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Inspirational Woman: Gargi Banerjee Koul|Founder & CEO, www.elanstreet.com

Tell us about yourself and your background

Inspirational Woman: Gargi Banerjee KoulI am a strong willed entrepreneur who has always been interested in bringing out the best in people. I have 12 years of corporate experience and have previously worked with HDFC Bank in a senior management role in the treasury vertical. After completing my Bachelor’s degree from Lady Sriram College, Delhi University, I then went on to do my Master’s in Business Management from Symbiosis Centre for Management and HRD, Pune. It was also in Symbiosis that I met my life and business partner Rahul Koul, with whom I have been married for 11 years.

Presently, as the founder and CEO of Elanstreet, I seek to inspire my team to look beyond the obvious and explore untapped possibilities for making personal styling accessible for discerning consumers, while finding ways to collaborate with partners in the styling ecosystem (including fashion brands and styling professionals).

Born and raised in the literary capital of India, Kolkata, I am an avid reader and value literature. I am extremely passionate about my profession and strongly believe that everyone should embrace and maintain their individuality. As a person, I believe that an individual is not defined by the roles we choose to play but rather it is important to reach in to discover hitherto undiscovered potential.

Being a mother of two extremely ingenious, little tykes, my spare time is theirs to monopolise. I am also a travel enthusiast and love to explore new destinations (though holidays have been one of the first casualty of starting a business).

Tell us about the company you have set up?elan street logo

Established in 2015, Elanstreet.com is a one stop styling destination, aimed at making personalized styling advice accessible for the ever-growing base of Indian consumers with high aspirations and a disposable income. Style maybe inherent, but a little help to enhance it is always welcome.

The primary focus is on delivering an online styling advisory through an in-house team of qualified stylists, assisted by a tech-enabled platform, which incorporates tools such as look book creation, chat, online catalogue to provide scale and tangible outcome for the consumer.

The platform also curates a community of freelance styling professionals available on call for any other value-added styling services a consumer might require, based on certain specific occasions.

Whether someone is looking for a simple styling advice for a special occasion or an entire wardrobe makeover, the company believes that every trend can be curated to enhance one’s persona. Elanstreet offers a variety of styling services in an affordable range. Engaging tools such as style quiz and create look is an added attraction which sets Elanstreet apart from its competitors.

Why did you set up the company? / What drove you to become an Entrepreneur?

I have been an early adopter of online commerce and have been trying out private sales sites since 2007. However, by 2014 as a professional with a high pressure job and young family, I started to find the online websites as cluttered an experience as it was increasingly inconvenient for a time-challenged person to look at off line shopping (traffic woes across all metros are a big contributor, of course). Around the same time there was a sudden explosion of fashion bloggers gaining popularity as influencers around the world, including in India but the advice while often well researched was not personal and mostly catered to a certain audience (young, trendy, social media savvy). I felt that there is a large base of customers who could benefit if the style influencers (whether naturally inclined or professional) could be brought together on a platform to give a more personalized style advisory coupled with an actual execution of the advice.

That is when Elanstreet was conceptualized as a one-stop personal styling platform bringing together style consultants and fashion brands, to give a personalized, highly curated experience to a customer.

What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?

Since I come from a purely financial market background, I had to learn every aspect of the business from scratch, be it technology, styling ecosystem or merchandising. However, that is also what made the last year the most exhilarating adventure. I have also realised, while I might not have had a direct functional experience when I started the business, I had a rich experience of sales, investment, strategy and relationship management, which were essential for growing a business.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

From the initial reach-out to fashion brands, style consultants and lifestyle brands, we found a lot of interest in the concept. Personalization with scalability specifically related to styling is a narrative that we feel will find increasing traction as customers become more discerning and evolved.

How do you balance your work life and home life?

For a working mother, it’s extremely important to prioritise. You need to decide what are the few non-negotiable areas in your life, on which you would like to focus your energies and reach out for help with all other aspects. It’s also important to cut yourself some slack. You can’t possibly be the best in everything, so concentrating on the current requirement (and this changes with time) on the home or work front helps. For example, there would be times like important events in the children’s schooling, birthdays or exams when it is important to given your home life priority and likewise there would be times when certain deadlines and derivable at work will take precedent.

Above all, it’s extremely important to create a bankable support system. In my case I had wonderful supportive husband, parents, parents-in-law and of course, the ever important childcare nanny.

What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?

Dream big and don’t be afraid of failure. It’s often about taking that deep breath and jumping in. You will find that there is an entire ecosystem out there to help you along the way, as long as you take the effort to reach out.

Also, do your homework on all aspects that will affect your business, especially at the beginning. Don’t leave the important functions such as legalities, finance or tech entirely on someone else. You definitely need to understand the logic and ramifications if not the actual operational aspects.

Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?

One of the networking groups that I enjoy interacting with and is a great support system is ‘The Friday Convent’, a group of extremely enterprising women who come together to be the change they want to see.

What does the future hold for you?

We are at the start of our journey. We have big aspirations and will work tirelessly towards achieving them, one milestone at a time. For now, it’s getting ready with our app and our first major offline activation event, in collaboration with a premium mall in Bangalore.

Contacting Gargi Banerjee Koul

The interview was provided by Vinod Kumar S Reddy from Nucleus.
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