Posted On : October 20 2018
Writer : Gunjan Joshi
Elizabeth Bennet influences the way this young entrepreneur functions in a male-dominated field!
About Pooja Thakur: Yes, Elizabeth Bennet, the lead protagonist from Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ influences Pooja Thakur, Founder CEO, Praefinio Footwear. She began her journey as a small shoe manufacturer in 2016 with mere two workers in Delhi. It was an arduous journey as she had to travel between her husband’s stations to her prospective factory in Delhi. In addition to this, she had to establish equilibrium between her husband’s army life and commitments towards her dream project. As time passed, she established her own shoe manufacturing unit in Delhi with twenty workers that supplies children’s shoes for almost all major e-commerce portals for children such as hopscotch.com, firstcry, and babycouture.
Entrepreneurs are not bound by timelines, says Pooja
Women entrepreneurs have not only set example for others but have also provided employment for underprivileged women of our society. Pooja Thakur, speaks to Gunjan Joshi about hurdles she has faced as a women entrepreneur and steps she took to empower her women workforce.
On books…books and authors and characters have always influenced entrepreneurs, Pooja is no different…
Please provide us a snippet of your reading list. Which one of the books and characters among them inspire you the most in life?
I am a fan of literature from medieval era. In fact, medieval art influences every facet of my life such as interiors, fashion, music etc. Taking about authors, I deeply admire Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, and Virginia Woolf. Books by these authors contain everything such as state-of-the-art courtly love, peasant’s uprising, feminism, revenge against Catholicism etc which modern literature lacks. My favourite books are Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights. The favourite character among all is Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth is a strong, proud, intelligent and witty woman who is not affected by Mr. Darcy’s intimidating personality. I take strength from this fact in my male-dominated shoe-manufacturing world.
Now let’s get on with her amazing entrepreneurial journey…
How your idea of becoming an entrepreneur in footwear industry did came into advent and how did your education correlate with it?
After completing my education, I was uncertain about what to do for a long time. I wanted to do something different but had no idea about what needs to be done. My MBA degree could only fetch me jobs in banking, HR, and marketing industry. Earlier, I was an HR professional. Afterwards, I ventured into hospitality and then to banking but was not able adapt anywhere. My love for footwear industry is known among my friends and relatives and I had a lot of friends in footwear industry. Hence, whenever I went to market or a fashion show, I tried to analyse designs of footwear. It was through these endeavours, I discovered my innate yearning to do something in footwear industry.
Can you describe your progression from a small footwear manufacturer to a giant in children’s footwear section?
When I made my decision to foray into footwear industry, I had to discover ways to execute my plans. I conducted an extensive research for this. For some days, I bought numerous pairs of shoes only to dissect them and observe their anatomy. Earlier, various parts of shoes were incomprehensible to me because I had no background in footwear designing. Gradually, I came to know about the fabrics used in footwear after a research of almost a year. I got married after this and things came to a temporary halt as I had to cope up with a new life altogether. After giving some time to my new life, I restarted the journey of an entrepreneur again. My first employee was a tailor who knew how to stitch shoes. My current supervisor is that tailor. He was not an educated man but knew his work well. I hired a small room with two machines and two employees at that time. Now, it has evolved into a shoe manufacturing unit with multiple employees.
How was your journey being a founder CEO along with being a married woman and what were initial hurdles in your journey?
The biggest hurdle that I witnessed was gender bias. Footwear manufacturing industry is dominated by males. There is hardly any woman manufacturer in our industry. Women often work as a designer, as a sourcing agent or in other departments of this industry. Interacting with labour workforce was another challenge. Coming from a sophisticated background, explaining my requirements to them was tough. One has to listen carefully to them and become one of them. Another hurdle was opening a factory at a completely new place. Everyone in my family was against it including my father. The third hurdle was a huge initial investment. In our industry, everything works on credit. Initially, no one was ready to invest in us. Therefore, we had to source the raw material by paying cash. Also, this industry works on contract-based unorganized labour but I started salary system for the workforce working in my factory.
Can you describe your product chain?
I began my journey with booties for infants which don’t have sole. I got to know through my research in the market that maximum brands import these shoes from China. For any shoe the material of a shoe is laminated first, it is then cut and stitched afterwards. A finishing touch to a shoe is given in the end. When I acquired expertise in this section, I entered the toddler section. All through this journey, I had found that we Indians are fond of affordable footwear. Hence, the thought of producing quality footwear for children which every section of society can afford was my primary aim.
What would you like to advice young entrepreneurs?
Don’t think much if you are determined about something. I was at a stage three years ago when people used to think that my plans would never substantiate. But, one has to work hard for an enterprise to flourish and has to supervise every aspect of his or her business. Last but not the least, timelines don’t work in entrepreneurship. Hence, being an entrepreneur one shouldn’t set a benchmark for anything because uncertainties lurk at every step of such a journey.
Gunjan Joshi is a Delhi based Editor who loves to explore every facet of art and literature. A nature-lover and an avid bibliophile, she loves classics in every form. A perfect weekend evening for her smells the waft of a classic hardback in her bed followed by a black and white movie.
Bookaholicanonymous thanks Gunjan for this very interesting interview. Looking forward to many more from you!