Thought Habitat is observing the first week of March as International Women’s Week. Throughout this week, we will be promoting accomplished women entrepreneurs. In this firstever episode, we are in conversation with Myra Agarwal, Founder of MY|RA Footwear, a sustainable footwear brand from India. Myra built this brand on her own and is focused on giving the rightful dues to poor Indian Artisans.
Here is the edited excerpts of the entire conversation in our Thought Habitat Speaks YouTube Channel
Sustainability is the buzz word in today’s world. How did you manage to couple it with your brand ethos?
I chose sustainability as part of my brand ethos not because it is the buzzword now as sustainability has been a default practice in our family ever since the beginning. So, the brand has to be ethical because it had to represent my personality. We use leather scraps that go to the garbage and sea to make shoes out of them. And it is partially vegan because we reuse scraps of real leather. Otherwise, we make real vegan shoes.
Could you define the one challenge that struck you from moving ahead and you broke the chain to move ahead?
There are multiple challenges to be a women entrepreneur. To start with, nobody will take you seriously. I did my studies at FIT New York and when I came and approached the local vendors, they all responded, “this is such a foreign concept and it is not going to work here.” All such typical comments did exist. Also, identifying a vendor who could work with my ethos was a challenge. I met about 20 vendors before I chose one to work with and that’s a very tiring process altogether. I feel pretty good today that I finally found the one. Also, the industry is very male dominated and when they come to know that you’re a woman entrepreneur they are going to give you high pricing thinking you don’t know anything. But once you’ve overcome them, you will feel good finally that it is all over.
Giving local talent the rightful dues seems to be your motto. Would you like to share more about it?
I studied abroad and worked abroad for some couple of years. Before starting this business, I worked for a French company in New York and I have been really paid well. Being a girl from Jaipur, I see how the leather people are paid. They are underpaid for what they provide us and the kind of wages you give them is absolutely nothing. It is not even worth the dinner meal of a normal person. That’s when I thought, I must get back and pay these people what they deserve. Eventually, it became a give and take relationship between them and me as we enjoyed working together. Moreover, I want to see them happy. When they are happy, that reflects on the output and the buyer is happy. Finally that makes me happy.
What’s the roadmap for your MY|RA footwear?
Today, I’m not 100% sustainable. But everyday I’m making an effort to do better everyday i.e., I’m trying to do better than yesterday. Therefore, I make these incremental improvements. Today, I made my packaging sustainable and I would like to do this sustainability exist for a long time. And I want to be at a point where I will be 100 percent sustainable with my brand and until then I won’t rest. That’s one of the major goals of my brand and also, I would like to build a community of local artisans in India from whom I can source the products and I want to showcase their artwork as well.
Would you like to give one advice for women entrepreneurs like you?
Persistence is the key. You need to be very sure about what you want to do. People will tend to stop you if you want to do something new. There is going to be challenges and hurdles. But if you’re persistent, nothing is going to stop you from achieving big.
Well, we have more achievers lined up. So, keep watching this space.