Clovia Founder Neha Kant On Leaving A Corporate Job To Build A Successful Lingerie Brand

Clovia Founder Neha Kant On Leaving A Corporate Job To Build A Successful Lingerie Brand

For many women, lingerie is empowering. It can make them feel comfortable, confident and ready to take on the world. Neha Kant, now Founder & Director of Clovia, struggled to find the right lingerie for herself. But the options available to her in the Indian market were abysmal--she was faced with incorrect sizing, improper fits and boring designs. Armed with an MBA from Delhi’s FORE School of Management, Neha saw an opportunity when she noticed this huge gap between demand and supply. So she took a leap of faith, quit her cushy corporate job, and started Clovia in 2012. Today, over 20 lakh women wear Clovia’s products.

But as with every business, Clovia has seen its share of ups and downs. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Neha's business came to a screeching halt. With over 300 employees to pay and all client payments delayed indefinitely, she swiftly adapted to the new normal, and pivoted towards the production of PPEs during the lockdown. Not only did this help keep the company afloat, but it ultimately ended up earning them good revenue. As things eventually began to normalise over the next few months, Clovia managed to smoothly bounce back, all thanks to Neha’s dynamic leadership.

Despite leading one of India's most successful lingerie brands, Neha is humble and soft-spoken. She insists that she’s always done everything by the book, and that it’s hard work and diligence that has made her the successful entrepreneur she is today. And she does it all while playing chess online, giving her 7-year-old son and his friends basketball training and reading voraciously!  Her grit and drive are awe-inspiring, and make her a perfect fit for our Women Who Win series. Over a candid conversation, Neha spills the beans on her favourite pandemic hobby, how she stays organised and her advice to young women.

How do you start your day?

I kind of just dive right in. After I get up in the morning, I use the first few minutes to clear off messages and emails. I’m one of those people who likes to keep their Inbox to zero, so I get to it first thing in the morning. But after that, I spend the next hour spending time with my son, getting him ready for school, and then I spend an hour by myself—I like to read and work out most mornings.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Prior to the lockdown, my days were very mechanical. From the minute I woke up to the moment I went to bed, I felt like I was always running behind, and there was always somewhere I needed to be. But thanks to work from home, I find myself with two-three extra hours every day and I must admit I’m really enjoying that. I’ve taken up chess, and I play basketball with my son every day and I’m grateful I finally have time for some leisure and hobbies!

How do you stay organised and manage your time?

I’m a very checklist-oriented person. Working from home, I’ve become more committed to my calendar—I use it to stay in touch with all my departments via weekly calls, and that has really helped the company stay disciplined and organised. I was the kind of person who used to laugh when people told me they would schedule meetings with their parents on their calendar, but honestly, I get it now! Besides that, I use Evernote to plan tasks and take notes.

How do you define yourself as a boss?

I would like to believe that I’m a very nice boss! (Laughs) But I think my management style has evolved from when I was working in corporate to now, in my role as a founder. Earlier, I used to be a hard taskmaster. Now, I take time to connect emotionally with my team. I find time to listen to them and care about what’s happening in their personal lives. Connecting with people is very important to me now.

How do you work towards building a work culture that supports women?

I grew up in a progressive environment, so I had developed a blindside to gender bias. But when I started hiring for my team at Clovia, my eyes were opened when I realised the subtle gender bias I noticed in my own company! That’s when I put my foot down and said we’re going to provide equal opportunities to everyone, irrespective of their gender. I have also worked hard to make our work culture very family-oriented. All our employees can bring their kids to the office and we encourage a work-life balance.

What qualities or skills have helped you get where you are today?

Ambition and competitiveness have always come naturally to me, and that translates into diligence because there will always be some things you’re not good at—so I offset that but putting in double the work.

What has been your biggest professional achievement so far?

It has to be building a brand that is being used by 2 million women. It still blows my mind that there are 20 lakh women who like what we have to offer.

A mantra do you swear by in your personal or professional life?

Time is your most precious commodity. A lot of times we spend energy doing things we don’t really need to—I’ve begun to imagine that I’m spending lakhs of rupees when I dedicate my time to something, and it has really helped me re-prioritize what I choose to spend my time on.

How severely did the pandemic impact your business and how did you deal with it?

It was almost like a near-death experience for us! When a massive engine just stops working and you have 300+ people looking forward to their salaries on one hand, and then you have client emails telling you that payments would be delayed—it was a very scary situation to deal with. But we hustled very quickly and jumped into the business of making PPEs, within 3-4 days of the lockdown itself. In the meantime, one team was dedicated to making Clovia bounce back as soon as things began to normalise. With the PPE business we made good revenue, and eventually, Clovia bounced back smoothly—so I think we did good!

Okay, let’s go back to the beginning. How did you land your first job?

I started my career in advertising, and I got placed on-campus. Then eventually I joined India Today Group where I built a whole business starting from scratch. Having worked in the corporate world for 10 years, I realised how lingerie options for working women were abysmal—poor quality and lack of fits. That’s how I conceptualised Clovia.

What was a turning point in your career?

I have faced several twists and turns throughout the course of my career but the most significant one would be quitting my job, letting go of my financial security to start Clovia.

Any advice to young women who look up to you?

There’s no alternative to hard work and diligence. It’s cliche, but there’s absolutely no shortcut to success! And always be true to yourself!

And lastly, how does a busy person like you relax?

I enjoy a couple of hobbies—I love to read, spend time with my son, play basketball and of course—chess!