Leaving home with ₹ 300 and two sets of clothes after a tiff with her father was to become the turning point in her life, recalls Chinu Kala, Founder & CEO of Fonte Fashions India Private Ltd, who was all of 15 then.
A sudden rush of blood had got her out of her comfort zone, but, difficult days lay ahead. She had a point to prove to herself and her family. From sleeping in her cosy bedroom for 15 years, she had to take refuge at the Bombay Central Railway Station initially and then at a women’s dormitory for ₹ 30/night which she paid for from her meagre earnings as a door-to-door salesgirl of house items such as knives, coasters and floor cleaners. She then got a job as a salesgirl in a women’s apparel store after which she moved on to head customer relations with a franchisee of Tata Teleservices.
After 20 years of an uphill climb, Kala set up Fonte Fashions in 2016, which designs, manufactures and sells Indian fashion jewellery brand Rubans. In FY2017, the company posted a modest sales of ₹54 lakh but, next fiscal it had galloped to ₹3.5 crore. The company is targeting to exit the current fiscal at ₹13 crore. Fonte Fashions’ skyrocketing growth did not go unnoticed.
“I got a call from fashion and lifestyle e-tailer Myntra six months ago asking me whether they could invest in my dream project - Rubans Accessories. As a result, we were invited to be part of the prestigious Myntra Brand Accelerator Programme, becoming the 12th fashion brand in its portfolio” an excited Kala told BusinessLine.
She has cause to be excited because the Brand Accelerator Programme which was launched in June 2017 makes growth-linked equity investments in exchange for 3-5 per cent stake in the selected brands, helps them scale by providing consumer insights and distribution muscle, paving the way for these Indian fashion brands to become big national ₹1,000 crore brands in double-quick time.
Kala recalls that the idea to set up a fashion jewellery business came to her when she participated in Gladrags Mrs India contest where she was a finalist in 2006. “I met the love of my life at Tata Teleservices and married him. After marriage, I was first exposed to the world of fashion at the Gladrags Mrs India contest. I saw how a piece of jewellery provides the finishing touch, to transform a person’s looks completely. This thought stayed with me” said Kala, who shifted from Mumbai to Bengaluru in 2008 and started her first venture, a corporate gifting firm called Fonte Corporate Solutions where she serviced big brands like SAB Miller, UB, Star, Sony, AXN, Aaj Tak and Chivas Regal, among others.
Recalls Kala, “The brand heads I interacted with had one thing in common – a lot of pride in their legacy brands, which inspired me to create and nurture a brand of my own which will become a legacy brand someday. So, in 2016, I married my love for fashion jewellery and my learnings from the brand heads to launch Rubans. When I left home for good, my gut told me I would be successful. Back then, success was being able to afford three square meals a day. Today, success to me is about leaving a legacy behind.”
Largely an online brand, except for one store in Kochi, Rubans Accessories offers 2,000 plus designs in ethnic and western jewellery ranging from earrings, bangles, necklaces, rings, bracelets, maang tikkas etc. at prices ranging from ₹300 to ₹10,000 and every one of them is worn, tried and approved by Kala who works with artisans from Jaipur, Rajkot, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, to design and manufacture jewellery.
She attributes her success to not having a fallback plan. “Most women entrepreneurs start working with a fallback plan. In case of failure, their fallback is usually their father or husband, which is why they don’t give it their 100 per cent. I worked like I had nothing to fall back on and therefore I succeeded,” she points out.