Walking away from the corporate world and turning entrepreneur is never easy. But Saroja Yeramilli, CEO and founder of the jewellery brand Melorra, has a knack for trying out new things.
In her career of over two decades, she has been an account executive with Ogilvy and Mather, headed the sales team at Tanishq, led operations at Marico-Kaya skin clinic and handled marketing at Dell, among other roles. A couple of years ago, Saroja recognised a gap in the fine jewellery market and decided to bridge it. "Most of the jewellery out there was the kind that women would store in lockers and wear only on special occasions. There was nothing exciting for young women to pair with western wear on a daily basis," she says. "Our designs at Melorra are contemporary and heavily influenced by international trends."
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Right from her first job, Saroja was keen on understanding how a business grows, and that knowledge has held her in good stead today. In 2016, Melorra closed its first round of funding at $5 million (about Rs 33.4 crore), making it one of the largest ever seed rounds raised by an Indian venture in recent times. In two years since Melorra's launch, the brand has grown in leaps and bounds. Today, Melorra delivers to every single pincode in the country. "In fact, 50% of our business can be traced to small towns and cities," Saroja shares. For the next couple of years, Saroja will focus on Melorra's growth in India, and then train her sights on building a global consumer brand.
For Saroja, being an entrepreneur has meant learning, and also unlearning a lot of concepts. "The corporate world does not encourage risk-taking, and nor does it reward failure. But in a start-up, if you are not failing, you are not innovating. We celebrate failure," Saroja says. "Also, a corporate company has a long-term business plan, but in a start-up, you need to be flexible and agile so you don't miss out on opportunities for growth."
Saroja's professional journey has been peppered with sabbaticals — she took time off when she had her two children, rejoined the work force, and again quit to spend some time with her kids. "I think as women, once you've achieved a certain level of success professionally, it's okay to give importance to your personal life. Don't hesitate to take a break," she says. Amen to that.
Saroja shares 3 tips that will boost your career:
1) "Learn the different aspects of building a business. This is invaluable knowledge."
2) "Make an effort to go to important events and be visible. Women often feel shy to network — I've been guilty of it too — but it's important to develop connections."
3) "Find the right balance between being aggressive and being submissive. A lot of women are scared of being seen as ambitious. But there's a way to be assertive without raising your voice. Don't let your gender hold you back. "