Meet Arathi Rajagopalan, fashionpreneur, Stylist, Founder of – House of Kalart, an avant-garde jewelry label, inspired by arts/crafts around the world that is married with metalsmithing and packaged into a beautifully woven story. An experience of close to two decades in the International & Domestic Fashion and Retail Industry, made Arathi recognize the great requirement for a well-qualified professional to undertake everything from style consultation to creative business problem solving and develop products.
She is a graduate of the prestigious National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and is certified in Goldsmithing and gemmology from SINGEM. She is also an abstract artist and a stylist for movies. Arathi’s experience and foresight along with her personal entrepreneurial bent and affinity for creative design selection played a large role in starting House of Kalart through which she aims to create a holistic fashion experience for all bold and dramatic humans!
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Arathi Rajagopalan: My earliest memory of my interest in design and fashion was way back when I was in 6th grade. I used to doodle a lot of designs on my textbooks. I was also always involved in trying my hand at different crafts and I developed a fascination for jewelry during my study of fashion designing. When I finally decided to start my venture, all these elements culminated and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It definitely was not a smooth ride, after various experiments that took close to eight years, things eventually aligned well.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Arathi Rajagopalan: I am blessed to have people who have inspired me to follow my passion and become a better being. First of all, it was an aunty who taught me different arts and crafts during my summer vacations, which became an inspiration and is an important element of my products.
Secondly, to my parents who understood my interest in fashion and found out about the best colleges that offered the courses, back in those days when fashion was not a popular choice of study/career.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Arathi Rajagopalan: We all have big dreams as entrepreneurs, and we aim so high, that we sometimes miss covering the basics. Mistakes I have seen many entrepreneurs make including myself, especially designers who turn entrepreneurs, is that we are so obsessed with the designs and products that we create. We believe that a good product is enough to drive in sales, we miss getting the product/idea validated. Most of us skip conducting a survey to get customer validation done before we launch. It is also very important to stay in touch with your customer continuously and listen to them. This is a vital exercise to conduct, every time you come up with a new collection and understand what they like and don’t like. This has to be an ongoing process in every business.
I also notice a lot of entrepreneurs look for quick results, without nurturing and giving the business the time it needs to grow. Persistence and patience are important qualities every entrepreneur needs to have.
Has the pandemic and transitioning into mostly online shopping affected your company positively or negatively?
Arathi Rajagopalan: The aim was always to take House of Kalart online to reach out to a larger audience. However, the concentration in the initial phases started with exhibitions and offline channels and we got so consumed with it, that we kept procrastinating working on the online channel. The Pandemic gave us the time to work on our website, network, and also connect with other marketplaces. This period has helped us increase our brand awareness across borders.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Arathi Rajagopalan: Jewelry is a dynamic industry and an emotional product. House of Kalart jewelry is a personal expression where we bring different art forms from across the world and marry them with metalsmithing. This allows our customers to customize the colors, art, or embroidery to match their outfit and they need not compromise on a color or work that is somewhat closer to their outfit.
We have had a client who is an art fanatic and wanted us to paint a sunset on a statement earring, quoting her “I love art, but I can’t wear them, House of Kalart solved this and I got to wear a painting”.
Stories like these set the brand apart from the competition and also give me immense satisfaction.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Arathi Rajagopalan: In my opinion, one of the first and foremost traits I found in myself and which I feel every leader should have is the ability to understand your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you to delegate responsibilities and also learn a bit about what you don’t know.
The next trait is to have integrity, it is very important to me that I am transparent with my clients as well as my team. I expect the same from them as well. This is one quality I value the most.
Also, as a leader, I find it important to have a long vision and the ability to adapt quickly. These were traits that I learned from my father and have found useful.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Arathi Rajagopalan: Personal branding is an essential and ever-evolving quality, a leader should be mindful of. It is an asset, a value you are able to deliver consistently, to your clients and team. Your personal brand is what will help you connect with your audience and help become a role model or the voice of the brand and build trust and relationships. I learn something new every day to improve my personal branding and communicate better.
How would you define “leadership”?
Arathi Rajagopalan: According to me “Leadership is an ability to work with and guide a team, by including and sharing your vision and ideas with them. It is also important for a leader to listen to ideas/opinions from your team, encourage and mentor them to execute them. Adding to these, it is crucial for a leader to have a positive work ethic, by which I mean that they should set an example for their team by acting it and not just preaching.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Arathi Rajagopalan: My advice to young, upcoming entrepreneurs is, embrace your journey as an entrepreneur not as a job but as your identity. Starting a business takes time, hard work, and a tremendous amount of patience. You will need determination and persistence, and a willingness to take personal responsibility for your successes and failures. Always remember “Everything can be figured out” over time. Identify what you are good at, identify what is your competitive advantage, focus on those things, and build on them.
Keep a positive attitude and listen to your customers. Take advice. Most important of all: ”BELIEVE IN YOU”
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Arathi Rajagopalan: “When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer”
Life has not been a smooth ride, however, I have been patient and persistent, upgraded my skills, and slowly worked towards my dreams. Although people said a lot, I quickly realized, that just reflected their inability, not mine in reality. I have always listened to the advice I have received and evaluated it and chose what I found to be the best for me. The key is to dream, work towards it despite the path, learn along the way, achieve and grow further.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Arathi Rajagopalan for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Arathi Rajagopalan or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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