On day 5 this Navararti, we profile Vaishali Vaishnav who started her entrepreneurial journey in the fashion business after having her first kid. While recalling her journey, she mentions how the traditional patriarchy mindset that’s rooted in India is a major hurdle to any woman who dares to dream big. 

The Beginnings….

Born in Bhuj (Kutch), Vaishali completed her bachelors in English literatature and later decided to foray into the field of Fashion Designing. She promptly identified how there is a huge demand for handicrafts products by artisans of Kutch. Interested in keeping the rural traditions and artisan’s skills alive, she started working with them in in late 2000. And just when she started this, within next few months Kutch experienced a massive earthquake.  Things changed quickly after that… as she says, “when reality strikes, you don’t have any options.” She started from scratch again, with a purpose again…working for a local NGO where they were training women in designing and doing embroidery work. It was aimed at uplifting women from tribal areas of Kutch. And then, gradually, she started taking projects for corporates, most of which came from abroad. Later she began working full-time with corporates wherein she took a job with a garment export company in Kandla FTZ.

She recalls, “I come from a family holding a patriarchal mindset, I came to realize that unless and until you are not independent, your voice won’t be heard.” Perhaps, this is the reason why she says “I didn’t think about getting again into fashion because restarting and creating your label needs a lot of investment. So I started working with companies into Admin & HR role which became my forte. My last job was with ICICI Lombard as a Branch Service Manager at Bhuj.” Post which she got married and left her job.  And soon after having a baby, she started her entrepreneurial journey. So she says “I started my entrepreneurial journey after having a baby, from my home itself.”

Initially based in Mumbai, she and her husband shifted to Ahmedabad in 2013 where they started from scratch and now she runs a business with him. She also founded and runs a women entrepreneurs’ community called ‘multitasking mommies’. She says, “There are a lot of ups and downs as a mother where you lose confidence that you once had when working with corporates. And starting something of your own involves risk. So mothers need a push. I started this community on Facebook with a thought to inspire other mothers so that they don’t have to go through what I went through all alone.”

Overcoming the challenge

When we asked Vaishali about the biggest challenge that she had to overcome, she says “Fighting with the patriarchal mindset which my father had. And he always used to think that being a woman I can’t do certain things. It took me a lot of hardwork, pain and time to make him understand….I had to prove that I can do anything in a better way.”

And she questions that if it took so long to convince her father about this, changing the nations’ mindset on women is certainly an uphill task collectively for the women of India. It was only after she got married and carried out business and family responsibilities her father realized and said: “You stood by us like a son”. 

On Women Contributing to Society

Vaishali proudly emphasises that “women are everywhere, in every field. And once they take up any task positively (being a mother, a family member or as a professional) women can complete the task in a much inspiring manner, leaving examples for others to follow.” She acknowledges that women have to fight a lot of odds, be it an urban or a rural woman in terms of getting accepted by people and society seriously, who notices their contribution. And the key to overcoming the social and professional hurdles by women, she says, is “is your determination and ‘I can do it attitude’ which can help you overcome anything. A Woman should not think she can’t do something just because she is a woman and accept the situation by succumbing to it.”

Eureka Moment in Vaishali’s Life

When speaking about the Eureka moment in her life, she recalls one of the college competition based on the psychological and social aspect of clothing. Back in college days, she recalls “I was a healthy girl and was body shamed by the other students who’d tell me that I may not find a good partner if I don’t reduce my weight. I was very low on confidence because of my body.”

But, in that competition, Vaishali recalls “Though there were many girls who were quite like some models, I was chosen as a winner. This took me to surprise.” She credits her teacher who made her realize that the dressing sense matter regardless of the bodyweight. And she was also told by her teacher that “don’t think you are not beautiful. You are beautiful from within.” That was certainly a Eureka moment for her as she realized that other outer stuff does not matter. It was after that moment she gained confidence in life.

Important Lesson in Life

One of the most crucial lessons she learnt in her life was related to people “who pokes you and are there to put you down. Don’t react. It can be your loved ones, your family member(s) or your friends. JUST DO NOT REACT.” She insists that women should ignore thoughts and words behind which put them in a challenging situation unnecessarily. Instead, she insists on moving ahead towards a greater goal. 

Message for Women

While winding up the questions we had for her, we asked if she has any message for women. She inspires women by saying “Have I can do it attitude and love yourself because that will give you the confidence to turn your dreams to reality.” And she adds that it is also important even after achieving your dreams, “stay grounded and connected to your routes.” She concludes by quoting one of the most inspirational teachers who once said, “Be good. Do Good. And things will follow.”