She turned a ₹8,000 loan into an ₹8 billion empire

“Mrs. Bindra”, married at the age of 20, was a regular “navy wife” for most part of her life. She had been busy raising two sons, managing home and revelling in the social life of defence families. But when her children were all grown up, she felt the need to fill her free time with something substantial. With no formal training or job experience, she decided to try being a home-based clothes designer. Thankfully, she was at the right place at the right time, and she laid the groundwork for what we now know and love as Biba.

She asked her husband for a modest Rs.8,000 to dabble in designing. “I wasn’t fully confident of how things will turn out,” she says. Nayar started small, printed 40 suits, and held an exhibition at her brother’s vacant Mumbai flat. Her simple cotton printed suits went “viral” through word of mouth. “Everyone from actresses and working professionals started coming in, it became an adda,” she recalls fondly. The money from sales began doubling, tripling and quadrupling, and she gave full rein to her ambition.

Saying yes to every opportunity – no matter how small or big – was her biggest hack. Local boutiques started requesting her for stock, and the big fish soon followed. Benzer, Mumbai’s first big multi-retail store, gave Nayar her biggest order till then. “Mrs. Bindra’s suits” were christened “Biba.” “I thought of it in half an hour,” she says.
This is the name that has continued to take the Indian wear market by storm. Offers from Shopper’s Stop, Pantaloons, Lifestyle flooded in and, in 2006, the Future Group acquired a 6.5% stake in the company.

Her younger son pushed her to get into retail in 2004. Biba opened its first two stores in Inorbit and Inox CR2 mall. Today, Biba has 246 stores in almost every Indian state, and clocks Rs.600 crore in revenues. As for “Mrs. Bindra”, nothing can separate her from her suits, even at the age of 75! “I still spend four to five hours in the office, and will continue to do so,” she says.

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