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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

After Leaving A 13 Y.O. Career, Deepa Pant Is Turning Slum-Dwelling Women Into Designers

  • IWB Post
  •  February 6, 2018

How many times have we given up on our dreams just because we were too set in our ways, afraid to leave our sanctuary and venture into the unknown? Countless moments, chances, wishes ditched in this fear, but after my conversation with a woman who left behind a career of 13 years to do something her heart yearned for, the ‘fear’ doesn’t look that scary anymore.

“True growth is when everyone grows together,” said Deepa Pant, a social entrepreneur who bid adieu to her budding career in the fashion industry and choose to open her own brand of apparels. While that sounds way too simple, imagine giving up on 13 years of progress and daring to not only live your dreams but attaching the wonderful mission of helping the less privileged to it too.

Training underprivileged women living in slums to make handcrafted products, Deepa has set up a brand that is known for the noble purpose behind it. Don’t you want to know the reason behind Deepa’s undeniable spirit? Here you go! Excerpts:

What made you leave an established career of 13 years to start your own business?

I was, and to some extent still am, a career-oriented person. I gave my all to the companies I worked with, but there was always this feeling that had been building. I was forced to consider whether it was my calling. There was always this question in the back of my head, “Am I doing what I really want to do?”

And then I realized that making a social impact with my work was what was missing all along, The jazz was there, the money was there but nothing which made it worth working for. So, I decided to build something that would give me that missing ingredient and, in 2013, I launched Svatanya in Delhi. I have been doing it for the last five years and it has been an amazing experience. I’ve literally never been so happy.
Deepa Pant

Svatanya offers two fashion labels – Amaryn (for women) and My Munchkin (for infants and kids). Dresses, tops, and skirts are the product range of Amaryn and My Munchkin has apparel, bags, soft toys and other accessories under it.

So, how did you go about recruiting and forming your team?

We try and reach out to women living in slums and invite them over, where we offer them the option to first learn and then work with us. And one thing that our patriarchal society has done right for them is that they are already somewhat skilled in sewing and stitching or knitting, a boon of the plague ‘Ladki ho, ladkiyon ko sab ghar ka kaam aana chahiye.’

So, we don’t really need any classes for these trained ladies, do we? I immediately put them on tasks better suited to their existing skills after a little training. Now women approach us on their own and as far as I can remember, not even one has been turned away till date. And the ones who improve past their level are promoted accordingly, like handling a more complex machine, or get assigned a more difficult toy or apparel design.

But the stigma of gender boundaries is far more pronounced in slums, where poverty and lack of education add to the problems of women.

It wasn’t easy to convince them. But more than that, this mentality had poisoned that of women as well. I still remember the first two women we trained and the reservations they initially had – what their neighbors would say, how their husband will face the fact of an earning wife. Apart from that, handling the household chores was entirely dependent on them. So, trying to apply regular working hours to them would be pointless. We tried making it as easy and flexible as possible for them.

We placed two shifts – a morning and an evening shift, and they could come at a time better suited to their schedule. We also started giving them the material to take home with them and work on it there. Now they are both employed and looking after their families.

That’s admirable! And the apparels of your brand are so beautiful. From where do you draw the inspiration?

Many think that unprivileged women have no talent, no creativity, but for me, it’s like I found a treasure of innovation within them. I remember this particular woman who showed me the bandanvars she had made. What amazing designs she had intricately woven! I asked her to replicate the same on a jacket line we were developing.

And apart from that I never follow other designers, I try to create something which is not already there in the market which becomes an interesting task with my team of superwomen discussing and sharing their own ideas with me.

And what about the models wearing your dresses in the pictures on the Facebook page of Amaryn? Although I’ve got a sneaking suspicion of who that is.

Deepa Pant

Haha! Your suspicions are right on the mark, most of them are me, flaunting my designs. I kinda feel like that the passion with which I design them can be best portrayed through me. *she laughs* And for the kids’ apparel, it’s my daughters, and in both the cases it’s my dear hubby, Nimish Pant, who is our default photographer, as he bears with us patiently.  

As we only have an online presence and the portals we work with have their own photo shoots with professional models with our apparels, they send us the photos. Also, our customers oblige now and then by giving us photos of themselves dressed in our products.

Available on websites like worldcommunity.com and stylemoto.com to cater to the niche audience as well, Deepa believes in going slow and steady with her business.

Quell my curiosity here, while going through the page, I came across a picture of you with your daughters and you were quite similarly dressed.

Deepa Pant

You know how kids are, right? Trying on mommy’s shoes, clothes, aiming to look like me. Watching my daughters do that gave me this idea of twin-wardrobing and hence came this new range where similar looking dresses for sisters, mothers, and daughters came out. And voila! Every little girl’s dream of being a mini-version of their mommy is fulfilled.

Deepa Pant

So, apart from being your supermodels, in what other ways do your little angels assist you?

As my inspiration and my honest critics. I would never let a kid apparel land in the market without my daughters’ nod of finding it perfect in every manner. And that depends on two conditions – they find it comfortable and go ‘Wow!’ after seeing it. While my elder daughter, who is nine, details the merits and shortcomings of the apparels, my two-year-old just picks up the clothes she likes and goes away with the declaration of ‘pehnna hai.’

Aw! An adorable critic you have there. What about your brand ‘The Munchkin’? Inspired by your girls again?

Certainly! But the main factor was my own childhood. I was this crazy kid whom my mother literally had to drag in from outside. But even though I loved playing in the dust and remaining outside, I had two dolls I really loved.

Deepa Pant

Remembering my childhood days, I realized that every child needs a toy buddy and this realisation also lead to the foundation of my initiative Amaryn Care.

Deepa Pant

Deepa recently won the WE-Innovation Award at the Think Big conference, Asia’s largest platform for women’s empowerment.

Via Amaryn care, Deepa started an initiative of giving toys to children in hospitals and slums, in an attempt to give them joy, cheer and a buddy they can hold onto. Crowdfunding is being conducted for the same where anyone who wants to be the one to bring a smile on a child’s face can contribute. Till now, three successful drives have been conducted.

Seeing that your daughters are such an integral part of your life, do you take them with you on these drives?

I sure do! You see, I want them to understand and appreciate the privileges they have in life. The initial lessons of life are to be presented by us to our kids, so they grow up to be compassionate individuals.

Deepa Pant

While they get your constant guidance in life, what message would you like to send out to those who desire to become a social entrepreneur?

Well, only the desire to become a social entrepreneur won’t do, passion needs to be there which constantly fuels this desire. But the recipe is not yet complete – add patience, focus, and determination to it because you’ll be needing it in heaps as a social entrepreneur because nothing happens in a single night and in this case the progress is even slower. Continuous efforts – that’s the key.

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