Meet Palak Shah Who Took The Leap Of Faith
To have a thriving family business and then try something new takes spunk. Meet Palak Shah who is gradually bringing traditional Banarasi textiles to the young crowd with a 'modern' twist.
By Ashwin Dewan
Here is the story of a confident woman who dared to dream beyond the ‘traditional’ and eventually carved a niche for her grandiose dream in this modern world. Meet Palak Shah.
Her unmistakable confidence is something that Palak exudes. Trying to revamp one’s booming family business so that it would appeal to a new generation without losing the existing clientele is no easy task. Most would shy away. After all, who likes getting mixed up with risk and change, right? Well, on the contrary, Palak went ahead and did just that – as she was sure that she wanted to change the way handloom textiles are presented and sold in India.
Palak swears by her mantra – “take that leap of faith and jump”. One that she wants every woman to follow. Today, as she has established herself as a successful entrepreneur who is working hard daily towards her dream, one can only say that fortune favours the confident. In Palak’s case, it truly did. Read this story,
In an exclusive conversation with ParentCircle, Palak talks about how her confidence helped her in her journey, her support system, and the launch of Ekaya – a name that has now become synonymous with Banarasi textiles.
Read, be inspired and share the key takeaways from Palak's entrepreneurial journey with your daughters. Let your little girls look up to these real-life role models as they grow up to become the strong women of tomorrow.
Q. Your story is an interesting one. From graduating with a business management degree to joining the family’s textile manufacturing business to launching your luxury handloom brand Ekaya – you have come a long way. How do you look back on this incredible journey till now?
By the grace of God, my journey has been a fulfilling one. However, I would like to say that a lot of hard work is also involved – where you are constantly trying out things and putting in long hours. Basically, as long as you love what you are doing, it won’t feel like a job.
Q. In most cases, after joining the family business, people become content and even complacent. What made you launch the brand Ekaya? Any specific reason behind this decision?
I think this is a myth because there is, in fact, an added pressure to perform better. When you want to shine and stand out in your family business, you have got to put in more hours. As far as launching Ekaya goes, I was studying in London as an undergraduate. During this time, I used to wonder why Indian crafts and textiles are not represented in the same manner as international handloom crafts. We Indians look down on the way in which we launch our own things, we feel embarrassed to go to a saree or a handicraft shop. I wanted to change that perception.
My family was in the business of manufacturing textiles and I always wondered why the business was not treated with more respect or more love. Keeping all this in mind, I wanted to launch my own brand and market the business with more love and respect. In due course, I became successful in my aim.
Q. As a woman entrepreneur, what are the daily changes you face? What keeps you going in difficult times?
A. I think I face as much struggle as a man does and would also like to point out that I do not face extra struggle being a woman. Touchwood, I have not, till now, been a spectator to these struggles because of my gender. I am treated well by my staff who take care of me. However, when the going gets tough, I just work harder. If you are falling, just jump up harder.
Q. Tell us about yourself. So, what makes Palak – Palak? What is your one unique trait that sets you apart from the rest?
I feel my passion for what I do, daring nature, my ability to take risks and do things out of the box make me – me. Also, I feel that one quality that I possess, and which sets me apart from the rest is I do not shy away from anything. In fact, this has taken me places.
Q. Tell us a little about your childhood? What was Palak like as a little girl?
I was like any other girl who loved to play with dolls. In fact, I was a timid girl but curious, and I used to ask a lot of questions – why not? Why can’t I do this? I was always challenging. Having lived away from home for a long period of almost 18 years, I have grown up on my own in a boarding school. This made me very independent. My uncles and my father have played a big part in my upbringing that also resulted in me being a tomboy during childhood.
Q. Who is the one woman who inspires you and why?
Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo., is one woman who has always inspired me. My father always wanted me to become like her when I grow up. In fact, since the age of two, I have been hearing one constant line – “You have to grow up and become Indra Nooyi".
Q. Tell us about your parents’ role in your upbringing, and their involvement in making you who you are today?
My father and his brother have played a huge role in my upbringing as I was mostly raised by them. I have always been pushed to do something harder, pushed to go beyond my limits, pushed to get up each time I fall.
While there has been pampering, it has been at a reasonable limit so that I don’t get used to it and don’t push myself. As a result, I am always pushing myself.
Q. Please share any empowering moment or incident in your life that made you feel proud to be a woman?
Nothing specific, as every single day I am proud to be a woman. I am proud to be an example to other women to stand up for themselves, to be a woman and live (what the society calls) a man’s job. I don’t think I would ever want to be a man.
Q. How do you think daughters should be raised in today’s world?
Just let daughters be – let them find their own path, their own identity and not forced to live in a ‘box’ that the society creates. If they want to do anything, they should be allowed to do it. We should stop typecasting women, labelling them and putting them in tiny boxes.
Q. What is the one message you would like to share for the women of tomorrow – for the girls who look up to you as a role model, inspiration?
I would just like to tell women to “take that leap of faith and jump”. Because if they don’t take that leap of faith, they will never know what they can achieve. Pursue any idea that their heart tells them to follow.
Q. Your message to women on the occasion of Women’s Day?
Be fearless. Hold each other’s hand and just jump – take a leap of faith. Follow your dreams. There is a beautiful world out there beyond your fears.
Hall of fame
2019: Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia List
2019: Facilitated collaboration with designer Masaba Gupta.
2018: Ekaya announced its first global collaboration with Fédération Française de la Création Couture Sur Measure (also known as C’COUTURE) at Paris Haute Couture Week on 29 January 2018.
2015: Facilitated collaboration with designer Archana Rao.
2013: Facilitated collaboration with designers Abraham & Thakore.
2012: Launch of Ekaya to promote Indian crafts and take the textiles of Benares to a global level.
2012: Graduated from Kings College in London with a business management degree.
Note: Palak has also facilitated collaboration with international brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Missoni.
About the author:
Written by Ashwin Dewan on 2 March 2020.
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