Sheetal Kapoor she got married in her twenties and spent the next 20 years as a devoted housewife. After selflessly fulfilling her responsibilities towards her family, Sheetal felt that she wanted to do something more in life. Although Sheetal did not have any business background, she had strong business acumen.
It was about the beginning 2000 when India was opening up to the world of e-commerce and the market for the ready-to-wear segment was shrinking.
Sheetal and her husband Sandeep, who was into garment manufacturing for retailers, saw a gap in the ethnic wear segment for Indian women and launched ‘Shree’ in Delhi in 2010 under the parent company SHR Lifestyle Pvt Ltd
And so began Sheetal’s venture into entrepreneurship at the age of 40.
After seeing a growing demand for tailored everyday Indian ethnic wear, the couple decided to explore the foreign market.
I’m talking to HerStory, she says, “In 2010, there were hardly any options for women in ready-to-wear everyday ethnic wear. And in India, the ready-to-wear market was still in its infancy. Sandeep had good experience working as an OEM for apparels for Reliance, Future Group, etc., so we decided to foray into the international online space as there was huge demand coming from that part of the world.”
However, Sheetal’s journey has not been easy. She says, “mere ko laptop chalana bhi nahi aata tha (I didn’t know how to work on a laptop).” But today she and her husband have built a global brand with a turnover of Rs 40 crore, with more than 100 stores across India and Dubai, employing more than 350 people.
Increasing brand reach
While the couple was building their own brand, going directly to retail stores was quite a risk as the ready-to-wear ethnic wear market was still in its infancy in the country and online shopping had not yet taken off in India. In 2010, to start their journey, they listed their brand on eBay and started their business abroad.
Business took off quite well for the couple as they expanded Shree’s reach from the UK to the US, Europe and many other countries over the next five years.
At that time, Shree had a good customer base and the founders decided to bring the brand to the Indian audience and launched Shree’s first offline store in Delhi in 2015.
“It was a 250 square foot store where I personally attended to every customer. I understood their wishes and requirements and we tried to curate clothes according to their needs. You see, the female body type in India is very different from that of women in the US, UK or any other country. I worked with my team of designers in the initial days and Sandeep designed on his own, and so we got a lot of praise from our customers, says Sheetal.
One thing led to another, and within three years of operating in India, Sheetal and Sandeep had opened 10 stores, most of them in Delhi. In 2019, the company secured funding of Rs 80 crore from Mumbai-based private equity firm Alpha Capital.
By 2021, Shree has crossed the 100-store mark and expanded to Dubai with three brick-and-mortar stores showcasing kurtis, kurtas, salwar kameez, tunics, leggings, etc., ranging in price from Rs 500 and Rs 2,999.
Sheetal says the Indian market welcomed Shree with open arms and they shifted their focus to expanding with offline stores and started targeting India and Dubai.
According to Statista, the women’s ethnic wear market across India was approximately $17 billion in FY2020 and is estimated to cross $24 billion by 2025.
Highlighting the future prospects, Sheetal says that the transition over A mark of 100 actions has been a turning point, and they are gradually expanding their footprint not only in India but also in the offline retail space globally, targeting 500 stores in the next three to four years.
The company, which competes with brands that dominate the Indian ethnic wear market such as Global Desi, W, Aurelia, Mustard, etc., says it is not looking to raise any funds in the near future.
Talking about how Shree stands out from the competition, Sheetal says, “we don’t compare ourselves to any other brand, but we walk with them.”
“Every woman must know that no one can stop her from achieving her dreams. They just need to step up and be confident,” says Sheetal advising women entrepreneurs.