Rajul Mehta, artist, successful entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Queenmark once fancied herself carrying the post modernistic form of pop art tradition started by the American artist Andy Warhol. During mid-2000s her work was displayed in the Museum of Israeli Art at Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv and was among the top artists chosen as Israel’s cultural Ambassador for 2005.
Somewhere between Israel where she lived for many years and Singapore where she started her entrepreneurship journey, her art met her business-sense and Queenmark was born. Rajul in an exchange with Ashraf Jamal of Connected to India tells her story of making Queenmark a global brand.
CtoI: What triggered you to start your entrepreneurial journey?
Rajul Mehta: There is a strange, unique sense of smell surrounding potential opportunities, one that can only be sensed by people who were born with it. I believe entrepreneurship is something which is inborn and it sometimes takes a longer time for it to bloom. My journey started when I came upon Mongolian cashmere, which felt so soft by its touch. The cashmere exuded luxury and I knew in an instant that it would be desirable to all. I initially bought a few pieces to use myself. Then, the artist in me saw an opportunity where I could bring my creativity to another level which could become scalable. This drive sparked my journey and helped me create Queenmark because I was able to channel my art into products that are truly unique and inspiring.
CtoI: Did your business journey start typically with a business plan or did you start working on the idea?
Rajul Mehta: My business journey started spontaneously, without any business plan or intention to create a brand. All I had was faith in a product that I fell in love with. In fact, I decided to sell these shawls in the warmest country, against all odds. As we overcame the teething process, we realised that there were areas which we needed to strengthen but also believed we had a strong USP. We built a framework and a business plan which was constantly tweaked over and over again due to our experiences. As we grew, we also introduced new technologies that helped increase our productivity. The journey of Queenmark was a story of dynamism and growth as we have come a long way from where we started. We relentlessly worked everyday to make it what it is today, even though we are far from reaching our potential.
CtoI: You had a very strong foundation and then a career in art. How did you turn in the diametrically opposite direction of business?
Rajul Mehta: My story starts from when I was living in Israel. I was an aspiring artist during that time. I found myself engrossed in creativity with colours and I knew from that moment on that I was in love with art. Three years ago, upon my travels to Mongolia, I fell in love with the Mongolian cashmere, the soft air cashmere that is so rare to find. However, the cashmere seemed similar to an empty canvas which I could paint on. Then I found the next stepping stone in my journey and that was to translate my art into this shawls and bring it uniqueness. The perspective and the landscape of colours, as an artist, brought about the language of Queenmark.
CtoI: How did Queenmark come about? How did you think of the name
Rajul Mehta: Queenmark's tagline is beautiful inside out. My aspiration is that Women should be celebrated, in their essence of inner power and strength. Each woman should make her mark, through her style and persona. When someone wears one of our products, they feel beautiful and can make a statement. We take the upmost care with our quality and our seamless stitching when we apply laces, to give each creation a name worthy of being Queenmark. This name was based off of a brainstorming session with my family.
CtoI: Which countries do you currently sell in? How much of it is online? Are you also selling on online platforms like Zalora, Reebonz and so on?
Rajul Mehta: We have a global online shop. We are investing in building a digital platform and growing our reach through social media. We are on online platforms such as Etsy and Zalora. We are also on Le New Black which is a B2B online platform.
CtoI: You have found success in spite of being a single product, shawl, company. Where did you draw the clarity of mind that just shawls will bring you the success they have got you?
Rajul Mehta: Every company needs a flagship product. For Queenmark, it would be our shawls. From that point onwards we have tried to cover the entire range in terms of related products. We have grown from scarves to stoles to shawls to tudongs (Muslim wear). We do capes, fur and bags and have ventured out into resort wear.
CtoI: Do you have a message for late bloomers in entrepreneurship?
Rajul Mehta: Sometimes it takes a whole journey of learning to prepare for entrepreneurship. The skill sets that you have acquired through various jobs, is going to be leverage for you when you start this journey. The ability to take risks is what every entrepreneur needs. Just taking risks in lower dominations will allow you to learn on how to be adaptable. When you become an entrepreneur, you give up a 9 to 5 job to a 12-hour job so that you can do what you love to do. Take risks and make mistakes, be flexible as business can change. Don’t lose the conviction as that will be your drive to creating a successful business. As Oprah Winfrey says, “Do what you have to do till you can do what you want to do".