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Entrepreneurship With A Conscience

Giving voice to her love for design and the desire to make a dent in the lives of women across India, she took the plunge and joined as head of Okhai.

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Kirti Poonia grew up watching her mother design clothes, which is what inculcated the love for handmade products and helped her develop a unique sense of fashion. An engineer by qualification, Poonia went on to establish her career in the private sector. As a part of the Tata Administrative Services (TAS) Poonia previously handled the function of 6 Tata companies. 

Giving voice to her love for design and the desire to make a dent in the lives of women across India, she took the plunge and joined as head of Okhai. Started with 350 women in Gujarat, today her brand is impacting 2,300 women artisans across the country. Presently, Okhai works in the digital space, by setting up its e-commerce and social media platforms.

However, Okhai was not given to Poonia on a silver platter. Given that it works on the empowerment model, funding and expansion was an issue, especially in the initial days. “Small businesses have small budgets. This was a huge challenge for us in the initial years, no RoI figure could be matched. We decided to use social media when no one was using it and hence it helped us reach customers for a much lower cost. We also designed and executed our campaigns inhouse. Which only helped us appear more authentic as a brand,” says Poonia. 

“Talent in the creative fields is a very tough thing to manage. What we have done is created a space and team people would like to work with. A brand that people would love to associate with, and this has created a huge influx of people wanting to work with us,” she adds.

The ability to attract funds, hire and retain talent, along with a crystal-clear strategy has helped Okhai overcome these challenges. 

Overcoming challenges is one thing, surviving is another. One of the key factors that determine the durability of a company is its work culture.  

Talking about the employee centric culture at Okhai, Poonia notes, “Our industry is used to having ‘yes sir’ teams that execute what’s told to them. But Okhai is built differently. They are able to think on their own and take decisions because we wait for the person to make their own decision, we enable them to think; we let them take the responsibility.” 

In the recent future the company plans to achieve Rs 50 crore in revenue by 2025, impact 1 lakh artisans in India by 2025, while advocating fair wages for Indian artisans and providing affordable and sustainable fashion for customers.

With the employees on board, Okhai is looking take it further at an accelerated pace. They also plan to enter the physical retail space — 10 stores while growing online and enter adjacent categories. 

They are also looking to expand in the maternity wear section, sustainable kids wear, Diwali and Holi specific products, emotion, and theme-based collections.