Exploitation Happens When A Woman Does Not Assert Herself

Updated: Aug 31 2002, 05:30am hrs
Femina Miss India Asia Pacific (1995), Ruchi Malhotra is wearing another hat now: this time, not in the beauty business, but as an entrepreneur. She has set up an outfit for the manufacture and retailing of premium designerwear, which would however, cater to the fashion-conscious middle class buyers. Her strategy: exploit the scope in the premium designer wear segment by plugging three major loopholes that she believes it has of accessibility, positioning and pricing.

She has started from a simple idea: make designer clothes more affordable. Due to hype, people have started associating designer clothes with events like weddings which have resulted in their prices shooting upto the Rs 1 lakh plus category, says Ms Malhotra.

For starters, she has set up One Clothing at Shoppers Stop, the retail mall in Delhi, on a space sharing basis. She has also tied up with top well-known designers like Ritu Kumar, Gitanjali Kashyap and Aparna Chandra and some new comers like Jatin Varma and Nandita Marwah. One Clothing has also struck deals with some largest manufacturers of clothing. The designs, styles and concepts are licensed from chosen designers, manufactured and produced at these factories and then sold through the One Clothing chain, says Ms Malhotra.

For this, Ms Malhotra is relying on low prices of the products ranging between Rs 595 to Rs 4,995. That is not all. She is also planning a whole gamut of new product range in men, women and children wear, Indian ethnic for office women, active athlete and sports wear, party and club wear.

However, One Clothing is just one part of Ms Malhotras professional life. She started modelling when she was not even 20 years old. Her campaigns included Virginia Slims, Liril Soap, Lux Soap, Thumbs Up, Elle 18, Braun, Mcdowels and Airtel. Ms Malhotra has also acted in quite a few soap operas like Pehchan telecast on Sony, Caught on Camera on Home TV and Ek Se Bhar Ke EK on DD2.

However, it has not been an easy ride. I belong to a very conservative family, says she. She was introduced to the modelling world by one of her friends who was associated with this profession. I remember I really had to plead to my parents to allow me to go for the first shoot. I then decided to call them to the place I would practise and shoot with my model colleagues and then they realised it was not a bad world at all, says Ms Malhotra.

After she became Ms India Asia Pacific, Ms Malhotra was awarded Special Women of the Year Award. This was followed by Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award and Femina Women of the Year in 1996, the Presidents Award for Women Empowerment in 1997 and Femina Indias Glory Award in 2000. To fund Ms Malhotras current business, one of the nationalised banks, Oriental Bank of Commerce has already sanctioned Rs 50 crore capital as first round of funding for One Clothing. Ms Malhotra has also invested Rs 15 lakh as seed capital and expects to break-even soon.

Ms Malhotra also plans to open two stores in Mumbai and a couple of exclusive stores in Delhi. We plan to expand through our own retail stores as well as through store in store concept like the space sharing arrangement she has with Shoppers Stop, says Ms Malhotra. Further, she is also planning to spread her wings in Europe. For example, she says she received a lot of enquiries at the Lakme India Fashion Week (LIFW) held in Delhi recently.

A science student, Ms Malhotra wanted to be an architect but destiny had something more glamourous for her. She got her portfolio when she was in class 12th and then she started getting assignments. And she is happy that she went in for modelling. This is probably the only profession where women are paid more than men, she says confidently, adding that a woman model can easily demand four times more the money per assignment than a male model and the industry would happy give it. In any field, exploitation happens when the woman does not know how to assert her rights, says Ms Malhotra. Highlighting the advantages of modelling Ms Malhotra says, Chances of a woman rising are substantially high in modelling as one begins at an early age and by the time she is 30 she has enough money to be an entrepreneur.

When not at work, Ms Malhotra spends time at workshops of CRY to help war widows as a part of Project Defense which is involved in rehabilitation of these women. She has also organised worshops at the Spastic Society of Northern India.

Her dream project I am more of a practical person and my aim currently is to see this business growing and I have at least one store each in all leading cities, says she.