#ELLEInFocus: Meet The Three Kashmiri Sisters Behind The Homegrown Brand, Shaka 

What makes a product from Shaka, a brand offering organisational solutions, different from the hundreds of bags out there is its personalised touch. Each product comes with a systematic organisation system, which comes from research derived from personal use, and experiences of the brand owners. We caught up with the dynamic sisters, fellow entrepreneurs, Shaka, Seema and Sipika, via email, to get an insight into their homegrown brand, understand the influence of their Kashmiri roots into their design elements, and, get to know what drives them. 

How has the pandemic been for you, individually, and the brand? Are there any practices you’ve now adopted, and what have been some substantial learnings?

The pandemic has been a learning experience for all three of us, as well as for brand Shaka. While we focused on managing our families and adapting to the new normal, our brand stayed motivated and forward-looking, we kept moving on and readied our second collection of work and all-day bags. The brand grew stronger even during the pandemic, as we are on run-rate to grow by 150% this year in revenue terms. This just adds confidence in the brand for our customers and investors alike. 

At our manufacturing facilities in Kolkata, work recommenced in June post the lockdown with all safety measures in place. Manufacturing is now in full swing and we would be launching our new collection within days now.


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What is the story behind the brand Shaka?

Shaka is the brainchild of, well, Shaka. The idea came to her while she was working as a consultant with Deloitte India and had to carry two bags to work, one being her laptop bag and the other her handbag that has been her sidearm all her life. Interior organisation has been the hallmark of all our bags be it the work bags which can accommodate a 13-inch laptop in a neat little place designated for it or the all-day bags which have a place for everything from your sunglasses to your make up.

How much of your childhood inspirations from Kashmir, translate into the design of your brand?

Kashmir is in everything that we do, it is our life force. We are children of migration and we were uprooted from our childhood home in Anantnag in January 1990. We left our homes, thinking that this is just another vacation like many others before it, but it wasn’t. It was a trip we will never forget. We never went back home.

On landing in Srinagar years later in 2009, Shaka fought her way off-board as the airline’s staff did not allow her to deboard the aircraft since she was booked for Mumbai which was the flight’s ultimate destination. On that day in 2009, she stood at the tarmac of Srinagar airport and cried. She was home after 19 years.

Shaka is our effort to build something of our own from the ashes, something that no one will ever take away from us. It is devoted to the thousands who suffered during those dark days. Our work on Shaka foremost is devoted to our parents who even after being uprooted from their homes provided us with the upbringing that we are able to do what we are doing today.

At one point, we even contemplated a Chinar leaf as Shaka’s logo. Our memories of our childhood in Kashmir and then the departure forms the bedrock of everything we do here at Shaka.


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How has working together professionally helped you grow, personally?

As mentioned earlier, we are Kashmiri sisters, children of migration and we are so closely knit that no other input was ever needed. Still working together on Shaka has brought us even closer as we all work on it with absolute passion. While we may not see eye to eye on all matters, the difference adds to our overall products and brand development, as it all stems from a deep commitment and a sense of passion.

What have been some of your biggest challenges as female entrepreneurs, and how have you overcome those?

The biggest challenge, of course, is balancing our family and our work. As women and mothers, we have a pivotal role in our families while being at the helm of a fledgeling but a promising startup. Challenges on both fronts are immense, but we are passionate about both so we have fun managing both.

We are thankful to our families who have always been there to support us throughout our nightly design meetings and our hour-long marketing phone calls. 


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What is your vision for the brand in 2021? Has the pandemic changed your strategy?

Our vision for Shaka has always been of a brand that was online only. The pandemic has strengthened that vision; we aim to grow into one of India’s best-known homegrown women’s brands. We are investing heavily in our online presence and our website infrastructure. A Shaka app is under development as we speak. We want to bring in best in class technologies like augmented reality and artificial intelligence to give our customers an amazing experience every time they interact with one of our interfaces.

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