Stunning new look to the Shawl industry redefined by a septuagenarian in Ludhiana.
"There is something called opportunity. God sends it and you have to grab it. When opportunities fell in my lap, I grabbed them. It has made me who I am today.", says Mridula Jain, a seventy-year-old woman from Ludhiana. She raised her voice, spoke her mind and created a path for herself so that she set herself ready when opportunity knocked at her. This is an important aspect of anything that defines life and success. What if an opportunity knocks at your door and you are still not ready to grab it? It's always important to keep yourself on your toes, so that when the whistle is blown, you start your marathon. Let's see how Mridula Jain turned things in favour of her and how she has now grown into a successful entrepreneur.
Turning The Life For Good All By Herself:
Though Mridula Jain was born into a family of professionals, she couldn't understand why she was asked to marry very early in life but didn't question them at that time. Succumbed to the family's conservative mindset, she got into wedlock leaving behind the thought of pursuing higher studies. After being married to a Ludhiana-based businessman, she expressed her wish to take up higher studies and her husband supported her. She then went on to pursue Masters in English Literature during which period she gave birth to two sons. After finishing her degree, she started to work as a teacher but she couldn't manage both work and motherhood. She said, “I always wanted to work. I did not want to be a stay-at-home mom for my sons.” She then decided to quit job and tame tuitions from home. That way, she could manage both her personal and professional life. This continued for a decade and Mridula started to feel that she is meant for something big. She has always been interested in fashion and when she happened to converse with her nephew who used to supply fabric to shawl makers, a business idea struck her mind. Having realised the importance people gave to pashmina and toosh shawls, she also observed that they have been becoming rare and are not affordable by ordinary women. That's where Mridula wanted to step in. She decided to design shawls that would beat the glory pashmina of pashmina and toosh shawls. "I threw a challenge to my friends that I will create something that will make you forget the pashmina and toosh shawls.”, she said. There you go, something she loved to do and that would fulfill her desires to carve her identity came to her finally. "I was not happy with the shawls I used to wear. I realised the design patterns in shawls were just limited to two or three.”, she said. This made Mridula feel that the shawl market would come to bloom if more design patterns are introduced. Her husband supported her by helping her procure eight handlooms and thus Mridula started to make her own shawls.
The Entrepreneurial Journey:
Mridula started manufacturing shawls by establishing Shingora Textiles Ltd. in 1987 with unique design patterns called phulkari. It is an art technique specific to Punjab. With new design patterns on shawls, customers were immediately attracted and she soon received a huge order of Rs.10 lakh. She continued to market her products with the help of her husband and kept creating more designs with mirror work, hand painting and phulkari. The conventional look of kulu shawl was given a whole new style with her impeccable weaving patterns. She later went to Europe to study more about the wool industry with the sponsorship from the government. Her participation in the European International Fairs gave way to multiple opportunities to Mridula to expand her shawl empire. She also played a significant role in establishing Shawl Club and Wool Association in Ludhiana.
She said, "I realised that keeping textiles production reserved to handlooms was hindering our growth. The only way we could grow was by producing in bulk, which was possible only on power looms.” But as laws in India were not in favour of power looms, it took close to six years for Mridula and the representatives of Wool Association and Shawl Club to negotiate on this and get required permissions. "Once we got permissions, not only our business grew but the entire wool industry flourished in India.” After close to around two decades, things started to flow seamlessly where the law permitted the use of power looms and global markets also became accessible. It was all Mridula's risk-taking mindset and undeterred willpower that has got Shingora to become a fashion hotspot today. Currently, Shingora has 6 Exclusive Brand Outlets and more than 60 Multi-Brand Outlets across the country.
Jain, for her outstanding contributions to the textile industry, was honoured several times. She was conferred with prestigious awards like Mahila Udyog Ratna in 1993, Women Entrepreneur of the year in 1994 and State Award for Best Entrepreneur in 1995. She was humbly presented with Mahila Navrattan Award by International Friendship Society in India in 1998, Wool Mark Company’s Award in 2003, Award of Honour on International Women’s Day in 2008 by Social Security & Child Development Department Punjab, Z TV Uddami Sanmaan Award in 2013, Best Woman Entrepreneur Exporter Award by ECGC – Dun & Bradstreet Exporters' Excellence Award in 2015 and many more.
The story of Mridula is surely an inspiration to all those who succumb to the family and societal pressures. One need not fit into roles defined by others to them. Designing and carving our own way for good, is the ultimate essence of life.
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