A young entrepreneur who followed her heart, Rasika Wakalkar gave Pune its first multi-designer store Rudraksh. The brainchild behind the Indira schools in Baner and Aundh, Rasika has well contributed to the educational field as well.
In a candid chat with The Punekar, Rasika reveals about the birth of Rudraksh, her experience with Young Indians and her contribution to the educational field.
You hold a degree in French language, then what got you diverted to the fashion industry?
Actually after I did my degree in French language, I was working with Chetan my husband for almost about 8 years and I did my masters in marketing management while I was working. So it was already a switch for me from French to management and marketing. In that sense, doing Rudraksh was a third switch for me.
What led you to open Rudraksh?
I was in Paris on an exchange programme for about three weeks and I thought the women on the street were really well dressed. It was impressive to see every woman turning out well. It made me wonder why Pune does not have a good option for clothing. Many a times we had to travel to Bombay whenever we needed something exclusive and different for occasions like party or wedding. So, that demand supply gap basically is what I identified and through Rudraksh I tried to bridge it.
Rudraksh is the first multi-designer store to come up in Pune. Was it challenging to launch it in Pune or was the city very receptive then?
As a concept, Rudraksh was ahead of its time then. It was very much needed and wanted but no retailer had faith in Pune, especially in Aundh where we started. Having said that Chetan my husband supported me a lot and he was the one to encourage me to set it up. It was a very calculative decision, as I had studied the market a bit and I knew there was nothing that existed in Pune and people would shop when they travelled. So there was a latent demand. It is just that now it is sort of grown or is identified and accepted.
Are you very particular about the labels that you stock at Rudraksh?
More than the labels, we are particular about the quality and the finish of the product. It is not that because it’s a label it has to be there. It has to be a label in the context of Pune and the Pune client. It’s also about how much of an appeal that would have to our client.
[pullquote_left]“As a concept, Rudraksh was ahead of its time then. It was very much needed and wanted but no retailer had faith in Pune, especially in Aundh where we started.”[/pullquote_left]
Having some of the top labels at your store, which designer or label you personally like?
Honestly it is difficult to pick and choose because they all are someone I like for their work and therefore they are there at Rudraksh. Actually I am personally involved with the merchandising and I think we like each and every one of it. Having said that, I tend to bend more towards the minimalist and edgy style rather than in your face designer outfits. I prefer to go more for cuts than embellishments. Obviously then I end up liking designers like Rahul Mishra or Wendell Rodricks.
You also played a key role in shaping the Indira group of institutes? How was the experience working in the educational field?
It was rewarding, I got to learn a lot. I wouldn’t say I played a key role completely because Chetan and Tarita are capable enough and they knew what they were doing. Yes, school came about when I was looking for my child’s admission and I realized there are no schools around. Indira group had all courses which were post graduate at that time or which were after 12th standard. So we had nothing from Play group and we decided to do Indira kids at Baner and Aundh.
In that sense starting the school was personally rewarding because I could understand so many more things for my own children while bringing them up. It’s different thing to run college and school. In a college you are dealing with a student who is an adult but in school, you are dealing with children who are not necessarily those who understand discipline. In school it is something you contribute to shape someone’s life. So, over all it was a great experience.
[pullquote_right]“More than the labels, we are particular about the quality and the finish of the product.”[/pullquote_right]
What does winning the Star Youth Achiever Award in Fashion means to you?
It means I need to understand what it is when it comes to fashion, youth and entrepreneurship. The award is very inspiring. It is just that I was enjoying my work a lot and someone recognised it.
You are one of the women involved in the Muskaan project. How has it been doing so far and is the response good? Any expansion plans?
Muskan has not been a year old yet. Yes I happen to be one of the brand ambassadors as they call it for the project. It’s the Ishanya foundation which has launched it. Yes there are some initial learning blocks because it’s a socio-economic kind of dimension where we are empowering women to earn livelihood.
There are lot of clothes that households don’t need and they don’t know what to do with them. We take clothes which are in good condition and recycle and sort them. The women or the paris as we call them, associated with the project sell them and earn from it. Muskaan is about 10 paris now but we are looking up to have many more.
[pullquote_left]“The award is very inspiring. It is just that I was enjoying my work a lot and someone recognised it.” [/pullquote_left]
You were the chairperson of Young Indians. How has your experience been with the association?
I was the chairperson for Pune chapter last year. It was an amazing experience to know the bandwidth of the organisation because YI (Young Indians) works a lot on youth agendas related to education, environment, health, employability, sports and culture. The group has lots to do with how we want India to be and be a part of building it and not just complain. Working with them is completely voluntary and I have really enjoyed myself. I feel it’s not about how much you earn but how much you give. I personally feel gratified to have been associated with them else I would have not got the opportunity to contribute to society in such a wonderful way.
You are invited to represent India at the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Summit due to take place this October in France. How does it feel?
The summit is happening at the end of this month. The perspective of the summit is to understand how India is uniquely positioned. It is about understanding entrepreneurs and eco-systems and to help fuel economic growth.