I was in Chandigarh for Kitli Conversations, and that is when I got to spend a couple of days with Gurveen. She is a friend’s sister.
For the first meeting, Gurveen looks like an introvert – very soft spoken, disciplined and modest. Her workplace is her room and she is pretty disciplined with her work-from-home hours. The home is adorned with some of the Gurveen’s prettiest creations – shoes by Inara.
“Why don’t you plan on moving to a bigger city? That’d be a great boost to your brand”, I ask her sipping a cup of tea while Doughnut, her dog, eats biscuits meant for the guests.
Gurveen points to her mother, who is visibly working at 5x speed to wrap the kitchen chores so that she could leave for office. I think it’s the usual ‘we won’t let our daughter out’.
“Well, I have something called autoimmune disease. Basically, my immune system cannot differentiate between good and bad cells, and ends up attacking my own body”, owner of Inara tells me, explaining how it is out of concern that her parents don’t let her out alone.
She tells me of how she has collapsed several times while working, or when on the warehouse getting samples ready. This also explains why she chose to work from home.
Gurveen got her shoe-making gene from her father, who built his career in the footwear industry. She took over Inara 2 years ago and has been single-handedly managing the brand since then.
“It’s not tough. Actually, the pace at which I was building this, it required only one person. This gave me room to experiment and understand what works and what not.”
Slow but strong over fast and feeble. Hmm.
How is it like to build a business with a disease that literally lets you down, anytime?
“Auto-immune disorder isn’t a common thing to happen. People and in fact doctors too took some time to understand what I was going through. I’ve been mocked for being the weak one, the strange one and the sick one. In fact, when the doctors failed to diagnose the problem, I was told it’s because I’m just stressed and “it’s all in my head”. And I just got trapped in this cycle. I was told I will never be able to achieve anything in life and all I’ll be ever good for would be marriage ( some didn’t even believe that ). With Inara, I just found myself immersed. With my body condition, working at factory is difficult, sourcing is a task. But at the end of the day, the happiness I find in seeing my designs come live is uncomparable. And it is completely doable!”
Inara, practically run by Gurveen and Gurveen alone, has sold over 10,000 pairs.
“That’s around 1.2 crores of revenue in 2 years”, she says.
Bootstrapped. For a 23-year-old, that’s overwhelming!
“I am proud of myself for everything I’ve managed to do. Feels great when people appreciate my work, call me ‘fashion entrepreneur’, ‘designer’. Inara is more a part of me now. My vision. My passion. And I just cannot thank my family enough for all the support that they have given to me.”
Gurveen has now buckled up to scale and is building a team. Her company, House of Gee, will soon be branching out into designer bags. For now, Gurveen sells exclusively on Ajio. You can check her work here. Gurveen turned 23 just today, and we are sure her story will inspire many!
“If I can, you surely, definitely can!”, she says in one of her Facebook posts.
Happy Birthday Gurveen and so much power to you!
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