From being a homemaker to turning entrepreneur at 72, Ashapuri Sondhi’s journey has been exemplary of outstanding grit and hard work. Today, she and grand-daughter are inspiring a generation of women to realise the importance of being financially independent.
Delhi: When women support each other, incredible things happen and there’s no better example than the Delhi-NCR duo AshapuriSondhi and granddaughter, Kritika whose start-up idea has skyrocketed in the last 4 years
Ashapuri Sondhi had never worked her entire life. “I got married at 19 and had kids a year later. The next 50 years went into looking after my family!”, she told the DOER in a telephonic interview.
But the one thing that was constant through these years was her love for knitting. She’d knit every single day and gift the woollens to her friends and family.
In 2018, her granddaughter Kritika was in-between jobs and thought of learning knitting from her Nani to kill time. “When she asked me if I could teach her to knit, I was thrilled! Noone had ever wanted to learn anything from me”, says Ashapuri reminiscing.
She started training Kritika. But within a week, looking at the amount of effort it took to knit a small scarf, Kritika said to her, ‘Nani, you should be paid for the work you do!’ Ashapuri remembers laughing it off but Kritika was very serious. “I mean, my back had started aching within a week and my eyes were watering! Growing up, I’ve seen Nani knit all day but never realised it was this difficult”, Kritika recollects.
In the next few days, it occurred to Kritika that they could set up a business together–Nani could do the knitting and she could assist her with marketing. Ashapuri was unsure, ‘Mere sweaters keliyepaisekaundega beta!’ But Kritika was adamant!
She reassured her, ‘Nani, main aapkopoora support dungi, aap bas sweaters banayiye.’ With that, she created a social media page called– With love, from granny and started posting photos of Nani’s work.
Guess what? Within 24 hours, they received their first order! Nani was on cloud nine. Her black scarf was sold for 600 Rs– ‘That was the first money I ever earned’, Ashapuri remembers fondly. She broke into tears and ran around the house like a happy kid showing off her first salary to everybody.
Then on, there was no stopping. Ashapuri’s daughter, Neeru, a teacher spread the word amongst her circles. Orders started pouring in–Within a month, they sold over 50 items! Each time they made a sale, Kritika and her Nani would jam to some of their favourite Punjabi songs and dance…..the party had just begun!
Later that year, when Ashapuri visited her son in the USA, she heard of an exhibition and volunteered to set up a stall to sell her products–“A couple of years ago, I could have never dreamt of interacting with so many strangers let alone successfully convincing them to buy my products”, she says.
About a year and a half into the business, they started receiving a lot more orders than they had expected. Nani and Kritika would knit all day but they needed more hands to help out. So, they thought of building a team by hiring freelance knitters.
Most of them who joined were housewives, just like Ashapuri who were great at knitting but never thought that they could make money out of it. Some had full-time jobs and knitted in their week offs; Even a few men joined the team.
The business started growing. They launched their website and in peak season, had about 250 bulk orders from across India and USA.
As time passed, the ladies grew comfortable with each other and opened up about their lives. One of them was a domestic abuse victim and told Nani that she had signed up to knit so she could relax her mind and stay away from home as much as possible. A year later, she became self-sufficient and was ready to start her new life. Another woman was a daily wage worker who was fired during the pandemic and this job became her sole source of income–she now works for the business full-time. Ashapuri’s close friend had lost both sons recently and was living by herself–joining the team gave her something to look forward to everyday.
That’s when Kritika and Ashapuri realised the impact of their initiative and started targeting BPL women in Himachal and Haryana; they’d visit villages and encourage women to join their team. They even conducted knitting classes in Delhi and motivated other women to stand on their own feet.
The business took a hit during the second wave and Kritika had to take up a full-time job to build funds but in September 2021, when the market picked up, she got back to assisting her Nani.
It’s been 4 years since they started–Ashapuri still wakes up at 5 AM and knits all day. At 77, she is running a full-time business and trying to get a hang of social media. “I love making reels with my team. All of us oldies are killing it online”, Ashapuri chuckles.
Just a week ago, Kritika got married and will be relocating to Canada soon. But what about the future of With Love, From Granny? “I’ll be expanding the business in Canada and we are going to operate in three different continents now!”, she says with a grin. “The other day we got a call from a Swiss dealer who wanted to partner with us. That made me realise that there is a huge market internationally. And the more we scale, we’ll be able to recruit more women and help them become independent.”
With Love, for Granny is now a close knit community of 40 women but Kritika and Ashapuri wish to employ as many women as they can. “It’s our legacy now. We want to carry forward and pass the baton to other women who will then pass it on to other women. But the circle will never end”, says Ashapuri.