Society

High above the glass ceiling

Aanu Nobby  



AANU NOBBY

AanDe, Thiruvananthapuram

It was a huge leap into the dark when Aanu Nobby quit her finance job at an MNC to fashion her own career in 2014.

“While working in the finance wing, I realised that I was not cut out to sit in a cubicle and work on a computer. While at Technopark, I got my first break as a designer, when I launched corporate office wear for women at the IT hub,” she says.

Nevertheless, eyebrows were raised when she quit her job and invested her savings in a fashion venture. “What appalled many was the fact that I opened a store at Alamcode in the suburbs. I had to prove my critics wrong! Word-of-mouth publicity gave a boost. To diversify my portfolio, I incorporated party wear and bridal wear,” says the 30-year-old.

Although Thiruvananthapuram is not a hub for fashion designers, Aanu was confident about her aesthetics and business acumen. When the dresses she designed for season three of D 4 Dance, a dance reality show on Mazhavil Manorama, became a hit, things began to look up.

On November 23, when Kochi hosts season four of the Kerala Fashion League (KFL), all eyes will be on her creations; Aanu is the official designer of the fashion gala. At the event, she presents Kismath, a collection dedicated to Kanchanamala of Ennu Ninte Moideen fame. “Many are familiar with the poignant tale of Moideen and Kanchanamala, and how they kept their romance going, even without seeing each other for years. It was on this day in November 23, 1969, that she met Moideen after a gap of 10 years. We celebrate the eternal love story with the collection,” says Aanu.

The 30-year-old has been waiting for such a break for her label, AanDe (which stands for Aanu and her sister Devi). At KFL, she will present her handloom collection with black metal work and Indo-Western designs. She will also showcase a stylised ethnic wear collection and heavy bridal wear dresses at the event that brings 20 designers from across the country.

Aanu is dreaming big now. “I want to make a mark in tinsel town and dress Nivin Pauly and Amala Paul!"

AARDRA CHANDRA MOULI

Managing Director, Aeka Biochemicals Pvt Ltd., Thiruvananthapuram

Cutting through miles of red tape, navigating bureaucracy and marketing her product did not wear out her determination to start her own company. “Be it getting an industrial tariff from the Kerala State Electricity Board or clearance from Pollution Control Board, I had to run around a lot on getting clearances and permissions from various government offices. We missed having was an incubator facility in Kerala,” says Aardra Chandramouli, while looking back at her efforts to begin a company offering green solutions. Aardra stayed put for the long run.

Aeka Biochemicals Pvt Ltd, which she co-founded with her college mate Gayathri Thankachi V., is the first fully women-owned biotech and biochemical company in Kerala. The company manufactures ‘biotechnological, biochemical and enzymatic products, chemical products or extracts of biological origin’.

Formed in June, 2014, Aeka’s first product, Sasya, a range of microbial plant growth promoters was launched last year.

After Gayathri left the enterprise, Aardra runs the show supported by an all-women scientific team. The initial capital came in from savings and loans. “The toughest part was convincing authorities about what we are doing in order to fulfil the parameters since the biotech industry is still in a nascent phase in Kerala,” she says.

The marketing phase was not easy. “It is an industry that has a long break even period and so there is a lot of uncertainty. We were quite nervous when it came to taking Sasya product range to the market. It is neither a biofertiliser or a biopesticide but a plant growth promoter, rather plant probiotic.”

The company now has its lab and small-scale production unit at Vazhuthacaud, an “eco-friendly, pollutant-free, and a green, zero-effluent zone”. Her team is now working on launching new products for chemical-free agriculture and soil conditioning early next year.

“Research is also underway for the development of innovative new delivery methods, as well as products for small-scale water and waste treatment,” she adds.

A post graduate in management from Warwick Business School in the United Kingdom, 27-year-old Aardra is proud that Aeka is now recognised as a start-up under Start-Up India Initiative of Government of India, by the Department Of Industrial Policy & Promotion. “When we started Aeka two years ago, we didn’t expect it to reach out to so many people. We weren’t prepared for that kind of an impact!” she says.

MINU MARIE MATHEW

Founder-director, ART-ery, Thiruvananthapuram

Minu Marie Mathew had no role models when she launched ART-ery, an online jewellery and accessory store. The graduate in fashion designing opted to launch accessories.

Today ART-ery is an established brand with its statement pieces. The ART-ery line-up has hand-crafted and curated neck pieces, light-weight ear studs, belly button studs, earrings, arm cuffs, scarves, finger rings, headbands and clutches.

“All I had was a good support system. If you are starting something new, you need the right people around you to motivate you. Luckily I had the best people around me,” says the 30-year-old.

Her post graduation in fashion merchandising and her experience in premium and luxury retail with various brands helped her work on a business plan.

“I took one step at a time, starting with just 300 pieces, which were sold immediately among my friends and family. I paid from my pocket and reinvested whatever I earned in the business. ART-ery took off from there,” she says.

Running the venture involved a lot of travel to meet suppliers. “I love travel, that too alone. I haven’t faced any problems so far,” she says.

It took some time for her to get into the thick of things. “When I decided to hold exhibitions, it used to be difficult to get a stall. Then there are the problems of being an online brand. It is all about trust. So I have to be personally available when a person gives a feedback. Right now the challenge is to give something new for my customers,” she says. If at all there is a drawback that would be her lack of expertise in upgrading her portal.

“Now I am running the whole thing. I wish I could make it an-all out online brand, to get customers from across India,” she says.


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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 8:45:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/High-above-the-glass-ceiling/article16667525.ece

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