Successful Story of Lekhinee Desai
Lekhinee Desai shares her story on how she started a business when she was still in college and made it into a 10-crore success story. In less than 10 years!
Think beautiful Chanderi sarees, hand-painted Kalamkari pallus and artistic Bandhej dupattas, and soft cotton summer dresses….and that is what The Indian Ethnic Co is all about.
To describe simply, The Indian Ethnic Co is an online platform that promotes and sells beautiful handmade clothing and handicrafts online.
Today, we speak to the girl behind this venture – Lekhinee Desai.
Thank you, Lekhinee, for agreeing to speak to us. And congratulations on The Indian Ethnic Co being such a great success! Before we go ahead, can you tell us about The Indian Ethnic Co – how it all started?
I come from a middle-class family. We are not a business family. I am also a dancer. I have learned Odissi. Starting my own business was not something that I had planned initially.
My sister and I always wore clothes which our mother designed. We never liked what was available in the market. Most of the time, the designs did not match our taste. And the ones we liked were very costly.
So, mom always designed our clothes and got them stitched from a local tailor.
We had gone to a handloom exhibition, my mother and me. That's where the idea of designing beautiful clothing from Indian textiles struck us.
We invested all our savings – around 50,000 and started The Indian Ethnic Co.
Tell us about the first few days of The Indian Ethnic Co.
I was studying in college when we started this business. We didn't have big budgets then – to hire professional models to advertise our creations, rent an office space or hire people. But I knew this business had potential.
My first model was my sister. We made her try the dresses, clicked pictures, and posted them online. Being an online setup helped us a lot. We were able to respond to customers quickly. Online marketing has a huge role to play in our success.
The bedroom was our office. My mom was our designer. And I was in charge of marketing, responding to customers, etc.
That's it. The initial team was me, my mother, and my sister.
But I knew this business had potential. Our first design – we sold it overnight.
What about advertisements? You used social media.
We followed a different advertising approach. Advertising via social media – Facebook, Instagram, etc.
I am a trained Odissi dancer. To advertise our products, we danced to different songs – many times using Odissi as a base.
The idea was to showcase our products but in a different manner.
And your idea paid off. I have heard that The Indian Ethnic Co is now a case study on advertising using social media.
Yes. Instagram and Facebook use us as a case study. Give our example on how to use social media effectively.
There are also a lot of free online courses on Social Media Marketing on this site which you can check out to know how you too can use the power of Social Media to your advantage.
From a 50,000 investment, you have grown to a 10-crore revenue-making business. That's fantastic. So, do you still operate out of that one-bedroom in your flat?
We have three offices now. And easily sell around 3000 clothes in a month. We have now hired people.
What were the challenges that you had to face while establishing this business?
The first was the decision to start this business. As I said, I do not come from a business family. We were always taught to value things in life.
Even with clothes, if my mom stitched a kurta for me, the rest of the cloth would be used to stitch a skirt for my sister. So, investing 50,000 in business was not exactly a small amount for us.
I was in college when we started. I used to look at Marketing and Customer service.
Answering a customer's question promptly is important. So even while attending lectures, I used to be on my phone simultaneously. Managing clients.
After my MBA, I got a job with ITC in Chennai. My family was in Mumbai, and I was a trainee with ITC in Chennai. I had to prove myself there too. 11 months I was away from family. In Chennai. Handling both – the business as well as my job.
It was not easy. But giving up was never an option. This is something that my parents taught me at an early age.
Then I took the difficult decision to devote myself to the business full time. It was a risk. But it paid off.
You were so young when you started. Even now, you are not even 40 yet. Was that a problem?
Sometimes, the staff and the artisans have an issue. A young girl asking them questions and explanations. It was difficult at first. I didn't like asking difficult questions to people. Now I have learned. I take charge. I ask questions. Request for answers – politely but firmly.
You also faced some criticism for your dancing, right?
Yes. Some criticized me – How can the owner of the company dance to show her collection. But our decision paid off. We are used as a case study by Facebook and Instagram today.
Social media marketing is the new-age way to advertise today. There are many like Lekhinee who are keen to use it for business. There are also a lot of free online courses on Social Media Marketing on this site which you can check out to know how you too can use the power of Social Media to your advantage.