Artist, designer, entrepreneur. The first working woman in her family, in an industry that was barely recognized, she now runs an international fashion house. Her company today is valued at Rs. 600 cr. and she was recently named one of Indiaâ€™s most powerful businesswomen. Designing apparel that is affordable, beautiful and an exciting coming together of the modern and traditional, Anita Dongre is a woman at the top of her game.
Anita Dongre thinks itâ€™s her ability to wear many different hats. As a woman she is a mother, a housewife, the CEO of a company, a designer with three different labels, even an HR expert at times. So Iâ€™d say itâ€™s the ability to multi-task, to wear many hats and enjoy that. At the end of the day itâ€™s important you enjoy it.
“I would get completely, totally bored doing the same thing day after day. Part of the reason I do so many new things is so I donâ€™t get bored. I need to keep my life stimulating, exciting. Put myself to the test, every now and again. Iâ€™m not someone who enjoys complacency. You know that dangerous moment when you see something and think â€“ Oh my god, am I really going to be able to do that? Itâ€™s that excitement that drives me.”
When I started out, no one took me seriously. Designing itself as a profession was not taken seriously. Itâ€™s not like banking – full of suited, serious men! Fashion was new, and a woman in fashion designing, was simply unheard of. When I used to walk into an office, people would simply humour me, thinking, ‘Oh, sheâ€™s a fashion designer with one little boutique,’ never imagining that I wanted to be a really huge fashion house.
I always believed that. At 23, I knew I was going to have a really huge fashion label that was as big or better than any international fashion house. That was my dream. I would constantly read up on Armani and Ralph Lauren; their stories, how they started small and grew to huge fashion houses. And I thought if they can do it in the West, then I can do it here. More so here, because the industry was still taking off!
It was painfully slow. It tested my patience, and I am not a patient human being. But I stuck it out. I worked hard. Iâ€™ve also been lucky. I havenâ€™t faced much of what many women in the workplace have had to face.
And as a woman in India, we have a lot of family support. Thatâ€™s not something thatâ€™s as common in the West, and we shouldnâ€™t be afraid to lean on the support we have. If its wasnâ€™t for my mother and mother-in-law helping me out when my kids were youngâ€¦ I wouldnâ€™t have been able to it. I owe a lot to them (laughs). So Iâ€™d encourage women to use the support that’s available to them.
So try a few things, take a few months off and figure it out. Work in a fashion house for a few weeks, or sit in a psychologistâ€™s office and observe, if youâ€™re interested in psychology. A colleagueâ€™s daughter has been working with us two weeks to get a feel of what itâ€™s like in the fashion business. We have to encourage that. Our education system doesnâ€™t allow for it, but as parents we can fill that gap and support our kids find what it is they love to do.