One among India’s very few successful solo-woman entrepreneurs, Jacqueline Kapur has special relationship with the country. When women entrepreneurs were still a rarity in the country, Jacqueline started up in a sector which India had not paid attention to, in 2008. She had noticed a gap in India’s fashion market; there was no fashion jewellery brand to cater to women who prefer contemporary and western designs.
Jacqueline set out to address this opportunity by starting a fashion accessories company named after her daughter Ayesha. What started with a small team of women who worked with her in Hidesign, Ayesha slowly grew to include bags, sunglasses, scarfs, hair accessories, etc.
In over a decade, Jacqueline’s enterprise has reached around 100 retail stores across Indian cities and has established itself on ecommerce platforms like Flipkart, Amazon, Ajio, and Jabong, besides its own website.
While this is not her first venture as an entrepreneur, it doesn’t look like her last as well. Jacqueline also wishes to break into the beauty products’ market that is expected to exceed a market valuation of $20 billion by 2025.
Born and brought up in Germany, Jacqueline moved to Puducherry in 1989 with her then-boyfriend Dilip Kapur, who founded lifestyle brand Hidesign. She also designed and took charge of an all-new garment line at Hidesign and steered its growth over the years.
But her first experiment with accessories’ business took place in 1999 when she started Casablanca, one of India’s first multi brand department stores. Although it was run on trial and error basis, Casablanca received positive response from her customers. But Jacqueline did not have business plans outlined then, like she does today.
“My merchandising was always based on if I would wear it or put it on my daughter, or whether it will look good on my friend, all from my personal perspective,” she has said, adding that she never thought demographically like picking colours based what the middle-class women prefer to wear. If done that way, she stated, one cannot be a trendsetter. Jacqueline was determined about the idea of defining what others need. To her credit, Jacqueline is the two-time winner of the ‘Most admired Fashion Accessories Retailer of the Year’ title by Images Retailer Awards.
Of her two children, Jacqueline’s daughter Ayesha - who played Rani Mukherjee’s childhood in the Bollywood film Black in 2000- is a Columbia University graduate and partner at the firm named after her.
Jacqueline’s passion for horse riding is also a part of her life in Puducherry.
She established Red Earth Riding School with a few friends in Puducherry in 2010, where she teaches children to ride horses.
“I started riding horses when I was six years old. Even today I go for horse riding every morning when I am in Puducherry. Horse is the stable passion of my life,” she says with a smile.
Now in her fifties, Jacqueline also runs a bed-and-breakfast guest house ‘The Black Box’ made of recycled shipping containers in Puducherry. She has also opened a 50-seater casual dining bistro in Puducherry called ‘PY Love Café.’ She has personally designed it using recycled furniture and mirrors.
Compassion, the Key
The Founder-President of Ayesha Accessories calls herself a ‘Tamil ponnu (girl).’ With three decades of working and managing business in India, Jacqueline admires leaders who haven’t lost their compassion and believes it is necessary to sustain any venture.
An alumna of the University of Bochum and the Japanese Language Institute in Tokyo, Jacqueline shares that she was often perceived as an outsider in India. But that did not dampen her spirit and she has felt welcome in her adopted-country.
However, she faced a minor setback with her accessories business Ayesha when she separated from her husband five years ago. As a solo woman entrepreneur, she feels the biggest challenge is that men are still taken more seriously. She has said that her male partners in any meetings are better heard.
While women are few in number in major roles in Indian workforce, Jacqueline emphasises that
women worldwide lack confidence. She believes that woman should not be confined just to being a supporting wife and mother.
Jacqueline’s journey of living her wishes itself is a fight in claiming women’s right and place.