A business gets the tag of success when it involves not only profit but consciousness also thinks Aulive Founder and Brand Strategist Wamika Shekhawat. She started this business to bring leather alternatives to fashion and travel accessories. Now, the company has a large customer base across countries and gained recognition among the young generation of India.
Talking with Business Upside India, Wamika shares how this journey started, what she aspires next with Aulive and what significant change she wishes to bring with her business.
Edited Excerpt of the Interview:
Business Upside [BU]: From a Business Analyst to an Entrepreneur Running a Successful Business, how was the Journey, and how did it all Start?
Wamika Shekhawat [WS]:- In 2016, having moved cities, I was looking for another exciting position in the same field. Initially, Aulive began as a side project while I continued my search for a perfect corporate fit. The brand began attracting much interest and garnering sales pretty soon. We only had three products in the beginning, and soon we began designing more to cater to all the new eyes.
As a kid, having come across some YouTube videos on sourcing genuine leather was enough to opt out of buying any product(s) that had animal leather, fur, etc, involved in the making. But I genuinely loved the look & feel of leather bags & garments. Most of growing up was a clash between a cruelty-free fashion belief & little choices in the market. And then fast forward to 2016 – by now, I was tired of trying to find quality faux leather products. And as such, the idea of Aulive was born.
[BU]: What were the Challenges you Faced when you Decided to Start this Business?
[WS]: Initially, it was raising awareness about the various alternatives. Discussing the pros & cons of every purchase. Sharing with customers that we vote with our wallets and how far our purchasing decisions play a role.
We are a fairly new business with all the investment from our personal savings. Age is at our side to work it out till the wee hours of midnight; however, every other day, a company or brand pops up in the e-com space with MNC-backed funds trying to catch on the bandwagon of buzz words & marketing internationally – when it comes to customers who want to purchase products from ethical brands consciously; sometimes the right brands who genuinely want to make a difference get lost in the noise.
[BU]: What is the USP of your Company?
- Offer all kinds of leather Alternatives for consumers to choose from. We currently work with Pinatex (aka pineapple leather), Malai (coconut leather), cork & quality artificial leather. The idea is to have a versatile range of bags in various plant fabrics & leather alternatives to create designs that are timeless & functional.
- Small businesses, in general, have sustainable business models. While not overproducing and maintaining waste, carefully crafted supply chains are a lifestyle in small businesses. We save all our leftover fabric and have begun to create small functional objects for every day, like tiny money clippers or a key chain & sometimes add these as surprise gifts along with a customer’s order. So, it is the small things.
[BU]: What is the Broader Envision Behind this Company?
- Timeless designs. Our products last longer, and we do not want a customer to eventually get bored with something that isn’t a trend anymore. Plus, classic is the way, we believe, to go when it comes to luggage.
- We also pay close attention to designs that lead to less wastage of fabric.
[BU]: What do you always Keep in Mind while Serving Customers?
[WS]: Transparency and raising awareness. Since we are in a relatively niche sector that proposes alternatives, there is a constant need to talk to our community and customer bases. We offer all the information regarding our products and supply chains, giving the customers more ownership in their purchase decisions.
[BU]: How do you Assist your Customers in Case they are having Some Issues?
[WS]: Our pre & post-purchase customer service is done via online chats. Since we are a small business, every purchase and customer is a personal journey. We know them and their needs and keep an open conversation. Rare, but any accidental defect is immediately taken care of.
[BU]: What Makes you Most Satisfied in your Professional Life?
[WS]: Working on making a positive difference. Even if it’s a drop in the ocean, plus, it’s amazing when we come across such incredible people more and more, who are also doing great work.
[BU]: What would be your Message to Aspiring Entrepreneurs?
[WS]: The cliche: Go for it! Anyone starting out young and relatively new in any space, try to create a fallback before jumping in; start slowly (maybe, as a side project) in order to view and analyse all the possibilities and plans accordingly. There are tons of people who have ideas, and maybe the same idea as you; the execution matters.
[BU]: How do you Intend to Serve Society with this Business?
[WS]: To create awareness about the cruelty-free leather alternatives available in the market, which are just as good as genuine leather. We want people to be proud of purchasing products which are not genuine leather. The prodcuts do not cause harm to animals, and are free of the guilt of taking lives. And a business that can become an inspiration for other leather brands to switch to alternatives too.
[BU]: How do you Define Success?
[WS]: As of this moment, we are able to employ team members at Aulive, that the artisans who work with us have only prospered along with their families, and we were able to sail through the pandemic without disrupting any of our team’s salaries, that we are slowly, but surely getting back to a profitable venture after the two years of uncertainty. And that Aulive brings us all happiness. Every order is a win for everyone in the organization. As of now, this is a success for me.