The Weekend Leader - Chowkhat's Success Story: How founders Anuja and Pratanksha Gupta Built a Rs 3.3 Crore Turnover  Chikankari Fashion Empire Starting with Rs 1 Lakh

How Two Delhi Sisters Built a Rs 5 Crore Chikankari Fashion Empire Starting with Rs 1 Lakh

Khimi Thapa   |  


Vol 15 | Issue 24

In the bustling heart of Delhi, two sisters set out on a journey that would change the face of affordable, handmade apparel.

Anuja Gupta (30) and Pratanksha Gupta (28), the founders of Chowkhat, began their entrepreneurial venture with a modest investment of just Rs 1 lakh in 2020.

Founders and sister-duo Anuja and Pratanksha Gupta started Chowkhat with just Rs 1 lakh (Photos: Special Arrangement) 

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, their passion and dedication to bringing exquisite Chikankari kurtas from Lucknow to a wider audience turned Chowkhat into a thriving enterprise with a current turnover of Rs 5 crore.

When the Gupta sisters started Chowkat in 2020, Pratanksha was 23 years old and Anuja was 25. Hailing from a middle class family in Delhi, the sister duo has overcome societal pressures and expectations, thanks to the unwavering support of their family. Their story is one of resilience, creativity, and the indomitable spirit of sisterhood and womanhood.

Reflecting on their humble beginnings, Anuja fondly recalls, “We are three sisters and have a brother who is the youngest in the family. As we were three sisters, our parents faced a lot of pressure from our relatives. But our parents were incredibly strong and never let the negative comments from relatives affect them.

“Despite the constant remarks about having three daughters, our father always took good care of us.” Their father worked as an Assistant Director at the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

“He managed to provide everything we needed despite the challenges of supporting a large family,” says Anuja. “He never compared us to others or made us feel less important. Our parents never degraded us or our choices.”

In February 2020, Chowkhat was launched as an Instagram page. The sister-duo worked from their 750 sq ft house in Vaishali, Ghaziabad.

Anuja's experience in digital marketing has helped in Chowkhat's growth

They began their journey with a modest inventory of around 40 pieces, mostly long and short chikankari kurtis, palazzos, and sarees worth Rs 20,000. To their surprise, they received 34 orders within the first month.

The demand was so high that they sold out their entire inventory within just 20 days. They partnered with the logistics firm Delhivery for shipping their products to customers.

The Gupta sisters didn’t always plan to work together. Both studied in DAV Public School, Dayanand Vihar, Delhi, but went to different colleges.

Pratanksha, who completed her Bachelor of Science in Fashion/Apparel Design from NIIFT-Mohali in 2018, is the creative force behind Chowkhat.

Anuja, an English honours graduate, completed a post-graduate diploma in English journalism from IIMC-Dhenkanal, Odisha, in 2016. That same year, she started as a rookie journalist with an online news portal.

However, within a few months, she switched jobs and joined a digital marketing agency in New Delhi in October 2017. She worked with few more digital marketing agencies till the end of 2019.

But the seeds of Chowkhat were sown while Pratanksha was in college, working on a craft documentation project in 2018. She was captivated by Lucknow’s chikankari, known for its white thread on pastel fabrics, and realised the business potential.

Convincing Anuja to join her, the Gupta sisters did market research and discovered a gap for an affordable chikankari brand. They found authentic chikankari was not expensive to produce, which fuelled their passion to make it accessible for a wider audience. Thus, Chowkhat was born to redefine the chikankari market.

When the Gupta sisters decided to quit their corporate jobs to start their chikankari fashion brand in February 2020, it didn’t shock their family. Their eldest sister had already launched her own SAAS startup.

Pratanksha studied fashion from NIIFT-Mohali

The sisters received the full support of their parents. Anuja recalls her father waking up at 5 a.m. to offer his input and ideas during the ideation phase. “Our mother, a homemaker, possesses a wealth of knowledge about clothes and guides us on choosing the fabrics for our clothes,” says Pratanksha.

While building the business from scratch, the sisters did most of the work themselves before hiring staff. They launched Chowkhat’s Instagram page with Anuja’s friends as models, shooting on the terrace of a friend’s house in south Delhi.

Pratanksha served as the in-house photographer. Just 20 days after launching their first collection, the lockdown was announced. Although they couldn't visit Lucknow for more inventory, their sample products sold out.

Between the first and second COVID waves, they visited Lucknow to restock inventory. After the second wave, they created their own designs and shared them with artisans in Lucknow.

All this happened in the one bedroom of their 750 sq ft house, packed with cartons of inventory.

"Although we had inventory, we had no tailor due to COVID restrictions. We cut the threads of kurtis while our parents helped with packing. Our brother sorted the products and ensured everything was checked and in order," shares Pratanksha.

During the tough times of the pandemic, Chowkhat faced obstacles like customers hesitating to pay 100% upfront to an Instagram page.

“We had only Rs 1 lakh in my account. Although our parents supported us, we didn’t want to burden them as they had household expenses to manage. But we couldn't delay payments to our artisans as this money was their bread and butter,” recounts Anuja.

They requested their customers to pay 30% in advance and the rest upon sharing the image of their package along with the shipping details.

“Surprisingly, our customers were incredibly supportive. Despite the pandemic causing delays of one to two months in product delivery, they continued to trust Chowkhat,” says Anuja.

As their business began to grow, they realised the need for more space. They took the next step by renting a 2BHK flat in the same building, transitioning from their home office to a dedicated workspace.

Besides selling Chikankari kurtas, Chowkhat has now blossomed into an online destination for hand-painted and Jaipur block sarees, suits, and dresses.

Chowkhat employs around 45 people, including 40 women

In August 2023, they moved into their current office in Noida Sector 63 to meet the needs of their expanding operations.

Chowkhat Lifestyle Private Limited now employs over 40 women and five men, collaborating with over 5000 artisans across India. With a strong online presence, 90% of their sales come through their website.

They are also on Myntra, which accounts for 10% of their sales. While 70% of orders come from India, 30% are from international clients, with the US and Canada being key markets.

Today, the Gupta sisters have expanded their product range to encompass over 4,000 SKUs, offering customers an extensive selection of chikankari offerings, including palazzos, which are among the best-selling items.

While work-life balance may be the buzzword, the Gupta sisters believe that, as young entrepreneurs, bigger dreams take precedence right now.

“We haven't reached where we want to be. Maybe we'll seek work-life balance once we get there. However, we don't expect our team to follow this. We strive to ensure they have a good work-life balance," they add.

Looking ahead, they plan to introduce more beautiful art forms from across India and are considering establishing brick-and-mortar stores to provide a touch-and-feel experience for customers.- ©TWL

Milky Mist Cheese

Trending Now: