Text by Bhumika Vikam
The fashion industry, especially for women, has always enjoyed the top position; so much so, that the term ‘lifestyle’ is nowadays generalised for nothing else but women’s fashion. And when it comes to Indian women, sarees and suits always seem to top the list.
No matter how much we Indians modernise, but the true beauty of Indian women is always with a saree or a salwar suit. We met Sunita Mundra, a 41-year-old entrepreneur who is the founder of Muskan Collection. The Lifestyle Portal is happy to share the entrepreneurial journey of this Masters in Literature who has carved her way into the boutique industry.
How did it all begin?
As an independent child in her childhood days, she would enjoy teaching, doing artistic things and paying her school fees by taking tuitions. This started the little spark of being determined and starting early with life in her. She even made her way to fashion designing during her college days. Once married, Sunita got busy with her married life where her life revolved around her husband and children. However, it was when both her children opted for residential schools in other cities, that she got some spare time for herself. Sunita first certified herself as a career counsellor and then as an unexpected opportunity came in, Sunita got her wings and her dream to always be financially independent flourished.
“Being aware of my choice of dress material that I used to source and my flair for designing, Geeta – who used to stitch and design my dresses, came with a business proposal. She requested me to invest in some dress materials and she would sell it to her clients. Initially, we started out with 10 dress materials sourced from Rajasthan and began this new journey during the auspicious period of Navratri in 2014.” recollects Sunita.
Slowly, even though the market was slow post-Diwali, Sunita conducted an exhibition at her house which received a pretty good response. Jharokha Art Gallery, in Thakur Village, Kandivali East, was her next stepping stone where she exhibited her collection for the first time under the name ‘Muskan Collection’. Another exhibition at Spring Leaf Society in Lokhandwala Township, Akurli, gave a boost to her pleasure for the work and her confidence level; and since then there was no turning back.
The initial investment was Rs.10,000 which soon got replenished as more responses flooded in. The investment rose to over one lac in no time. Sunita adds, “Indian fashion is versatile which changes dynamically with many factors. While conducting exhibitions and having interactions with different customers I started understanding their choices, range and requirements. To meet the varied requirements, I had to scale up my inventory and build my catalogue consisting of various products like Unstitched and Semi Stitched fabric/ Ready to wear Gowns/ Kurtis / Palazzos/ Pants/ Skirts/ Jackets/ Dupattas and so on. To diversify my business I started displaying my products through social media platforms and started selling online. Through social media and my exhibitions, I started getting resellers – both online and offline. Now I have got a good team of resellers.”
Like any other successful person, even Sunita faced challenges. She remembers, how she juggled between different roles from being a wife handling household chores, a mother of two kids studying in two different cities, to taking tuitions, being committed to ‘Muskan Collection’ and other social commitments as well.
Sunita says, “I had no previous experience of running a business. I never had any temperament of a salesperson. It was a bumpy ride for starting an entrepreneurial venture. It has been a good learning experience along with being quite challenging. At each step there were challenges as I had to manage everything on my own from sourcing of the right materials, dealing with suppliers – across India, handling logistics, tracking purchase and sale, to identifying events, travelling across Mumbai with the stock for conducting exhibitions, managing resellers including local as well online, identifying new avenues and new resellers for increasing sales, managing the bank work, inventory and lastly handling customers complaints.” Pheww, a lot of work!
What makes Muskan Collection unique?
“It is a tough, competitive and dynamic market with so many brands, designs and options available to the customer both online as well as offline. I put in constant effort from my side to be unique and better than others so that the customers get value for their money and appreciation for their selection of apparels. Few factors which I feel make Muskan Collection unique are the quality of material and fabric we provide at reasonable pricing, the unique designs we have, the way we handle customers and cater to their requirements and providing home delivery service if required,” adds Sunita.
Muskan collection has a range of products within the price range of Rs.500 to Rs. 3500. To list a few of them:
- Hand blocked natural dyed cotton products from Jaipur and Ahmedabad
- Fancy collection of stylish gowns and kurtis from Kolkatta
- Ready to wear regular kurtis from some brands
- Different materials and prints like Kalamkari/ Indigo/ Ikkat, Banarasi weaving, Phulkari and Lucknowi Chikankari
- Unstitched/ Semi Stitched fabrics
- Ready to wear Gowns/ Kurtis
- Palazzos/ Skirts/ Pants/ Shorts
- Jackets/ Dupattas/Stolls
Difficulties dealing with customers, suppliers etc
According to Sunita, “Selling is a bigger skill as one has to convince customers for buying your collection of designs and material. There are different types of customers in terms of varied sizes, preferences, tastes, culture and more importantly the ‘need’ an occasion for buying a particular product. It requires a good amount of skill to identify the specific needs of the customer and to convince that the product suits their requirement. I am constantly learning and trying to master the art of selling the right thing to the right customer. My patience and handling of customers are put to test as all customers don’t necessarily buy the materials they try. A customer will buy only when they are fully convinced and this is understandable.”
She further adds, “Right sourcing is an art, but it comes with a huge responsibility as you need to ensure that the supplier is giving me the best quality product with unique designs and at a fair price as this will, in turn, determine its final sale price and how quickly it will go off the shelf.
Some manufacturers from the rural backgrounds don’t follow the professional systems and sometimes it lands us in an awkward situation which is beyond our control, leading to delayed delivery and having to arrange a pick up from other location. Occasionally there are price variations of the same material we had bought before, which we realise later and it becomes tough to sell them.
Muskan Collection has exhibitions held across Mumbai for almost 10 to 12 days every month at various art galleries, events, clubs at housing societies and corporate offices.
“We have been regularly booking the same art gallery to exhibit our products and we intimate our regular customers with messages about our dates of exhibition and group of exhibitors planning to display their products at the event. We get repeat customers each and every time, instilling confidence in our service and quality.” smiles Sunita.
The name Muskan Collection
Sunita smiles as she mentions, “MUSKAN is the name of our first child. When she arrived into the family, she filled the family with joy. When we bought our first home, we named her “Muskan”. Everything has been joyful ever since. Being very emotionally attached to her, I could best think of the brand name as “Muskan Collection” when I started my first venture.
Sunita proudly says, “My aim is to create a brand name for “Muskan Collection”; being on top of the mind of my customers for providing unique designs at that too at reasonable pricing. I am targeting to build the business online as well as through offline mode at a steady pace fulfilling the customer needs who have and must continue to have that smile on their face when they buy from my collection.”