There's no stopping her enthusiasm

There's no stopping her enthusiasm

“I grew up in a conservative Punjabi business family where all good girls married early and ‘settled down’. I clearly was the outlier, determined to be different and always pushing my boundaries, trying to negotiate ‘a little leeway’ with my parents,” reminisces Shilpa Sharma. After stints at Lintas Advertising, Cadbury’s (where she met her husband Vivek) and Marico Industries, she joined Fabindia.

“This was a place I loved and the products inspired me. This move was a turning point in my career and empowered me to take on as much responsibility as I was willing to, being part of an organisation in growth mode, being instrumental in driving expansion,” she says.

Incidentally, she opened 90 stores and handed over 32 contracts for stores that would open over a span of four years. Shilpa says she saw in herself the entrepreneurial streak that she did not know even existed.

It was in the October of 2009 that Shilpa realised it was time to do her own thing. She admits that it was hard to “to get away from the traps of a secure pay check and take some leaps of faith in myself”. It required a paradigm shift, which Shilpa realised she was ready for. “I had faith in myself and that was the one thing that egged me on. There were moments when I had to deal with financial anxieties and with ‘what next’, a way of life when you’re a consultant. There was never any self doubt, so I must admit, nothing seemed daunting.”

In fact, after she quit her job, Shilpa took some time off to take lessons in photography, dabbled with Spanish as a language and set up a retail business advisory in April 2010 to help SMEs with retail concept launches, expansion, becoming operationally efficient and profitable and more. “I thoroughly enjoyed the space and the highs I got from seeing the difference I was able to make...It was based on 20 years of my work and it’s what I continued to do till early 2015, even though there were many other interesting projects that just came along, in my journey,” she adds.

Shilpa also started Breakaway in 2011, an experiential travel venture. And then, she
started Mustard because of her passion for food. “Regional cuisine in India is very underrated, there is so much potential. It’s a coming together of French and Bengali food, over
mustard as an ingredient,” she says.

However, the real focus in her life is her portal that retails all things Indian. The portal was conceptualised in December 2011, courtesy a chance conversation over coffee. A coming together of four people who shared a common vision, Jaypore is a business platform that curates beautiful artisanal products and delivers them to a discerning global audience.

Of course, it was not all a bed of roses. “A challenge that we faced during our initial years was making artisans believe in our cause of reviving India’s languishing art forms. The main difficulty was being able to ensure we create trust amongst all our vendors that the platform will be fruitful for them and will support them to keep pursuing their crafts.”

So, what is the secret of your success I ask her? “Just because I have got so many things going on, doesn’t make me successful. I have worked hard, always. There are no shortcuts, ever. If I believe in something enough, I know I give it my fullest, despite the odds. The big learning for me has always been to be gracious about your limitations and not set yourself up for failure.”

And she says that she has never seen any gender biases in her 26 years of career.

“Having said that, women need to multitask and be able to straddle their personal interests, family and work in a manner that they don’t drop the ball on either. And their ability to do it seamlessly is commendable.”

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