As the fashion landscape booms with more designers, retailers and e-commerce players, Devangi Parekh of Aza Fashions plans to be a critical part of this expansion.
Love what you do and immerse yourself in it, or you will not enjoy the long hours and hard work that goes into starting a venture. This business lesson is not something that Devangi Parekh learnt in graduate school, but in life. After doing her Bachelor’s in entrepreneurship from Cornell University, this daughter of two successful entrepreneurs wanted to gain global experience in diverse industries. So she took up a job at Deloitte Consulting in New York as an analyst. But Parekh was her mother’s daughter and a fashion addict at heart; she would spend hours outside office analyzing designer collections, reading about textiles, and examining the rack display and store layout at departments stores without ever buying anything.
She decided to head home and put in two years in the fashion universe that her mother had created. Launched in 2005 by Dr. Alka Nishar, Aza today is one of India’s most respected chain of multi-designer stores. “I really learned about the operations side of the retail industry, and the day-to-day challenges,” Parekh recalls. She went back to the US to do an MBA at Wharton, after which she returned to India to launch azafashions.com, Aza’s global ecommerce portal for Indian designer wear, which now carries over 150 designers. Over the past two years, Aza has improved its global outreach through an online presence and a robust digital strategy. As creative director of Aza, Parekh has also rapidly scaled its social media presence, creating and implementing a digital marketing plan, and raising brand awareness through designer collaborations and PR activities.
“My focus has been on shifting to an omni-channel retail strategy. Successful retailers worldwide employ a strategy that benefits from both offline and online channels,” shares Parekh. Her father Atul Nishar is the founder of Aptech Computers and Hexaware Technologies, and the 28-year-old was always clear she wanted to start something of her own. “But the best teacher is experience. Entrepreneurship is about having a vision, and also about building a strong team of talented, proactive individuals,” she shares, adding that while reading about business cases helps, implementation and tackling operational challenges is something one can really only learn on the job. “I make a lot of mistakes, and my communication style has improved over time (with lots of room for improvement left!),” she laughs, “but the journey itself enables immense personal and professional growth, which makes it thoroughly worthwhile.”
Parekh feels blessed to be the daughter of highly supportive parents. “They push me to make mistakes and learn from situations, and they’re honest and upfront with constructive criticism,” she admits. The young heiress has quickly learnt the difference in a day job and a family business. “Your mind is always on work, and discussions at home are often focused on business growth and idea generation. But that’s fun,” she says.
Unlike her mother, Parekh is more prone to experimenting and integrating new technology. “But I have much to learn from my mother in terms of leading and managing an organization. I tend to get hyper and think a situation is the end of the world until I discuss it with my parents,” she smiles. “They are inevitably calm since they’ve been through the issue and help me realize that one can find a way to approach every problem!”
If there’s one thing Parekh has learnt, it’s that one has to be shameless about asking for what you want (as long as it’s ethical): “Without asking, it’s unlikely that you’ll get it.” No doubt, that’s a wise head on young shoulders.