The Queen Of Hautes

By Muhammad Riaz Usman
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet fashionista Rohini Gehani, CEO and founder of Rivaage Boutique. Rivaage is a multi-brand chain of boutiques in the GCC that showcases a selection of established and up-and-coming designers.


Rohini Gehani, CEO and founder of Rivaage Boutique, started her career as a financial consultant but a passion for fashion always smoldered deep inside her. She has a degree in finance from the London School of Economics and her background has been instrumental in complementing her love for fashion.

“This is one of my biggest assets; understanding the financials of the business is crucial. I can make informed decisions without having to consult my finance team,” Rohini said.

Rivaage is a multi-brand chain of boutiques in the GCC that showcases a selection of established and up-and-coming designers.
“My business started with passion and over the years evolved into a business model that it is today. Rivaage is a platform for emerging and established brands to showcase their collections and talent,” said Rohini, who is also a board member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Before launching Rivaage Butique, Rohini brought the Indian brand JJ Valaya to Dubai in 2003 and established a flagship store on Al Wasl Road. She then founded a second boutique, Samsaara, selling a variety of Indian labels.

Sensing an opportunity
“At that time, it was a completely new concept: no one worked with Indian brands exclusively at that point. I saw an opportunity. After us, a lot of new stores opened,” she said.

She said her business has evolved over the years as the UAE’s retail landscape developed.

“I started selling only couture and then found my niche turning into a multi-brand concept. I focus on regional brands with a unique product at a specific bridge price point, which is something that hadn’t been offered in the UAE before Rivaage,” she said.

Rohini, who started her business with her personal funding, believes in slow and organic growth. “When my business started, we were four people in a villa on Beach Road, now we have nine locations in the UAE and Qatar,” she said.

She now has a team of more than 35 young, creative and dynamic individuals, who constantly come up with new ideas.
Meticulous planning

Rohini is a confident entrepreneur who attributes her success to her dedication and hard work. She said that a proper and meticulous plan always yields success.

“As important as passion is in your business, you need to know how to separate the two to be able to see the business plan rationally and for what it is.
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If it’s not good enough, throw it away and start again,” she said.

Rohini, whose family is originally from India, was born and raised in Dubai and admires the UAE start-up environment.

“Today, the possibilities for start-ups in the UAE are very encouraging. The UAE’s start-up environment has evolved over the years and now there are a lot less hoops to jump through. There are so many opportunities in the UAE, this is the perfect place to be to start your business,” she said.

Referring to her mentors, she said: “I’m incredibly blessed to be a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation’s UAE chapter. We have forums with like-minded entrepreneurs where we can learn, share and ask for help if required. This mentorship and communication with my peers has helped me more than words can describe. There is also the Accelerator Programme which is a mentorship scheme for smaller start-up business owners. Members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation lead talks and offer advice and mentorship to these incredibly talented entrepreneurs.”

Follow your dreams
Rohini urged young entrepreneurs to follow their dreams without the fear of failure.

“It’s very important to take risks. I learned everything I know about business by trying and failing, so don’t be scared to fail. You will succeed if you are persistent and take risks,” she said.

She said the strongest points of the UAE’s start-up eco-system is that there is room for growth as the marketplace is rapidly developing.

“However, it is currently a lot easier for big businesses to come to the region rather than start-ups and SMEs. But at the same time, if you have innovative ideas, the courage to implement them and the abilities to survive, you can grow your business,” she said.

Rohini is an avid reader, her favorite book at the moment is Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. She also enjoys movies and travel with her husband and two sons. “My favorite destination is the Maldives. It’s close, easy to get to and magical every time my family and I go,” she said.

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