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 joumey, 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.

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.

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,

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.

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.

I wanted to do something different. Nightwears can be interesting too. So, we started a vibrant digital print for nightwear. This is what made us stand out in the market competition. Staying up with the trend, we have been a sustainable brand.

For three years we did that and people started recognising our brand. The best part was we started getting orders for bulk manufacturing for private companies. Within no time, we be- gan working with big companies. For the next five years, we did their production. It started getting quite unexciting for me. It was monot- onous-it was an order and supply job. There was no creativity from our end and my heart yearned for more. I was wondering what kind of brands we can start in garments. That's when I thought about Kaftan Company in 2016. That was something I loved as a garment. And when I was going through my treatment, my oncol- ogist always asked me to wear loose clothes. Tight clothes anyway aren't good for the body. Back then, there were no kaftans in the market. I thought it would be fun and challenging. But, I was sure that we will get through. Kaftan Com- pany began its journey, but we were still man- aging Shibumi Fashion too. We did not give that up. That's always a risk-we needed to mitigate that risk and see that our employees got paid. My husband took care of the manufacturing. And I continued with the Kaftan Company.

The next step Kaftan Company was an online brand. Soon we launched it on other online shopping portals like Ajio, Jabong, Amazon, Myntra etc. Eventually, now we are available everywhere. The company

aims to provide global buyers with the widest range of loungewear and kaftans through de- sign innovations, and adherence to sustainable practices. Our growth can be attributed to in- novation and the great customer experience provided by our Kaftans. The first three years were challenging. As people did not even un- derstand the product. Some people related to it as what grandmoms wore at night. It was night- wear, so they never bothered it should still look good. The prints were not vibrant. I wanted to do something different. Nightwears can be inter- esting too. So, we started a vibrant digital print for nightwear. This is what made us stand out in the market competition. Staying up with the trend, we have been a sustainable brand. And our production is completely organic. The Kaf- tan Company uses digital printing and natural fabrics to reduce waste generation and the over- all carbon footprint of the manufacturing pro- cess. There is zero wastage. It is an end-to-end garment house. We recycle even the smallest of waste of the fabric. Second, part of the sustain- ability is the kind of fabric you use-80 per cent of our fabric is made using cotton and sustain- able material. As a brand, you've to be conscious of these things.

Sassy designs We take inspiration from the Paris and New York runway for what's coming un. Our creative team figures out the print we want to de- velop. We have a designer who works only on prints. We had just launched a line-up called Alpha-diva, a corporate clothing line. Owing to Covid pandemic we had to discontinue the brand. We focused on comfort. It was a clothing line that did not constraint the person's move- ments. We are into subtle but happy colours. Such things brighten your mood and in turn your productivity. The fabric was flowy and comfort and style were our priorities. CC: Any fashion tips for the corporates? Wear what you feel comfortable in. Don't follow the norms. If you like something - go for it and make a style statement for sure. CC: When not working what keeps you oc- cupied? I love spending time with my children Sanmay and Vismany. The moment I'm free, I plan some activities with my boys. That's the most import- ant thing for me. When you have a business you rarely get time. I love to travel as well, whenever I get time.

CC Tips for entrepreneurs? Hon a never give up attitude. Life keeps on changing, there's no guarantee of anything hence you ought to have patience and you should believe in yourself. Success takes time, meanwhile, life goes on. Embrace whatever it offers, and move with a lot of happiness, posi tivity, and confidence. CC: What's your philosophy in life? Just keep on going, life isn't about finding your self, it's about creating yourself. The thing you can control is yourself. (okta.katti@corporatecitizen.)

Publication : Corporate Citizen 

Author : Ekta Katti

Source :

November 17, 2023 — Corporate citizen | Ekta Katti

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