In a conversation with Rina Shah
- Tell us about your entrepreneurial ventures – why did you chose to start a fashion footwear – Explain in detail the journey, challenges, and how did you overcome the same?
While I was graduating from Sydenham college, I was simultaneously doing my certification in computers programming, but my interest was always in fashion. So, I had to think very hard about what I can do in a fashion which other Indian’s had not done before. A few things on my mind were light design, hat design and shoe design. So, I took small courses in all three and shoe design was what I felt most passionate about. In India in the mid-nineties, there wasn’t anyone who could be called a shoe designer as such. I studied shoe design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York for 2 years and came back to Mumbai and started my own factory. When I launched the shoe line, I was buying all my raw materials from Italy, and I knew that I was the first one to sell my shoes for more than INR 20,000 a pair, which was unheard of then (On a lighter note, people would tease me calling me a MOCHI). But I believed in myself and never feared failing, and then there was no looking back, Rinaldi became the biggest name in shoes all over India .
The biggest challenge in doing this was setting the factory in an industry that was underdeveloped, and I could not find good workers. I took one year to get a few workers and then taught them myself how to make each shoe the way I had learnt in school. I could make any shoe with my hand, and teaching them my ways was super difficult as they were uneducated skilled labor. The industry was dominated with men and was not at all professionally developed.
Also, the biggest challenge was when people started copying my designs which is unavoidable in India, I decided to make new designs every day for my stores. So, before anyone could even copy, I had new designs displayed at the shop window.
One of the big challenges was to take the brand international. I took a suitcase of shoes and handbags and went from store to store to showcase and sell my designs. In a year, I managed to sell to over 100 stores in the USA alone.
I marketed my brand very well and used my skill to enter different avenues to make the brand know. Like the Movie business, and I made shoes for celebrities. I used to design and make a pair of shoes overnight, and I knew no one in the world could do that.
- Tell us about the journey of becoming a Polo player – why choose it when you already had a great business going for you?
I had just returned from the USA in 2010 and had gone to watch a game of Polo in Mumbai. It is then that I fell in love with the game. I was always an adventure junkie, so I thought, why not give it a shot. My journey withPolo was just by chance and never planned. I always wanted to play one tough sport but never thought of Polo. Horses won me, and again something no woman was doing at that time in India. I had never sat on a horse, so it took me almost a year to learn horse riding for Polo which is very different from normal horse riding. After that, I knew there were no Polo school’s in India, so I went to Argentina for a month to train, and then to Santa Barbara and then to England. I was at that point the only woman who was playing Polo actively and had my own Polo team. I was the only Indian woman PoloPlayer who played in so many countries and helped to grow the sport I was very active all over the country and started my equine fashion line called Rinaldi POLO
Polo was never replacing my business. Polo is passion but also required a lot of effort and time. But I did have other dreams that I wanted to pursue besides only making money, and I just decided to slow my business a bit to live my dreams.
- Tell us about the training you went through?
As I mentioned, for a year, I had to learn horse riding as I had never sat on a horse in my life. That was when I was 38 years old. For almost a year, I trained to ride horses and learned Polo riding at the Amateur riding Club in Mumbai with Sureshji, who motivated me to learn Polo. I was motivated and went to Santa Barbara Polo club for a month to get basic Polo lessons and then to Argentina, the mecca of Polo, for further training. When I got back from Argentina, I played my first small tournament in Jodhpur, which gave me confidence that nothing was impossible I had to keep working and improving.
I used to work all week in Mumbai and fly to Jaipur every weekend to play and train.
Soon after I launched my team, Rinaldi Polo and played my first big 4 goal tournament in Mumbai, it is there where my horse and me had the biggest fall, but I got back on the horse 2 mins before the end of the game and won the game. That was the moment that I knew I was totally addicted to the game.
Then I went to England for a month to train too. I had to struggle as I got in the game very late in life and was playing with younger players who had trained all their lives. I played in Jaipur, Jodhpur, USA, Delhi, Bangkok, Pattaya, South Africa etc. I still keep working on the riding and coaching as Polo can never be excelled you have to keep going at it. I have had many injuries and fractures, but this game and the rush can’t be explained.I am proud to share that I am one of the very few women playing the sport. I have proved that one can achieve whatever they put their mind to it and age is never a barrier
- What advice would you give young girls looking at business and sports?
For achieving anything in life, you must work hard and want it very badly. You must be passionate about you doing, or you can never achieve it. Yes, maybe you might not ace it due to many circumstances, but you must keep at it to feel where you think you want to reach. There is no shortcut!
So first, discover your passion and money, and success will follow.
- Future plans
My future plan is that is in 2021, I want to be able to go to IBIZA and play beach Polo, and in 2022 I want to go to St Moritz and play snow polo. Being a Dj and drummer now, I do wish to play at some cool places my music and launch my own created techno drums. Lastly, I am opening a restaurant in GOA later this year.