Tell us about your parents and your family background. How do you think your parents were instrumental in instilling resilience and the spirit of entrepreneurship in you?
My parents were instrumental in teaching me values of working hard and working as a team. They ran a business together and my mother was very inspiring as she was an excellent multi-tasker, ensuring our childhood was normal in terms of school, managing the family needs and also supporting the growth of the business as required. My father showcased tremendous empathy towards his staff and took very good care of them and since I was a child, involved me within the business at various stages of my childhood as well as to discuss any decisions being made. This allowed me to further my interest in business and also gain a knack for how best to run an enterprise efficiently. Many decisions for the business were taken after discussions with the family, even though we might have seemed small at the time which further inspired me to appreciate and sound out varied opinions before taking a final decision.
What was the period in Dubai like? Can you tell us about your struggle with cancer and how that impacted your life then? If possible, please share an instance/incident that can help the readers understand your state of mind then.
Unfortunately, the period in Dubai was short-lived. We were newly married (some might call it the ‘honeymoon’ period) when it were young, it was fun and I was enjoying my new job. The diagnosis of cancer was a huge shock and definitely tough to handle and my father and I were especially disturbed with this news. Thankfully my husband and mother were extremely strong and positive through this time and helped us all remain continuously positive even during the treatment period. I was able to overcome the ailment in a little over half the treatment time thanks to staying close to family, staying positive and doing things I enjoy doing. Most importantly, a will to stay alive, get better soon and have so much more to look forward to in life such as travelling more and bringing up my own family. Naturally there were psychological and physical challenges that had to be managed – losing hair as a newlywed for instance and the immunity taking a toll after each chemo therapy session were all steep learning curves that had an impact. One of the big takeaways when reflecting on it shortly after getting better was just how we magnify our “perceived” problems. When you are battling for life – quite honestly most of the experiences we consider to be problems actually turn out to be rather trivial in the grand scheme of things.
You conceptualised the Kaftan Co. while undergoing cancer treatment. This would have required a very brave spirit. Did you have any prior experience in entrepreneurship? How did this idea take seed in your head?
Due to the physical constraints and general mindset post treatment, I elected not to go back to Dubai or anywhere abroad. This allowed me to stay closer to home and with the support from my family, starting a business allowed me to stay distracted and make use of an opportune time in my life with the renewed energy and fresh thoughts and ideas. While I had no direct entrepreneurship experience, having grown up observing my parents small business during my school days certainly helped my understanding of what it takes to run a business in India.
What was the reaction of your husband and other family members to your decision?
My husband has always been supportive and was especially empathetic towards my recovery after seeing all that I had experienced during the treatment. My family too has (and continues to) be supportive towards many of my decisions. The choice of business was taken after the evaluation of various opportunities and several discussions.
Can you share an incident which according to you captures your resolve at that point in time?
My will to fight the illness and continue a “normal” life at the earliest to me captures the mental resolve at that point in time. I wanted to explore so much more of the world, and all that life has to offer in terms of growing up, raising a family of my own, running my own business and taking on the ups and downs that come along with it. I am grateful and thankful that all that I have wished for since has happened.
Tell us about your vision for the company and why this is dear to you?
To provide not just comfortable and excellent clothing – but to provide a great customer experience. I believe that kaftans and comfort clothing is important to every woman. It isn’t just about looking good, but about being confident and being you without compromising on your comfort. Live Free as our tagline best sums this up.
If there is one message that you have for all women out there, what would that be?
Live Free. Don’t be constrained by boundaries and rules. It’s your life and what is most important is to be happy and satisfied with yourself.
– Prakurti Rao Gupta (Co-Founder, The Kaftan Company)