Gauri Malik’s craft brand, is enabling Indian women by utilizing their traditional textile expertise to transform waste into fashionable products. Through its design accolades and economic empowerment of women, Sirohi has gained recognition. Malik's vision is to establish Sirohi as a worldwide design brand.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family?
As an “obedient Indian daughter”, my career was set upon a traditional path - a good education, a prestigious university, and a respectable career in banking and consultancy. But really, I was clueless about what I wanted to do. Sent away to boarding school at the age of six to avoid high levels of crime in my hometown, I became fiercely independent and non-conformist.
Have you had any formal training or family business?
I volunteered for a micro-credit organization in a small town almost 10 hours from Lima. I was 20, and it was my first time abroad and it really opened my horizons. I had found my inspiration. I saw people from different countries and ages working together - it helped open my eyes to more than a degree in finance and a career in banking. It was an exciting time, and very different from my education in India.
Tell us about your venture and what inspired you to take this challenge, and get started?
Girls in some parts of India still get married in their early teens - and this breaks my heart. When I witnessed two girls from a rural community married at 13 and 15, I was devastated to be unable to stop the weddings. I saw the girls crying and I realized what was going on. That’s when I knew I wanted to help women change their lives.
What has been your proudest moment?
I’m probably proudest of my mother, who after years of being a homemaker, has started working with Sirohi, managing and coordinating the leaders of the small craft communities. To see her empowered and earning her own money - that confidence is so infectious. She’s even inspired far-flung members of our family to do something for themselves too.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced as an entrepreneur?
For a young brand like Sirohi, every day there is a challenge in hand to deal with. But the best part is overcoming those stumbling blocks. From a brand’s perspective, at the end of the day, we are selling products. It would really be tough to run at a place like Muzaffarnagar, where everyone who has a decent skill set either runs to Delhi or the nearest cosmopolitan to get a job. We have very limited support here from some people who have a basic level of English proficiency with a decent professional background or good work experience. Even most of these people have gone to the city. Because of that, we have to change even our own staff to make sure that they're able to comply with market-level quality controls and compliances. However, this has been a major challenge so far.
Other than that, during the initial stages of being a not-for-profit, we faced issues with funding. I started my first initiative with INR 30,000 in my bank, which I used to train women, mobilize capacity building, and then started generating revenue from the sales.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting out?
Stop thinking and start doing! Do something where you can make a difference to your life that will eventually impact millions of others.
Given a chance would you alter any of your life decisions?
Nothing at all! I'm grateful for everything I have received in the form of my family, my education, and my work and I wouldn't have it any other way.
What’s coming up Sirohi?
Sirohi is a very strong brand with sustainable values that makes beautiful products, and each product from us has a very strong story to tell. If we could make a small iota or a figment of their imagination come alive, it would be amazing for us. And plus, making products that are extremely amazing, beautiful, and have a strong story to tell. I want to create more income opportunities for women who never ever imagine a life beyond household chores and make people’s dreams come true.
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Hope you enjoyed reading Gauri's incredible story. Follow her on LinkedIn here.