Finding her niche in maternity fashion
For as long as she can remember, Divya has wanted to start her own business. When she was younger, she saw her father “start his business from zero”. “So I wanted to do that. I wasn't keen on joining an existing family business, but I was struggling to find the right idea that really inspired me,” she shares.
“After leaving Imperial and getting married, it was then the idea of maternity clothes struck me,” she reveals. “Around this time, I met a friend who was very unhappy with the way her body was changing during pregnancy. Of course, it’s such a blessing to be able to grow a baby, but it was affecting her mental health.”
Women create life, which is a superpower. However, the process of growing a child is tiring and mentally exhausting. Many women choose to stay at home as they don’t feel confident about their changing body shape.
From here she started to do some research. “There wasn’t a big brand in India that focussed on maternity. Women would just wear their husband’s oversized clothes or not go out. There’s a big market in the UK, but every brand in India was focussed on baby products.”
The birth of Momzjoy
Founded by Divya and her childhood friend Kriti Baveja, Momzjoy has found its own niche in the market for maternity and nursing fashion wear in India. Momzjoy create clothes designed to fit during and post-pregnancy and have concealed nursing access for easy breastfeeding.
“Our products are designed to flatter growing curves and fit during and post pregnancy. They’re also made using breathable fabrics safe for mother and baby”.
Whenever our customers share photos wearing our products on social media, I feel so proud. Our main goal was to make women feel confident while they’re bodies are changing, and they tell us they feel beautiful and happy.
Momzjoy deliver worldwide and have given confidence to over 40,000 mothers, including celebrities like Sania Mirza, a professional tennis player. The business has been awarded The Best Maternity Wear Brand in India 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 by leading parenting portal Kidsstoppress, as well as the National Entrepreneurship Award 2018 by the Govt. of India (MSDE).
But there’s more. The founders have also been awarded Businessworld's India’s Hottest Young Entrepreneurs 2017 and Divya has been awarded Top 50 most influential e-commerce professionals by Asia Retail Congress in 2018.
“I used an engineering mind set and customer feedback to create styles that were suitable for growing body shapes. We have now automated the design process after analysis of our database and launch 300 products every month.”
The risk paid off for Divya and Momzjoy was self-funded and sustainable within 4 years of its launch. With over 1200 unique products, 90% of their products are handcrafted in their in-house manufacturing unit too.
Challenges along the way
Divya wants people to know it’s not as easy as it sounds. Her journey has been challenging and there have been different hurdles she has had to overcome. She admits, “With no design background, designing clothes that would accommodate growing curves seemed impossible at first. I thought I could never translate the designs in my head into reality.”
Another challenge was setting up their manufacturing unit with no experience in a male dominated industry. Divya shares, “We started with a team of two people and now have a team of 30 manufacturing more than 2000 units per month.”
I’ve always believed that it’s not about the money, but my passion to make a difference that makes everything possible. I hope to make Momzjoy a global brand known for its quality and service.
She recognises that many people are constrained by the thought of not having enough money to pursue their dreams. “My partner and I had no savings and we literally built this brand from scratch,” she says. “I didn’t even have EUR 100 to open a bank account. However, we broke even within 10 months of our launch and have been profitable since then.”
Looking to the future
Divya still has big plans for Momzjoy. She explains, “We are developing our proprietary software to further automate our systems so that we can handle any amount of business without increasing manpower cost. This will help us work efficiently with fewer employees and will provide better customer experience.”
But Momzjoy is only the beginning for Divya. She has already started to dip her toes into other areas of fashion. “I’ve actually just launched another business – it’s a womenswear brand selling cotton products that are very breathable and soft. The website is going live soon.”
Time at Imperial
Imperial College Business School gave Divya the platform to believe in the power of technology, and she still uses the management acumen developed during the course today. She describes her time at Imperial as “a great experience.” “The best part of my course was the last semester when we worked with a company outside the university. The lecturers were great too and had such deep knowledge.”
Being at Imperial and living in London opened my eyes to different things, and exploring disruptive innovation was really insightful. I think subconsciously this is when ecommerce started to become an option for me.
Part of a community for life
Divya has fond memories of her time at Imperial. She remembers her first day clearly, “We were told to bring something that represented our country. We were the only ones who danced in the class. And we got to learn about other people’s countries too.”
Although she’s busy with her business, she still finds time to stay in touch with old classmates, “We have a WhatsApp group so we can keep up with what everyone is doing. Some are entrepreneurs too, while others work for big businesses or family companies.”
An inspiration to others
When asked what drives her, Divya says, “I think my motivation comes from supporting society. If I've made something that helps others, it makes me happy. Also, when I see my staff’s standard of living improving too is really important to me. One lady used to just do the final quality check. We’ve trained her to cut fabric, which is a much better paying job.”
She reveals to anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps, “High emotional intelligence is for entrepreneurs, but it’s very undervalued. If you can see the world from other’s point of view you can communicate and negotiate better.”
It’s a great feeling to come highly commended – especially as its from my own university. Out of all the awards, this one is the most important to me.
Divya realises that starting a business isn’t always easy. She remembers someone telling her father how hard it is to run a business. But her father told her, “If you believe in your product and ignore what negative people say, you will succeed.” As a wife and mother, Divya enjoys the flexibility being an entrepreneur gives her. “For me, I need flexible hours. With my business, I can do what I want, and I can earn money while I’m sleeping. Of course, there is the pressure of feeling responsible for your staff. But there are so many benefits,” she says.
Sharing her story
“My undergraduate college in India asked me to do a TEDx talk. I shared my story of how I started and the challenges I faced like having no money. I also told the students what I’ve learnt along the way and explained the importance of finding your purpose. I spoke from my heart – I didn’t actually memorise anything like the other speakers.”
For Divya, giving back to the community is important too. She donates fabric scraps for making reusable bags and pouches for sustainable fashion. As a policy, the team also allocate 7% of its profit for charitable activities. So far, they’ve supported flood reliefs, surrogate homes and food distribution.
“I personally suffered multiple miscarriages before being blessed with a beautiful baby boy. This experience made me value women more, especially surrogate mothers. We donate clothes to maternal and surrogate homes in India. “
During the COVID-19 crisis, we distributed 2000 free masks made at our manufacturing unit to vegetable vendors and daily wagers. We are also sending out free masks with every order to do our bit.
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