Just six months into my marriage, I was diag- nosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, which was to- tally unexpected. As doctors in Dubai couldn't diagnose it effectively, we flew down to Mum- bai, where the diagnosis began at the Tata Me- morial Hospital. The initial few days went into understanding what exactly happened. I did not know what to make of it. It was tough. My mom and my husband are headstrong and they helped me a lot. Dad and I are sentimental-I'm generally a positive person. I consoled myself saying whatever happened has happened-I can't cry over it. My husband even left his job to take care of me. It was a six-month treatment. As my body reciprocated well, the treatment got over in three months. Post treatment we moved back to Hyderabad. They assured me I'll get back to normal. Thankfully, the cancer was 100 per cent curable. I was clueless when the doctors said I'm lucky-now, I know why.

CC: Kudos to you for overcoming cancer. How did it change you as a person?

This process did change my perspective on life. Things that seemed important, later did not. I always knew family is important, but this pe- riod made me realise that they mean the world to me. And I did not want to leave them and go back. And a thought rose that I wanted to do something of my own. It is a fact that no one likes hospitals, and I am no different. The white hospital room started to annoy me. The bedsheet and other décor were dull too. So, like every cloud has a silver lining, and although this situation wasn't favourable, I thought of making the most of what I have. We started with brain- storming ideas. Digital printing on fabric was a fairly new idea back then. It wasn't launched in India. I thought of starting a home furnishing brand that would change the vibe of the house. In 2010, Shibumi Fashion was one of the first companies to start home furnishing with digital printing. We supplied to some of the big brands. And then there was no looking back.

CC: What happened next? And how did Kaf- taan come into existence?

Shibumi Fashion was growing steadily. Soon came all the e-commerce brands in the mar ket. Shibumi Fashion was just an online brand.

October 05, 2022 — Corporate citizen | Ekta Katti