Today we’d like to introduce you to Maheswari Umapathy.
Hi Maheswari, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I am Maheswari, owner of Kavyas Boutique which specializes in Indian ethnic wear. “Your roots one step closer” – that’s our mission. Back in 2019, I was shopping for a saree in the US for a special occasion. There wasn’t a lot of variety, and the ones I found were not of good quality. Ultimately, I did end up purchasing a saree, but it wasn’t a very satisfying experience.
The Millennials who grew up seeing their mothers and grandmothers in sarees day in and day out and who have some knowledge about sarees weren’t getting the quality they deserve. I was afraid that Generation Alpha who only occasionally use Indian ethnic wear would completely forget their cultural roots if good quality Indian ethnic wear isn’t easily available to them. I didn’t know at the time that this would lead to the inception of Kavyas Boutique.
Later that year, I traveled to India on vacation to visit my family and friends. As I was passing through some villages, what struck me hard was that numerous weavers had a huge stock of handloom sarees and were looking for people to represent them in the retail sector. Specifically, I met a high schooler who was showcasing the sarees to potential buyers while both her parents were on the loom weaving sarees.
When there were no buyers, she would get her homework done – that broke my heart. On one side we have customers who are willing to purchase good quality sarees. On the other side, in a village several thousand miles away weavers are struggling to make their ends meet.
That’s when I decided to bridge the gap and bring the roots closer to our patrons even if they are miles away from their homes. I discussed this idea with my husband right away and he has been my pillar of support since.
When we returned to the US, we started Kavyas Boutique. We were very skeptical at first to invest a lot of money; there were a million ‘what if’ questions. So, I started a drop shipper model where I would purchase a saree after I receive an order from a customer.
But soon I realized that was not going to help my number one goal – which is to keep my customers satisfied. The actual product received sometimes would not match the pictures, there were late deliveries, there were damaged products, etc. Customer satisfaction is my number one priority, so I decided to change my business model.
I bought a small collection of 25 sarees and served just locally in the Salt Lake City, Utah area. There was an overwhelming response, and customers loved the quality of sarees, customer service, and the pricing. Just when I was about to expand, COVID hit, and I had to stop in-home visits. I was beyond devastated but was not ready to give up yet, so decided to try online sales.
In April 2020, I opened my own Etsy store! Several days passed with no sales until one fine day, I got my first order to Florida. I took great care in shipping the first-ever online order and it paid off. The customer was overjoyed with the quality of the saree which was exactly like in the pictures, the packaging, quick delivery, and customer service.
I truly appreciate the trust that customers had in us to be the very first buyer from a store that had no previous sales nor reviews. That was the beginning and since then I have over 600 satisfied customers on five different continents.
There is no greater joy to a saree curator than to see their clients reach out to say how happy they are with the purchase or to leave feedback/review. It makes all the hard work so worth it, and it gives me profound happiness to be a part of their memory-making journey. I am still building my customer base, but I am proud to say that I have a very high repeat customer rate.
My customers see the value and keep coming back for more sarees. I currently work with over 30 weavers across India and my goal is to bring in unique weaves from each of the 28 states in the Indian subcontinent. My vision is to act as a bridge between the weavers and the customers across the globe.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Life does not always offer smooth sailing, but I have learned that you can live your dreams through hard work and perseverance. I had several struggles along the way and for every step forward, I dropped two steps backward. When I was operating in the drop shipper model, one of my friends ordered a saree as a gift for a special occasion, but despite all my efforts, it did not reach on time.
Another customer received an incorrect product. When they came to show me that it did not match what they ordered, I felt so embarrassed and thought it had been a big mistake starting this business. Another customer ordered but decided to cancel several days after. In each of these instances, I felt helpless and there were numerous factors outside of my control that was going wrong.
All these experiences made me realize that I needed to overhaul my business model and stock up on sarees in order to achieve my number one goal which was to provide top-notch customer service.
I started with my own inventory of a small collection of sarees – this has been a game-changer and the numerous 5-star customer reviews are a testimony to that. I was able to maintain a very high-quality standard plus provide quick delivery. This helped me brand Kavyas Boutique as a store to buy high-quality sarees at a greater confidence level.
I still struggle to spend enough time expanding my business. Being a mom to my two children, and regular household chores plus a full-time job as a Software Development Manager in the Tech industry has been very challenging, but I would not have it any other way.
I do have big plans for my business, and I am working on adding many more exciting collections of sarees and blouses. Our vision is to make Indian ethnic wear universally accessible and affordable.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Kavyas Boutique is an Indian ethnic clothing brand based out of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Our saree collection includes casual wear such as Cotton and Linens, and party wear such as Banarasi, Georgette, Chikankari, Tussars, Kanchivaram, and Gadwals. We have also recently launched Vegan Silks. Hand-painted kalamkari sarees have been a big hit and we are working on adding many unique collections.
All our sarees come with falls attached, pico, and tassels made as a complementary service. Attaching falls helps provide a better drape and protects the saree from wear and tear. Most retailers don’t do this, and customers end up attaching it on their own. We at Kavyas Boutique are always customer-centric and provide this as a value-added service.
We offer free domestic shipping within the US, and we ship within 1-2 days for quick delivery. We also provide international shipping to over 30 countries.
We take pride in the quality of our sarees and all our sarees to go through an extensive quality check process to bring in the best quality at a very reasonable price. Our customers sometimes are anxious and have questions before purchasing about color, fabric, drape, etc.
We provide top-notch customer service and are readily available to guide them through the buying process. We always go above and beyond to make sure our customers are satisfied with their purchases.
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
I am lucky to have a supportive husband and a loving family who stands by me through all my endeavors. I am also lucky to have met many phenomenal women many of whom are friends and well-wishers.
However, when it comes to success, luck does very little – it is hard work and a never give up attitude that comes a long way.
- Sarees range from $50 to $300.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.kavyasboutique.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kavyassarees/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thekavyasboutique