AT38, with a fashion and publishing background, Preeta Sukhtankar says hers is just the right age for startup leadership. Sukhtankar should know, for her recently streamlined e-commerce firm, The Label Life, has had three Bollywood ladies taking a personal interest in its daily workings for two years now. We have had stories about celebrity endorsements, businesses, even e-stores like Pernia’s Pop Up Shop that have actors like Sonam Kapoor curating a capsule collection, but with The Label Life, Sukhtankar has managed to marry content with commerce and give it an intimate treatment that isn’t easy to replicate. There is Sussanne Khan, the interior designer and former wife of the actor Hrithik Roshan, who presents the home decor section, actor Malaika Arora Khan who is in charge of the clothing section, and actor Bipasha Basu, who styles the shoes and accessories section. “They are all equity holders,” begins Sukhtankar, adding, “Over the last few months of working closely together, we have realised that all three have similar traits – they have longevity, are self made, have earned and not paid for their popularity, and have a cool factor.”
Coming full circle
In the city two weeks ago to conduct a master class on customer acquisition, as part of TiECON Chennai 2015 at ITC Grand Chola, Sukhtankar says brands need to be loved. “You need to allow for a connect with their consumer. At the Label Life, we ensure we are authentic through our organic content, a real touch point wih the shopper. Instead of just putting up a product like earrings or a tea plate for sale, we tell you how to style it. We give you a recipe on what to serve in it.” On the e-commerce site, you will find a limited edition home accessories line “inspired by sunny Santorini, perfect for the rains,” as Sussanne puts it. This includes convex mirrors in pop colours, retro prints,sunshine yellow foldable chairs with cushion seats, and the promise that the “softest and most breathabe cotton linen” has been handpicked by her. “Sussanne is always working, and busy with her two children, just like us. Bipasha is most active on social media. At one point, we were selling an interesting umbrella. All she did was spontaneously make an amazing instagram in the rain, with all three umbrellas, and they sold out. Live content is here to stay,” says Sukhtankar.
Right here, right now
Prompt with emails and reminders, she observes that she is more emotionally stable as an entrepreneur now than she would have been if she started out early. Unlike the engineering graduates you find in startups, she studied humanities in college, was the editor of the youth section of the Sunday Observer and worked at lifestyle magazines like Elle, L’Officiel and Seventeen. Stints as a TV producer and in celebrity management have made her more aware of the power of celebrity content. “I soon learnt the art of firefighting and to run a company when all your chips are down. Fortunately, that was also when a lot of people were just getting noticed, be it designers Manish Malhotra or Manish Arora. By working with these people from the ground up, I made lasting associations,” she confides.
Always on the go, Sukhtankar is in Hong Kong on a work trip with her two-year-old daughter when we speak. “This company has aged me,” she jokes, quick to add that it isn’t impossible to raise a child and successfully manage a venture. “I make it