I decided to make my own bags, now I love seeing others use them
Ashmi Bhansali is a regular 25-year-old who likes reading, shopping, yoga, Sunday brunches and spa treatments. At 25, she is also a successful entrepreneur who has her own fashion label that sells in stores across the country and earns her a monthly income of over Rs 1 lakh.
What started off as a mere "fetish for big bags" is now a full-fledged fashion business for this pretty, petite Santacruz resident.
"When I was 18, I really liked big bags, but couldn't find any stylish ones in stores," she said. "So I made my own, which I carried around."
It was one of these handmade bags that caught the fancy of the owner of trendy kitsch store OMO. "I was there shopping, and the owner was quite impressed when I told her I had made my bag myself. There and then, I got my very first order," said Bhansali.
And she made her very first sale too - two bags for Rs 800.
Not wanting to sell under her own name, Bhansali and her friends came up with 'Pink Papaya'. "Pink is my favourite colour and papaya was just a random afterthought," said Bhansali.
The quirky name stuck, and has gone from printed chits of paper to stylishly woven labels.
Three years ago, Bhansali held an exhibition at an art gallery, where she sold a couple of her trademark big bags. Word got around and soon Barefoot, the famous garage store turned hip Bandra boutique, asked Bhansali to supply clothes as well.
One thing led to another and she found herself making shoes and accessories too. She half-heartedly attempted a conventional media career after college, working with SABe TV and L'Officiel magazine for a while.
But as the demand for her bags and clothes burgeoned, she decided to take up fashion full-time. She had made the right choice. Pink Papaya is now a must-have brand in most store worth their SQ (Style Quotient).
"What helped my cause was being chosen to showcase my collection at the IMC Ladies' Wing exhibition for upcoming fashion entrepreneurs in 2006. Being the biggest talking point in ladies' fashion, I procured a lot of orders through the show," said Bhansali.
At last count, Pink Papaya sells (and how) at 10 boutiques across the country - four in Mumbai and others (none of which she has never set foot in) in Bangalore, Kolkatta, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Pune.
"People think that having your own label requires money, but I had zero investment in my brand. Whatever I earned from selling my stuff, I invested in making more and that's how I still work," she said.
With a six digit monthly income, the specifics of which she adamantly refuses to reveal, Bhansali now has babies on her mind. Not her own, though. She's thinking of Baby Pink Papaya - an extension into a label for kids.
"I want to hold more exhibitions across India and start my own home furnishings brand as well as a full-fledged kids' line," she said. "I just love what I do."