A metallurgical engineer-turned-entrepreneur, Sahyujyah Srinivasan always had a mind for business. Starting at an early age from renting out movie CDs to her mother’s tution kids, now she rents expensive designer wear from the collections of top-notch fashion designers like Anju Modi, JJ Vallaya etc. In her own words, she is a non-conformist and a passionate feminist. We catch up with her to talk about women entrepreneurship, her definition of feminism and being a woman in a man’s world.
We are women in a man’s world. I have always hoped it would change, but it never did.
The rental business bug
Having completed my graduation in 2013, working for a year at Tata Steel as their Operations Manager then finally starting LibeRent in August 2014, I feel that I might have always had it in me. I have always hated conforming and have always voiced out my opinions. When I was in 7th or 8th, I started renting movie CDs to the girls and boys who used to come to my mom for tuitions. Since I was very much protected and was never allowed to go out, my target segment and consumers were a very small group. So it did not feel like a “business” at all at that point. But looking back it was something, and I guess I have always had something for rentals. Now I’m renting fashion to women.
The idea of LibeRent
LibeRent is about freedom. Hence the name- Liberation + Rent. I strongly believe ownership is what bogs us down. We don’t travel around the world or go settle in Paris because it’s a great city or quit jobs to paint, because we own a house, car; we have EMIs. We own the furniture and clothes. We can’t leave them here. We can’t carry everything to go to a new place or buy all these again there. Although choices are abundant, for every individual it is limited.
Specifically in fashion, trends keep changing and we women get bored of our clothes very quickly. We don’t really like to repeat clothes more than twice or thrice. It makes sense to rent rather than buy and be stuck with a few clothes. Renting gives room for experimentation. Renting gives room for us to be anything we want to be.
I strongly believe ownership is what bogs us down.
LibeRent is an online fashion rental start-up. Women can rent clothes for any special day from a date, a meeting at office, clubbing to weddings in the family, etc. All you have to do is book online and give us your measurements. We will custom fit the clothes and deliver at your door step before your special day, and come pick it up back after it.
The challenges of being an entrepreneur
I started off alone, and until Jan 2016, I was a single founder. I’m not from a rich family and my parents are also conservative. I had to cry and fight my way to become an entrepreneur. I found people to work with me and they left me too. Many times, I have started from the bottom over and over again. But it has been the best journey. I have learnt a lot in the in the past 21 years.
Patriarchy and working amongst men
I was one of the very few girls in our batch to be selected by the Tata Steel group and the only girl from our college to go there. When I was in school, college or at work, I realised one thing and it was only reinstated at every stage. We are women in a man’s world. I have always hoped it would change, but it never did. The first day I joined the department, my head was surprised to see me and commented he was expecting a male candidate for the position. As innocent the comment might have been, it shows the inherent patriarchy in the society.
The meaning of feminism
Well, I don’t believe in equality. I believe in freedom. I believe none of us, man or woman are free in the truest sense. We are all still puppets in the system. I believe in freeing ourselves from every constraint that the society has imposed on us or we have imposed on ourselves. No one can help. Its an individual’s responsibility. I believe men must liberate themselves as much as I believe women should.
I had to cry and fight my way to become an entrepreneur.
But I’m a woman, I have felt the restrictions, I have experienced sexual harassment and I have and am fighting against all these to earn the freedom I deserve and that’s why I call myself a feminist and really proud of being one. Those who cringe either don’t understand what it means, have misunderstood it, just like many others or are not really practicing it and just talking.
A piece of advice
I don’t consider myself successful or significant enough yet to advice. But one thing that I have learnt for myself is that we should clearly know what we really want – to change the world, get rich, or just have peaceful life. We can then define what we need to do and how accordingly. We must also learn to pace ourselves accordingly. For example, I’m here to change things, I’m creating a new industry, and it is going to take a really long time and lots of effort. Understanding this, I won’t quit, I won’t give up. If we have not planned for the dip then we should not start doing.