Entrepreneurship is about building patience, resilience, partnership, trust and effective communication and so is a relationship. In that sense, entering into a business with a life partner seems like the best choice for an entrepreneur. And even as this age old cliché suggests that one should not mix business with pleasure, a number of couple-preneurs are thriving, creating extraordinary businesses and are balancing the professional and personal life with utmost ease.
While the concept is not new, it has recently become a trend that’s on the rise and there are a number of power couples emerging in various segments who are beating the odds and successfully running a business together. While this sounds great, it’s never to say that it’s easy. It takes a lot of work, especially if both the partners have strong personalities.The couple entrepreneurs have to find a balance between their personal and professional life which intertwines at some point sooner or later. After all, not all couple-preneurs can be Melinda and Bill Gates.
Couple entrepreneurs are supported by statistics according to which one-third of the total family-owned businesses are owned and operated by married couples. While there are innumerable challenges of working together, it can also help the growth of your entrepreneurial venture as also your growth as a couple. Married couples today have found the way to put both their creative minds together to generate some highly innovative ideas. And we are rounding up on some of India’s commendable entrepreneur couples in the apparel and textile segment who have created great businesses for the fraternity to look up to.
Nidhi Yadav and Satpal Yadav – AKS Clothing
Meeting on Tinder or any other dating sites is one thing and meeting on LinkedIn is an altogether different story. For AKS Clothing’s Nidhi and Satpal Yadav, it started with their conversations on LinkedIn, their outlooks aligned and it gradually evolved into a relationship and the duo got married in 2012.
Nidhi Yadav avers, “We share the same vision for the company and trust each other’s discretion when it comes to making important decisions. After my stint at Deloitte in Hyderabad, I decided to apply for Polimoda, a fashion school in Florence, Italy. I studied commercial fashion there and once I came back to India, I made up my mind to start my own brand.”
When working with your spouse, maintaining a good level of communication and understanding is the key to a sorted life and Satpal couldn’t agree more. He maintains, “Since we were a couple before we became entrepreneurs, we have an amazing understanding. Usually, once the money gets involved, conflicts start occurring between the couples. This is why respecting each other’s decision is secondary and trusting each other is of prime importance. For us, it’s like an opportunity to spend time together. We work together, eat together, laugh and grow together. We can support each other physically and mentally. We can deal with our problems together as a team. It gives us an opportunity to be with each other always through thick and thin and celebrate our achievements together.”
AKS Clothing registered a revenue of Rs.100 crore within five years of its inception and created more than 2000 jobs in the market. The duo is expecting to achieve the target of Rs.1000 crore in the next three years.
Mohita Indrayan and Manu Indrayan – 612 League
Manu Indrayan and Mohita Indrayan had never planned to start their own brand but they took the invigorating walk down the entrepreneurial aisle when they realised a gap in the branded kidswear segment and decided to take up the opportunity.
Mohita Indrayan reminisces, “The idea of 612 League came about when we were looking to buy clothes for our children who were still in that transition window between ‘not kids’ and ‘not yet pre-teens’. This is when it struck us that there’s no apparel brand targeting this segment in India. As business management graduates, we spotted this business opportunity and decided to launch the first Indian brand for pre-teens in the country. Over a course of time, we also found our skill sets complementary in handling a branded apparel venture and things started working out for us.”
While Mohita is trained in apparel merchandising and is a marketing professional, Manu is a business management professional with a thorough understanding of establishing and managing a manufacturing business.
At 612 League, Mohita looks after the creative aspects, that is, conceptualisation, design and development, marketing campaigns, etc., and Manu is incharge of production, sales, finances, accounting, among other things. Even as this couple had the perfectly complementing skillset to make a venture like 612 League work, it was never less scary for them.
“What helped us was that we had each other’s back.Like any other start-up, our journey witnessed a fair share of hiccups and setbacks. Because we started off as a bootstrapped venture, we also had to use our resources very judiciously. So, we started small and weren’t scared to get our hands dirty. We were met with cynicism and challenges at every step of the way. Meanwhile, our family life had taken a backseat too. Because both of us were wholeheartedly focused on the new venture, our children, the very reason for our starting this brand, often had to deal with our long absences. Thankfully, our family and friends chipped in to babysit, but what kept us going was the belief that things would change for the better,” tells Manu.
And even as this sounds quite interesting, this power couple sure agrees it comes with its share of challenges – there is switch off to work and it definitely is not restricted to outside of the home. The duo however prefer looking at the sunny side. “We feel there are tremendous advantages of entering into a business with your spouse – there is mutual trust and confidence, greater respect for each other’s time and this helps emotionally connect with each other to a great extent, there is constant encouragement, and there is always a scope to sneak in that ‘together time’ during our work trips,” the Indrayans conclude. Today, 612 League is an established kidswear brand in the online and offline space, selling pan-India and the brand has also raised a PE Capital funding.
