Women Of Worth 2015

Self-taught fashionista

With no formal entrepreneurship exposure, Meena Bindra has managed to stitch up an apparels business from scratch

Vishal Koul

Indian ethnic apparels maker Meena Bindra didn’t quite know how to sew a button on fabric until she was 38. Yet, what she lacked in training and experience she made up through her self-learned couture sensibilities, all of which prompted her to start a business from home in 1985. Despite being a late bloomer and with several factors working against her, Bindra took the plunge and kept up a steady pace, giving wings to her business stitch by stitch, client by client, brick by brick. Today, at 71 years of age, Bindra is more satisfied with life than she has ever been.

Yet, she is brimming with the same level of enthusiasm as when she started out 30 years ago. She has worn many hats in her life so far. In a span of three decades, she went from being a housewife and mother to selling Indian salwar-suits from home, from becoming a supplier to retailers to setting up her own ethnic apparel retail chain brand Biba, which is now a household name. 

Bindra started out without any grand plan or support except the ambition to remain independent in life, although things kept falling in place for her and she gladly accepted what came her way. A Delhi girl, Bindra was married off to a Navy man right after she turned 19 and graduated. Given her husband’s transferable job, Bindra lived all over the country — even overseas in Moscow for a while — and travelled extensively across Europe with her husband.

In the early 1980s, Bindra and husband landed up in Mumbai, with two young sons. In Mumbai, the Delhi girl started dreaming of doing something of her own to keep herself busy, with her husband taking a loan of ₹8,000 to fund the same. “Everything was stacked against me when I started out. I had no training. I was only a graduate with no design skills and not particularly qualified to pick up a job. I had no training or exposure to entrepreneurship, there was little money and to top it all, my husband was in a transferable job,” says Bindra, while reminiscing about the early days. “All I wanted was a little extra pocket money while I worked from the house and, knowing that my husband will be transferred any moment, I had no big ambition as such back then. Looking back,

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