At just 21, I Vidhi Chandak had everything. Freshly graduated out of Manipal University, holding a Bachelors degree in Jewellery Design and Management, I landed herself in my first job in Reliance Jewellery. With an impressive salary and lots of opportunities for promotions in the near future, I was all set to establish for myself, a secure and comfortable lifestyle right in the heart of Bangalore.
Except that I didn’t really want to.
This feisty Taurean hailing from Rajasthan saw myself doing more than working at a highly renowned MNC.
Here’s my story.
I always wanted to be my own boss. Right from the time I was in college, I liked the whole deal of setting deadlines and work hours for myself. Even in my job, I could always see the tasks that needed to be done even before they were delegated to me, and I would start working towards them of my own volition. That’s when I knew that I had probably been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug sometime along the way.
But this wasn’t all. Jewellery had caught my attention from a very young age. I would find myself watching my mother involve herself with suppliers, working hard to come up with exquisite bijouterie for her own jewellery business. So unlike most girls my age, who love the glitz and glamour that comes along with wearing jewellery, I was always more interested in the creative process of design and technique involved in making something so beautiful. When someone gifted me a necklace, I would spend hours trying to figure out how it was made rather than actually wanting to wear it. That was what pushed me into studying jewellery design in the first place. So when I realized my work was more to do with management more than designing, I started losing interest.
People will probably find this extremely hard to believe, but while so many of us worry about the lack of security that comes along with entrepreneurism, that is exactly what I wanted to experience. Up until now, I didn’t even know what it’s like to feel worried about the future. I’ve been extremely lucky to have parents who worked relentlessly to ensure that both my sister and myself have every want and need fulfilled. But much against the wishes of my father who wanted me to go the traditional way and get myself a good job that would secure for me the kind of luxuries I was used to, growing up made me realize that chasing after my dreams would mean stepping out of my comfort zone. I knew I had it in me to do that. I just wasn’t sure if it was the right time.
After all those months of constant dilemmas and doubts, I remember waking up one morning, and breaking the news to my boss. I was so calm; I think I even surprised myself! And just like that, I knew I was ready to take the plunge. Kind of the same thing that happens with love, I guess!
Daamak was pretty much a one-woman show, being run by my mother Babita, who developed her skill and knowledge in the field of jewellery design, manufacture and supply over the last 12 years. Under her guidance and leadership, Daamak grew into a brand that established for itself a small, but loyal customer base in countries like the United States, Canada and Singapore.
A lot of people talk about Marwaris being born for business, but now that I think back, I do believe that on some subconscious level, without me even realizing it; my mother became my role model. The more I saw her work hard to build Daamak, the bigger my personal vision for Daamak grew. I wanted Daamak to expand beyond Rajasthan and go national. I wanted to introduce styles that dared to break away from the mainstream, run of the mill designs.
The goal was crystal clear, but the journey is what frightened me quite a bit back then. To begin with, I had only theoretical knowledge, so I knew I had to hire people to whom I could delegate those things that weren’t my strengths. And then of course, there was the inevitable risk of making losses, staring me in the face, which seemed terrifying because I wasn’t getting those paychecks I was so used to, and probably wouldn’t even be getting for a very long time! Because we were still pretty much a startup, our logistical costs were rather a little too heavy for us to bear. We didn’t even have large orders to bring us the required funds needed to bear the necessary expenses.
So I did what probably all entrepreneurs do. I followed my intuitions and started from the scratch, right from restructuring our Facebook page to building a website that would make Daamak easily accessible to customers all across India. Eventually along the way, we started signing up the local women of Banswara and employed them as permanent jewellery makers. We participated in Bangalore’s grand flea market tradition- Soul Santhe which attracted quite a lot of attention from other startups and entrepreneurs. We introduced brand new collections like The Hot Chick collection, which aims at giving young girls a chance to wear stunning fashion-forward statement jewelry at affordable prices. Slowly, but steadily, people started recognizing Daamak and was soon invited by numerous jewellery and fashion websites to display and advertise its products. Today, we can proudly boast of a remarkable increase in happy customers by about 60%, along with a rise in our profit margins by a delightful 40%.
Realizing our strengths and knowing how to tap them can be a lifesaver. Neither my mother nor I had much experience as individuals. But then we realized that if we combined her practical knowledge, and my theory based ideas, we could actually make a great team.
I think I can honestly say that Daamak has taught me so much more than any other job could’ve possibly taught me. I’ve had some fabulous moments like that one unforgettable time I actually sat next to Kalki Koechlin and had a quick heart to heart talk with her. And ofcourse, there is no greater pleasure than knowing that’s it’s not just your brand that’s growing, it’s also you who grows along with it, as a person.
I still do have a long way to go- I’m just a year old as an entrepreneur. But as my advice to those looking to build dreams out of nothing, I’ll just quote Mark Cuban. ‘Work like there is someone working 24 hours to take it away from you,’ It is indeed a world of survival of the fittest, and you cannot afford to let your guard down even for once.
A lot of people also ask me if it’s true what they say about jewellery- that it takes people’s minds off wrinkles. Personally, I would like to think there’s a lot more to jewellery than that. What pieces you wear and how you wear them is nothing but an expression of your individual style and helps make you stand out and get noticed for the woman one really is. But yes, if worn fabulously, it can do that too!