Shailaja Adhikary is the MD of IEC Group and the Managing Director of Euro Kids, a brand owned by Euro Kids International Ltd. Her dream of becoming an education entrepreneur started 25 years ago. She started her career in banking in 1997 but the passion to build her own business was stronger than staying in a well-paid job.
“I wasn’t enjoying my work, and my father was the one to notice that. He inspired me to become an entrepreneur,” recalls Shailaja. Founding a business came with its own set of risks and challenges. “I came from a middle-class family and finance was a major concern. Although my father agreed to support me with Rs 20 lakhs, I required more than double that amount to fuel my dream,” she shares. Having worked in a bank, she assumed taking a loan would be fairly simple but every ‘A’ class bank she approached for a loan did not buy her dream. She finally got the loan at an outrageous 21% interest from a financial institution. “The interest rate was huge. Also putting my home as collateral was a huge risk. I along with my family would have been on the streets if my business didn’t work but I was determined to make it successful,” says Shailaja.
She established IEC and the result has been phenomenal. She not only paid off the loan within three years but also paid back the amount she had borrowed from her father. “I started IEC with computer studies, fashion and interiors. If I had started only with fashion and interiors, I would have had to close the institute within a year or two. To balance my business, I picked up on computer studies as it was in huge demand back then,” shares Shailaja.
Gradually her focus narrowed into fashion and design, a well calibrated decision. “India was generating momentum in the fashion industry after Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai won international pageant titles and I knew this would have an impact in Nepal as well,” recalls Shailaja.
She then went on to introduce Euro Kids at a time when the importance of pre-schools was new to the country. “Today Euro Kids Tangal has become a model school,” claims Shailaja.
In this edition of WOW, Shailaja shares her journey in her own words as a woman leader, her transformation into her glamorous avatar today, her life lessons and more:
In a family of six siblings with only one son, we were never discriminated. There wasn’t any gender wall. I have grown up idealising my working mother. Having said that, yes people do take you for granted as a woman. This usually happens when dealing with the government sector. I have often been asked ‘do you have a partner’, ‘what you do otherwise’, etc. People don’t trust that you being a female are leading or running an organisation. To accept a woman as a leader is still hard for people.
I realised when you want to be in the fashion field, your dressing sense matters. You have to be in sync with the trends and need to look presentable. In this industry, you are judged on your outer look.
What gives you happiness
Whenever I sit in the old office of IEC, it gives me immense happiness. And when my students do well in their respective careers too.
In terms of fashion, how has the industry changed
I never imagined the industry would grow at such high pace. Mishu Shrestha, Rasana Shrestha, they have been the faces of Nepali fashion showcasing their collections internationally.
Out of 700 staff in my group, 70% are female. I communicate my vision clearly and together we set a goal. Currently, my goal is to start a creative university. My team is the sole reason of my success. Teamwork matters. Even during meetings, I make sure that the person on the other side feels equal, I never use ranking chairs during meetings.
- Nothing comes easy
- You need to sacrifice so many things in life (freedom, social life)
- We dream a lot but turning that into reality isn’t a cakewalk
- Risk is important
How do you unwind
I listen to music a lot with khola bani aaideu and Perfect by Ed Sheeran as my favourites, hang out with friends, dance to recharge myself (I am also learning Salsa). I love to travel and do this every three months. Me time is crucial.