‘House Of Chikankari’ went from a small business to a social media sensation in just six months after the ₹75 lakh ‘Shark Tank’ funding. Aakriti Rawal, Co-Founder and CEO, speaks to D2C Verse in an exclusive interview and shares how the business has changed. From the biggest challenges to learning from Aman Gupta (boAt) and Peyush Bansal (LensKart), hear all her entrepreneurial secrets.
In January 2023, House of Chikankari achieved one of its biggest milestones. Mother and daughter duo Aakriti and Poonam Rawal shared their entrepreneurial journey on Shark Tank India Season 2 and received offers from four out of five ‘Sharks’. After an electrifying contest, they blocked a deal with Aman Gupta, Co-Founder and CMO of boAt and Peyush Bansal, Co-Founder and CEO of Lenskart.
A lot has changed since then.
House of Chikankari has become a household name with over 270,000 followers on Instagram and over a million customers. “We are striving tirelessly to make India’s heritage craft of Chikankari a household essential and take Lucknow to the world.”
In an exclusive interview with D2C Verse, Aakriti Rawal reflects upon her journey and sheds light on her success mantra in the journey.
D2C Verse: When did the idea of ‘House Of Chikankari’ first come to you?
Aakriti Rawal: I was only 13 years old when I first told my mother I wanted to build something of my own. At that time, I didn’t know what it would be. For over 20 years, my mom was a homemaker and she also loved to design clothes on the side.
In 2020, after I quit my job at a fashion startup, I started hunting for a business idea. Somehow, at the same time, a hand embroidery tailor asked my mother for more work as he had lost his job.
I started researching about the fashion industry and came across chikankari. I noticed then that my mother already had many chikankari dresses.
The idea was born there and our journey began.
D2C Verse: What were some roadblocks that came your way in the journey?
Aakriti Rawal: Three major challenges came our way when we just started our brand.
First, the traditional hand embroidery industry was highly disorganized and limited to local stores and regional markets. To reach a larger audience, we had to bring it onto a large-scale eCommerce platform. Convincing our partners about the differences between eCommerce and local stores while emphasizing the importance of maintaining quality in online sales was a huge hurdle.
Second, gaining trust from the audience was crucial. In India, most people still rely on Cash-On-Delivery and other assurances. Fortunately, we had a strong Instagram community that helped us build trust among new customers. Many influencers collaborated with us on a barter deal and that played a vital role in establishing trust.
Third, as our company grew, it was difficult for my mother and I to let go of control. Initially, we handled everything ourselves, but to achieve our vision, we needed to build a team we could trust. It was challenging to relinquish control and avoid micromanaging every aspect. However, we were blessed to have an exceptional team that not only believes in our vision but also surpasses our expectations.
D2C Verse: How did you and your mother, Poonam Rawal, decide to become business partners? Was it difficult or easy to work with each other?
Aakriti Rawal: If someone had asked me five years ago whether I could imagine my mother being my business partner, I don’t think I would have believed it. It happened naturally. She had been searching for her own identity for 20 years while I was looking for a business idea in 2020. It turned out that her knowledge of production and fabrics fit perfectly with my idea. We didn’t plan it. It just felt right to work together.
Our journey together has been amazing even with all its challenges. I have incredible support from her on all the things I’m not good at, and I do the same for her. We understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well. Sometimes we might have contrasting opinions but working together has never been difficult. We have a deep respect for each other’s expertise and that works in our favour.
D2C Verse: Did you always have a fascination for chikankari and how tough is it to maintain the styles, silhouettes and quality?
Aakriti Rawal: My mom has always loved the art of chikankari and has a huge collection of garments. I, on the other hand, am new to it. Together, we are turning it into something special at the House of Chikankari. Chikankari used to be popular among people above 40 and mostly sold offline. Our goal is to introduce it to a younger audience, specifically millennials in the age group of 20 to 35.
Maintaining styles, uniqueness, and quality is a challenge, but with proper guidelines and dedication, we have succeeded in the past two and a half years. We have already served over 70,000 customers, and our commitment to providing excellent service and following our protocols will remain unchanged.
D2C Verse: Share one heartwarming incident from your entrepreneurial journey that keeps you motivated to never give up.
Aakriti Rawal: For an entrepreneur, the ultimate goal is to make a positive impact on their team and society. When we started, we didn’t fully realize the impact we were creating. What keeps me motivated is seeing our team members grow. Many of them joined us two and a half years ago, when they were struggling during COVID-19. Many were children of our domestic help, who were facing unemployment or working odd jobs.
We formed a small community of people from our local area, and it brings immense joy to see their growth. They have become quality check heads, dispatch heads, and their confidence has soared. Their eyes light up when they come to the office. Seeing their progress keeps us motivated.
While we hope our company continues to grow, our greatest hope is that our team members grow alongside us and achieve their dreams. The impact on our team is a major driving force for both of us.
D2C Verse: How has the business changed after ‘Shark Tank’ and how has it been to have Aman Gupta and Peyush Bansal onboard?
Aakriti Rawal: Our Instagram following has grown to over 200,000 followers in just six months. Sales have skyrocketed, and our team has expanded to 20 people. We’ve had the privilege of attending prestigious events and have media houses reaching out to us.
Our customers are delighted and proud of our achievements, showering us with love and support. It has motivated our team to strive for greater accomplishments. The journey feels surreal. Now, our focus is on maintaining and retaining that success while continuing to grow.
There are three significant benefits we gained from partnering with Aman and Peyush. First, their guidance saves us a lot of time in decision-making. We no longer get stuck for months; their expertise helps us make quicker choices.
Second, we are not alone anymore. Their teams provide invaluable guidance on scaling operations, giving us a broader perspective.
And third, Aman and Peyush bring their extensive experience and wisdom to the table. Learning from their mistakes and insights is invaluable and goes beyond monetary value. We are incredibly grateful to have them onboard and wouldn’t have it any other way.
D2C Verse: What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? One thing they must do and one thing they should avoid.
Aakriti Rawal: Don’t let fear hold you back from starting your journey. It took me years to gather the courage to call myself an entrepreneur—even though deep down, I always knew it was my dream.
So, my advice is: don’t be scared to take that leap. Embrace the chance and don’t fear making mistakes along the way. It took me five years to decide, and I wish I had started sooner.
Once you begin, stay positive and show up consistently. Even on the tough days when getting out of bed feels difficult, it’s crucial to keep going. Remember, showing up is 90% of the job. And when you look back, those bad days will become moments you laugh about.
So, be bold, be consistent, and show up. Start your journey without hesitation and embrace the challenges with determination. Success comes to those who take risks.