“You [young people] wouldn’t know it, but there’s a movement underway to help save India’s handloom heritage. There’s a huge revival in the handloom industry,” Vaishali Joshi told Re:Set proudly. “I’m a member of lots of social media groups, like The SaReal Pact that are working towards this.”
Joshi, 55, is a mompreneur — a term used to describe a female entrepreneur who is also a parent — from Goa, India. Using social media and offline events, she’s established herself as a lifestyle product marketing guru. Her initial events were about showcasing handloom heritage from across India such as the Orissa saree and the Kanjivaram saree. The events, the groups, and her children inspired her to become a saree influencer on Instagram, she added.
“My children told me that I would only reach people of my age group via Facebook, so I had to join Instagram to reach younger people. They also coached me. Now, they even send me messages saying, ‘Your insta stories are on point mom’,” she told Re:Set. “This is a new age kind of work, as I’m not selling commodities. I’m showcasing myself, so I’m thankful for my children’s help. I am also a decent learner,” she added with a laugh.
Over time, Joshi built an engaged audience of 5,000 accross Instagram and Facebook. She then leveraged this influence to launch her marketing consultancy and events business, The V Factor, which has held over 40 events in multiple Indian cities and even Dubai, showcased over 200 saree, food and lifestyle brands which have been attended by over 20,000 people.
“People told me I should start a restaurant business just because I’m a good cook. But that requires constant capital, a very hands-on approach, and women who are invested in their family’s day-to-day running don’t have that sort of time to expend,” Joshi said. Her advice for budding mompreneurs is to “talk to people who are close to you, ask them what they think you’re good at. That’s the most immediate and necessary feedback one can get.”
“I rediscovered my life in my 50’s, after my kids left home for studies and work.”
Born to a father in the armed services, Joshi lived all over India, ending up with a dual degree in engineering and management from BITS Pilani, one of India’s toughest engineering colleges. She went on to live in Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi pursuing a career as a marketing professional, working on brands like Cadbury. Then at the age of 23 she was married into a conservative Goan family.
“I have no regrets. I got married into a joint family, which was different from the one I’d grown up in. I’d never lived in a small town and it was a different neighbourhood. I experienced new things, like cooking for 20 people, interacting with more conservative people. I did take time to find my feet as I’d quit my job,” she recalled.
After a brief stint in her husband’s family business, Joshi took a sabbatical after the birth of her son. She then headed the local branch of a friend’s advertising agency, but after her daughter’s birth she made the decision to stay at home to raise her children.
“When you’re young, you’re having fun. Then you get married and you have to look after your family, your house and have kids. Then after that middle phase, when everyone’s kids are working or married, you rediscover your life,” Joshi said. “I rediscovered mine in my 50’s, after my kids left home for studies and work.”
This was also the time when after her husband had gone to sleep post-dinner, she would browse through Facebook waiting to chat with her son who was studying in the U.S. “Everyday I spent two to three hours on Facebook, sharing pictures, connecting with old friends. It was thrilling,” she said. “I would get 200, 300 likes on my pictures on Facebook. I then realized I could use it to build something.”
Vasco da Gama is a small close knit community, where everyone knows everybody. The Joshis are well-known too, so people already had heard of her — her dinner parties had gotten quite a reputation for their food.
“I’m a people’s person, so meeting and interacting and keeping track of people is fun for me. I was able to move to a new place and make friends, that’s my strength. So you have to see what works for you,” Joshi said. “I have a friend who was very good at gift wrapping and she recently started a business where she makes customized gift wrappings for special events such as weddings and birthdays. There are many different and small things you can be good at, which you can try to monetize.”
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As she spent hours scrolling on Facebook, she realized what she could monetize. Joshi had hosted an event to promote a friend’s New Delhi-based restaurant in the 90’s, and for another friend in Kolhapur, Maharashtra in the 2010s. She then decided to host events to showcase products in 2017, her first being about sarees.
“Unlike other women, I got interested in sarees much later. We had lots of prayers in the joint family, so I started wearing sarees more frequently,” she said. “I feel more people should patronize the weavers of our country.” Her Instagram captions describe sarees in elaborate detail , like “…a fire engine Begumpuri teamed with a taxicab yellow batik, embroidered blouse,” and Joshi often explains the process behind the weaves.
“Once I started posting about my events, their pictures, live videos, everything fell into place. I had 2,000 or so friends on Facebook, and then many of them converted into clients,” she told Re:Set. Three years later, business is booming. Joshi has done multiple events in Goa, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bangalore, and is self-admittedly, firmly on “the entrepreneurial bandwagon.”
“If I was working for someone, I wouldn’t be in control of my own time. I wouldn’t be able to decide when to meet my children, or to plan lunch with my husband,” Joshi reflected. “But now, I’m not answerable to anybody. I wake up at a time which works for me and do what I love. It’s why I love entrepreneurship.”