Sumedha Jain and Akhil Duggar Jain – Madame
This love cum business partnership started very traditionally. Akhil Duggar Jain met Sumedha Jain through a traditional set-up where families were involved in the match-making. While Akhil joined the family-owned business after finishing college, Sumedha became a part of the company later and the duo led to the growth of the company and their professional and personal relationship, together.
“We are quite flexible when it comes to the work culture of the company. While individually we do have defined spheres of roles, professional aims and objectives, we invest a lot of time together in planning and execution as well. Having flexible approach within prescribed boundaries is very important when the aim is to grow the business and build on the legacy. We have come a long way in learning new things and trying different ways to expand the business. One of our major accomplishments is the setting up of the company’s biggest manufacturing plant and various distribution channels. We have been successful in positioning our brand as the topmost apparel brand nationally,” maintains Akhil.
While Madame is part of the family-owned Jain Amar Clothing Pvt Ltd, it’s never to say that there have not been obstacles and hindrances for this couple. Sumedha asserts, “It gets a little overwhelming if you don’t leave things back at work. We make it a point to not discuss work at home so that it doesn’t get monotonous for both of us. Maintaining that balance between the work and personal life is of utmost importance. Currently with the ongoing pandemic, we are working together to safeguard the future of the business and focusing on international markets to widen our horizons. All efforts right now are towards reducing negative balance sheets and its subsequent consequences on employees and business.”
Sarah Gonsalves and Sandeep Gonsalves – Sarah & Sandeep
When you are working together, there might be a risk of everything becoming about work and so it sometimes gets important for couple entrepreneurs to draw lines between work and personal space. Sarah Gonsalves and Sandeep Gonsalves realised this early on when they started their eponymous label, Sarah & Sandeep. This entrepreneur couple started their venture to offer the best bespoke service to the discerning Indians.
“We realised that there was a very incomplete understanding of bespoke tailoring amongst Indian shoppers. We spent months in England and Italy just researching and learning the art of bespoke tailoring from some of the most established craftsmen in the world. Prior to the launch of our brand, we thought it would be best to add a design forward approach to the bespoke tailoring aspect and that has worked extremely well for us. The fact that we were able to launch our 3500 sq.ft studio in Khar West and sustain that store while the country was on lockdown, in my opinion, is a great homage to our working relationship. The best however, is yet to come,” prides Sandeep.
This power couple believes in keeping their professional and personal life separate and quite organised. While Sandeep’s role involves the design and promotion of the styles, Sarah manages production and manufacturing of the garments and the operations for the flagship store and workshop.
“Whenever we need to work on projects together, we make sure that our tasks are well-defined. When faced with contradicting opinions, we involve the departments and discuss the issue with them as transparently as possible. This way, we are able to keep personal opinions aside and focus on the crux of the matter at hand. We keep strict professional relationship in the workplace and our focus remains primarily on critical thinking and brand management,” Sarah informs.
Sandeep Kapoor and Sheetal Kapoor, Shree – The Indian Avatar
While many of these businesses were initially started by couples, Sandeep Kapoor and Sheetal Kapoor from Shree – The Indian Avatar took the plunge after almost 20 years of their wedded life. Sheetal was a housewife before 2008 who would spend her time running her home in Delhi, caring for her husband and two children and only stepped into the business when her children grew up and went off abroad for higher studies.
Sandeep tells, “Sheetal was a hands-down homemaker and it was only after our children started out on their own, she decided to join me at work. From skilling the business to envisioning a broader future, she had lots of thoughts in her mind that actually helped us grow.Seeing her curiosity, focused mindset and stronger understanding of promotional activities, we thought of starting our own brand. At the time, I was already building brands for other retailers. After we decided to launch our own brand, and the plan was ready on our table, we moved towards it leaving other things behind. We started selling our own products internationally through eBay and Amazon.”
As the husband-wife duo moved forward together, Shree grew as well with their relationship. However, there were rough times as well which they passed through with their mutual understanding and support.
Sheetal says, “Even under the best of circumstances, we might not agree on certain decisions, but there is so much love and respect amongst us that we are always looking out for each other while ensuring the company’s interest. From not making significant business decisions unilaterally to not criticising each other in public, we realise the importance of this partnership. We work extremely hard towards our shared vision, values and mission. We have defined areas of work. I am involved in product marketing and retailing and Sandeep manages the sourcing, finance and other aspects of the business. While it’s motivating and there is more reliability and confidence when your life partner is your business partner, I feel couples don’t know where to draw the line and they end up mixing work and home which creates havoc. Couples need to take out time for each other and keep business conversations on hold at home.”
Even as the ongoing pandemic severely affected the brand and the entire industry, Sandeep and Sheetal have been extremely reactive and working towards ensuring the safety of their employees and customers at stores. The duo used the lockdown duration to train their employees, restructure the company, rationalise fixed costs and repurpose inventory for future sales.