Keeping Alive, the Human Element in the fast-paced Digital Age

Shilpa Bhatia, Founder, Director of Marketing & Business Development – The Clothing Rental, Mumbai Pvt Ltd

Shilpa started out studying fashion in Mumbai, SNDT and then Parsons New York, in 1998. She started out as a stylist for TV commercials, films and press campaigns. In 2005 she went for a short course in Fashion at Istituto Europa Di Design, Milan.

Once she returned, she noticed how Milan had fine fashion and we in India lacked great quality merchandise and if we found the merchandise it was often priced very high (attainable by only very few). She noticed that this trend would continue, where quality would cost more. However she decided to try a different approach by presenting the shared model, whereby one could use the product for the short period of time and pay a fractional price. Think library model: books or video of the past. She has Global expertise in picking trends in fashion industry with focus on North America, Latin America, Canada, Europe, Russia, India and China

After managing The Clothing Rental successfully and it’s doing good rounds now serial entrepreneur Shilpa Bhatia has come up with another startup – Terra Inde in USA.Terra Inde is holding on strongly to the traditional ways of doing things in the modern society. Curating products as pieces of art, Terra Inde aims at bridging the gap of mainstream with Creative artisans.

Her area of  interest are fairly varied from listening to classical, opera, world and club music, mythology, science and technology, quantum physics, investing, ancient civilizations, spirituality and eating close to the source (food in natural form).

Who is your inspiration and Why?
I’m inspired by many real life leaders including the following. JRD for the vision for Air India and the tough competition he faced his sense of doing ethical business; Ratan Tata for all the challenges he took; Warren Buffet, for the simplicity and discipline about saving, staying humble, being real and giving back; Armancio Ortega for having the vision to grow Zara (inditex group) to the height we see it at, it’s been popular and consistently improving; Tadashi Yanai for how a simple man, scaled Fast retailing yet remains so simple and humble; Elon Musk for believing in himself when no one else does, he says his thoughts confidently and then goes out to prove the world what he believes in.

Their journey is inspiring as it is not about the money for most of these people; it’s about creating something you believe in

What led you to take the path of entrepreneurship?
I guess I have the bug, some are born with it, I have done a job for possibly only 3 years of my life, while I had fun, I always kept making the CFO and CEO feel incompetent, I realized I have a strong personality that thrives being self employed. My brain works in unique ways which many cannot comprehend, hence if I stay my own boss I do well emotionally and mentally.

Besides that I’m born in a business family and it’s a natural progression to structure my hobbies or interests. I was advised right to incorporate, pay on time, pay my taxes and be well structured; Offer value to customers, understand their needs and fulfill them; treat and respect employees and nurture their talents and lastly celebrate the journey and success that follows.

Tell us about the journey of ‘The Clothing Rental’?
It’s been very interesting so far, lots of resistance and lots to celebrate. Started out in 2005, had to educate people that we were genuinely offering great product at great price with great service, then once customer understood they could rent quality, their innate nature to bargain and negotiate came along. Once we started gaining popularity and acceptance, many noticed and said “I’ll have what she is having” and then multiple competitors started mushrooming.

The industry is fast changing and on an interesting path. We celebrate surviving a decade, staying humble and constantly improving ourselves. Started out in a small hole in the wall in Pali Naka, Bandra, today we have 2 beautiful stores and online presence. It’s been a slow journey but it’s in pace with the market opening up to renting.

What has been your biggest challenge as a women entrepreneur?
I guess if you are a woman and you run a business, most negate it as a hobby that you won’t follow through; you might get distracted by a boyfriend, or demands of a husband and children. All this does happen very often in a woman’s lives, whereby they give priority to other factors in their life over a career or a business.

Over time I feel woman are getting more focused. I’m extremely ambitious and try to be focused. Women are very real; we get affected by emotions and have a tough time being respected. Over time I’ve noticed men from different walks of life respect me as I make strong decisions, go to strange places if my work needs me to, go to work at odd hours, do whatever it takes to get the job done, speak their language (crass or clear as needed to get understood) and be a strong woman of her word, follow through and deliver. Bottom line put money where my mouth is.

I invest a lot in educating myself on important topics so that I can converse with any man or a woman and be heard for my opinion. Luckily I have varied interests and I’m extremely enthusiastic about multiple topics.

What is that one milestone in your life that makes you happy and proud?
So many, most of all is to see my team thrive, they came as little innocent kids today develop into strong personalities with great ethics and values. They make smart decisions and support each other regardless of my presence.

One of my friend once advised me that a company should run on auto pilot, regardless of the head. I strived to do that every day for years and I’ve succeeded in it very well, my business runs whether I’m asleep, on vacation or on a 10 day silent retreat and not reachable. My team knows what to do and how to do it. I’ve instilled self reliance in my team members and I see them thrive in the real world. Being able to positively impact another’s life is incredible.

What would you like to achieve in coming years?
World domination 🙂 On a serious note, would like to establish a solid business that serves quality and value, where costumers happily line up to pay and respect the service they receive. I won’t say 100 stores or global expansion; I feel a strong base to build up to any height or scale we desire. Once the base is strong scaling is easy. Have a company that makes healthy revenues and profits.