Gutsy, spirited and brave, Chinu Kala is indeed an alpha female. She took the jagged edged adversaries in her life firmly by the horns and turned them into milestones of success.
She was just 15 when she left home with practically nothing but the clothes on her back and Rs 300 in her pocket. Mumbai, the city of dreams, beckoned but for a teenager with no backing or money, the dark shadowed underbelly of the city could have engulfed her and taken her into a vicious path. But no, this spirited teenager knew what she wanted and was willing to work hard for it. To survive, she worked as a door-to-door salesperson selling knives and coaster sets. Of course, her life was hard — she lived on the streets and the platforms in Mumbai. But her spirit was ebullient and she refused to keel over and be a victim.
Chinu, from earning Rs 20-30 daily, today has a Rs 40 crore turnover jewellery business. So how did she manage to do that? “My life’s journey started when I left my home at the age of 15 and since then it has been a continuous rollercoaster ride for me,” she says.
Indeed, it was a struggle but she refused to give up. Chinu did all kinds of odd jobs including working as a waitress. However, the big break came when Chinu found a job as a telemarketing executive at Tata Communications in Mumbai, where she met her husband Amit Kala, an MBA graduate. In 2004, she tied the knot with Amit. Amit with his MBA expertise honed her skills as an entrepreneur and encouraged her to spread her wings and fly high. Today, Amit is a director at Rubans. But she had the gift of the gab and was extremely enterprising. She knew that being an entrepreneur was her ultimate goal. She began her entrepreneurial journey ith Fonte Corporate Solutions, a company that specialised in corporate merchandising. “I got married in 2004 and in 2007, my friends convinced me to enroll for the Gladrags Mrs. India pageant and luckily, I got selected,” Chinu adds.
It was at this platform that she realised the power of jewellery and how it would change, brighten or enhance any look. “This competition gave me an opportunity to see things that I had never seen or experienced before. Previously, I never had the money to spend on any luxuries because I had always been earning to survive. Here, I got introduced to the world of fashion and jewellery. It is here that I realised that even though all the participants wore amazing outfits and makeup but it was only the right accessory that completed their look… and this observation stayed with me for many years,” she says.
However, she was still not ready to start her own business at that point. “In 2008, I ventured into corporate merchandising business and had many well-known brands as customers. As part of my work, I used to deal with brand managers and while speaking to them, I saw the passion they had for their brands. They always told me that sales numbers were temporary but the brand is permanent and this thought always excited me. This is when I decided to one day build my own brand and it would be my legacy that would live on,” Chinu shares. “Since I already had a brush with the fashion world, thus choosing fashion jewellery as business was a natural progression for me,” she adds.
The beginning was humble — Chinu started from a tiny kiosk in 2014. However, through hard work, persistence, an eagerness to learn and an understanding of the gigantic power of the human spirit, Chinu dreamt big and then she turned her dreams into reality by transitioning and setting a new benchmark for the virtual market space. The pandemic helped her sieze the virtual space.
By 2021, Chinu had taken the brand to newer heights, earning her accolades all around. Today, she is running a 40 crore jewellery business. “For a first generation entrepreneur running a bootstrapped startup, every day comes with a new set of challenges. But then this is how the learning curve is carved. In my case, whatever I am today, it is purely because of the situations that I have faced from the age of 15,” she says.
“As far as competition is concerned, I feel that the only way to beat the competition is to be two steps ahead of it and let others play catch-up. At Rubans Accessories, we do not follow the traditional four collections per year trend but we curate and present at-least 10-12 collections each year. The designs curated by Rubans Accessories are quirky but at the same time, subtle. We are the only brand in the market that has strong Indian as well as western designs,” Chinu signs off.
Kudos to this inspiring woman! May her tribe increase.