Prakruti Gupta Rao with her husband, Navin Rao

Prakruti Gupta Rao, the Co-Founder of the Kaftan Company is a cancer survivor, mother of two boys and an extremely active entrepreneur. For World Cancer Day, she wishes to share her journey from being diagnosed with cancer to creating her own brand of comfort clothing and the inspiration that helped start it all. 

Her Story 

Prakruti grew up in a family of business owners and as such always had entrepreneurship in her DNA. However, with the opportunity of moving abroad to study, Prakruti took the step and moved to Canada to study IT/Business for her undergraduate studies. In Canada, once she graduated, she began working at Mercedes-Benz Canada Financial Services and was settling into a balanced routine. 

As chance would have it, Navin Rao, (whom Prakruti had grown affectionately towards and is now her husband) in Canada had an opportunity to move to Dubai for work. Upon realizing this, Prakruti expressed her intentions with her family and marriage was finalized between them in August 2009. 

Shortly after their marriage, in December 2009 Prakruti and Navin moved to Dubai as newlyweds excited for the journey that lay ahead as a young couple. However, things would change drastically. By the end of December, Prakruti began showing strange symptoms of ill health and after conducting a medical examination with some tests confirmed that she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma - a type of cancer. 

With this sudden news, Prakruti and Navin were advised to visit India where the families reside to help support her by confirming this diagnosis as well as pursuing suitable treatment. Once confirmed, Prakruti was then made to go through chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Sessions began in the city of Mumbai and were completed at Prakruti’s hometown of Hyderabad, where she could remain close to her parents during this ordeal. 

Prakruti comments on her experience during that time: 

“As a newlywed woman, one has so many expectations and exciting journeys to look forward to. It was very challenging to come to terms with the diagnosis of cancer at first, but then accepting it and realizing a solution is present was important. For this, I am extremely thankful for the support my husband and parents provided me during the course of my treatment. They remained positive mentally and always ensured I was upbeat for as much as I could, helping me laugh and experience positivity all around. It was a time I didn’t want any visitors or extended family and friends to come and see me. Particularly because I felt their sight of empathy(and possibly pity) towards me would make me further upset and I wanted to take the treatment privately with only the people nearest to me at the time. 

I still recall the hardest moment before starting treatment when the doctor suggested there wasn’t a possibility to conceive children naturally. My husband and I were so young at the time and had just been married that children were not a priority or something we had given thought to even. All of a sudden though it hit us like a ton of bricks to imagine a future where children of our own might not be happening. Since then, after treatment and the required medical advice, I can proudly say that I am blessed for having two wonderful, cute and energetic boys! 

Prakruti Gupta Rao with her husband, Navin Rao and two boys, Samay and Vismay. 

During each chemotherapy session, it was a day spent staring at blank walls, undergoing excruciating pain in the veins of my hands but managing it all with the support of my loved ones. In addition, I was asked to wear loose, comfortable clothing. 

As each session progressed, I realized that the types of comfort clothing available in the market were either not fashionable or not very comfortable. This inspired me to dig a little deeper and realized kaftans, a timeless and classic garment is a perfect example of a comfortable yet stylish garment with many possibilities. This led to the creation of The Kaftan Company - a fashion brand supporting the attributes of comfort, style, and grace. 

I realized many benefits from wearing comfortable clothing. The breathable nature of the fabric, stylish print options and sensation of being able to “live free” was very liberating. Especially at a time where I felt so differently while undergoing cancer treatment. Despite being confused and fearful of the unknown, the colorful and stylish kaftans worn during my treatment helped me a lot with my self confidence and made me feel good about myself. It was at this time that I realized that the world needs to experience the same level of comfort and style. In good health and during challenging times, I realized that comfort clothing can help many people remain body positive and by wearing our kaftans be trendsetters too!”   

The Kaftan Company 

Once Prakruti was cleared by her doctors who told her she could move on, she didn’t waste any time. Her experience with the treatment hadn’t weakened her but in fact, had given her a whole new zest for life! She felt like she wanted to accomplish so much more and as a veritable force of nature, she (with the support of her husband and family) started Shibori Designs - a white-label manufacturing unit of finished apparel for other well-known national brands. 

After some time and learning the methods of design and production, Prakruti and her husband embarked on her dream to fulfill a void that was evident in the market - the need for stylish, comfortable fashion that can be worn on multiple occasions and in a variety of ways.  

Words of Wisdom for World Cancer Day 

It has been over a decade now since Prakruti was diagnosed, and since that initial trying time, she has used that experience to remain positive, build a business, raise two children and continue to enjoy her zeal for life with travel and continuous learning. 

Prakruti brings her experience and wisdom to say “World Cancer Day is a reminder of what has been for me a trying time, but also for many that are going through it now. I wish for all those affected by this to keep their spirits up, keep their loved ones nearby and never lose hope! At the end of every grey cloud is a silver lining and you must embrace each and every single day with immense gratitude and positivity!”.

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February 03, 2023 — Navin Rao