An Entrepreneur With A Unique Sense Of Style

By Saurabh Kumar
Mint, New Delhi.

From two sewing machines in the balcony of her house in Mumbai to three well known clothing labels — AND, Global Desi and signature Anita Dongre — that are sold from more than 550 stores across India, this is what fashion designer Anita Dongre, 50, has achieved in the past 25 years. “We are now going to smaller cities and literally opening a store every week (including multi-brand stores),” said Dongre.

After two years of internship which gave her immense exposure to couture and prêt (ready-to-wear), she started making prêt clothes because she was always driven by the fact that she should make clothes that women could wear every day. “At that point in time, all designers made occasion wear or just one size which was altered according to the need of the customer. I started with prêt and that too in various sizes,” said Dongre.

She initially supplied clothes to boutiques, but soon some boutiques started dictating and started questioning her designing sensibilities. “I am really grateful to all those boutiques for not stocking my simple, lovely and well-cut women’s wear because that prompted me to start my own store. Maybe if they would have stored them, I would just have been a supplier to them even today,” she added.

Though her company today has entered into other forms of clothing as well, the AND prêt label, even after 15 years follows the same principle. “I want the working women to feel that 10% extra confident when they wear my clothes,” she said.

But there is much more to this Libran’s journey to success (she is reading Vedanta Treatise by A. Parthasarathy, for possibly the 25th time as it keeps her grounded). She has been featured in leading magazines such as Fortune and Forbes.

Born in a traditional Sindhi family to a father who was a textile trader and homemaker mother, she was the first woman in her house to take up a job. “After finishing college, I used to lie to my father and go for a job that I had taken up. It was my mother who was supportive and encouraged me,” she said.

Luckily for Dongre, who by the age of 15-16 was determined to become a fashion designer and had the burning desire to start her own line of clothing, her family accepted her decision soon.

It is that desire and passion that is still driving her. “I go to work every morning thinking that I will give it my best today and this positivity keeps me going,” she said.

It is this zeal that has made her overcome the tough times. She says that the day she loses her passion for creativity, she will shut shop. “There have been times when I thought of giving up, or there have been financial constraints to buy a new collection but I have made it through all that,” she added.

She is quick to add that money has managed to come to her while she was chasing her passion and she is glad that money is coming to her firm as it is a tool to realize her dreams.

AND Designs India Ltd for FY14 had a revenue of Rs.214.55 crore. She puts all her earnings back in her own company because she believes that her company can give her the best returns.

One of the first money lessons she learnt was from her father.

Six months after starting as a designer, 25 years ago, she had asked for some money from her father.

He gave her the money but deducted three months’ interest upfront. Till date, she believes in frugality, owns just two watches and travels in her modified Toyota Innova.

The only indulgence in terms of spending is a piece of land that she has bought. “I am building my dream house there, and that too because it will be closer to my factory,” she said.

This mother of a 23-year-old son believes in perseverance, staying positive, being ambitious, and prioritizing her work, and says that everything can be achieved with gentle love without being a rebel.

“It always works the best,” she said.

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