“We’re all about the boss stories, not the sob ones.”
When I read this tagline on the Sirohi website, I had the image ofwhipping out a pair of Dabangg-style sunglasses and doing the Salman Khan slow-walk, obliterating her nay-sayers as she walked by.
That’s why when I got the chance to chat with Gauri Malik about Sirohi, she blew me away with how much of a gangsta she truly is :)
Sirohi: The Young Brand with Big Dreams
Sirohi is an affordable, luxe-sustainable brand for a globally conscious buyer, for artisan-made products from India. For Gauri, it was very clear that the first thing she needed to get right was the products.
“I want people to buy our products, because they absolutely love them!”
Sirohi caters to the upwardly mobile, aesthetics-savvy younger generation or Gauri likes to call them , HENRYs — High Earning Individuals Not Rich Yet. To do that, the brand likes to create a very sensorial experience for its customers. Therefore, when you become a Sirohi customer, what you get is a seamless affirmation of the brand’s proposition, from the product to story to experience.
Gauri has set her sights on placing Sirohi on the global map, because, what better way to make the entire world appreciate the crafts of India?
“I want to make Sirohi the world’s greatest artisan-led brand. That will, of course, require us to do more things than what we are doing currently. We will have to build an offline presence. We will need to raise funds to hire a super stellar leadership team and we will need to streamline our supply chain to take our products to a much larger audience.”
How Sirohi Found It’s Roar
“Why are you stopping me from working? You don’t work, my husband can’t work. I have 3 children to feed. Put food on the table and then dare tell me not to go work!”
Gauhar, the village woman, was screaming at her father-in-law. Her father in law was becoming loud and violent about how women have no business going out to work in a ‘job’. And the whole village was watching the drama unfold. But Gauhar didn’t back down that day.
And that is how Sirohi got its first artisan.
For the 23 year old Gauri, trying to involve the village women like Gauhar to make Sirohi products and fighting the patriarchal village systems simultaneously was like walking through a haunted house without letting any of the zombies get to her.
“Gauhar told me something one day that has stayed with me. She said, “ Kuch log rotey hue kahaaniyaan sunate hain, aur kuch log gangster ki tarah sunaate hain. You have to choose, whether you are the boss of your story or you want to narrate a sob story. That was the inspiration for Sirohi’s tagline!”
Today, the people that work for Sirohi are there because they want to change something in their lives, and that is what Sirohi is about. While the products are the heart of Sirohi, these Shernis (lionesses) are it’s soul. Today almost 2500 artisans have been touched by Sirohi and found their own roar!
But It’s Lonely At The Top.
Entrepreneurship is a moving target. Today you may want Rs 1 cr monthly sales, next year you may aim for 5x. When your goals get bigger, so do the challenges. Gauri concurs, “ The first few years are probably the easiest. It only gets harder as you grow, the more the money, the more the people, the more problems to solve. You got to enjoy the journey, and you got to enjoy solving problems, and got to accept that it can get mentally exhausting.
But entrepreneurship can be a very lonely journey, where you are the constant ‘giver’. Every entrepreneur goes through his fair share of roadblocks and obstacles and U-turns, but if you are a woman entrepreneur, the truth is, you will have more mountains to climb.
For Gauri, her journey as a founder coincided with her journey of becoming a mother. Unfortunately, she didn’t get a maternity break. She didn’t get to spend time away from Sirohi and focus on her newborn. Instead, she was responding to calls and texts even while being in the hospital for her delivery!
“ I was just not able to prioritize. I was trying to wear multiple hats, and drowning in ‘Mom Guilt’. I find it easier being an entrepreneur than being a mother. Sometimes I don’t have answers or the patience. I’m constantly thinking that I’m doing this wrong, and that burden is so heavy!”
Thriving with her Circle of Support
Feelings of self-doubt and despair can be crippling for any founder, which is why it is critical to have a solid support system or a network of people and mentors who can guide you ahead in your journey. For Gauri, it turned out to be her fellow entrepreneurs.
“I remember a time when I was very stressed, and considered not doing this anymore. I reached out to 10 founders; some had taken their companies to IPOs, some were Unicorns, and others who were at different stages of evolution. I asked them if they too questioned themselves or their decisions constantly, if their mental health was under stress, if they wondered whether the sacrifices and compromises they made were even worth it, and all of them said, 100% ! I needed to hear that from people who had gone through this journey and could resonate with me. Talking to them, externalising my fears helped me so much in moving forward.”
To win, you must know how to lose.
“I was an athlete throughout my childhood. I only knew how to win, and that’s how I amassed over 50 odd gold medals in track and athletics. But in Grade 10, I tore my ligament, and I couldn’t race for the entire year. From winning I went down to not even competing, and then from not competing, I went back up to racing but coming last. From last I went to 3rd, then 2nd.
For me, it was the greatest lesson in learning how to lose. And that changed me for the better. It was tough though, to go through it at such a young age, but to have someone to help me understand what that means, was defining for me. Now I understand that to win, I have to know how to lose. Failure is the biggest teacher of success.
What a scintillating conversation it was! It’s mind blowing to see how the entrepreneur’s economy is shaping India’s growth story, and Sirohi’s story shines like a star in the galaxy of founders who have dared to see their dreams come to life.
This is not a sponsored post. I just happen to love Sirohi’s products and I hope many of you get to experience the same joy that they have brought me. All the best to Gauri and her team. Hoping to walk into a Sirohi store soon!