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With 17 Years in Export This Woman Entrepreneur From the East Has Crafted a Niche "Folk is an idea, a thought which set me in motion."

By Baishali Mukherjee

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Feeling suffocated within the boundaries of traditional educational system, this woman from Kolkata, was determined in her career choice from the very beginning. Instead of taking the easy way out, she challenged herself to become an entrepreneur and create a signature company with a signature line of products. Meet Manjir Chatterjee, the founder director of Folk, a 100 per cent export-oriented company from Kolkata, manufacturing accessories and merchandise for international carmakers VW, Ford and others.

Entrepreneurship harnessing the traditional and natural

"Folk is an idea, a thought which set me in motion. I conceived Folk simply to make products I always been looking for but couldn't find in the marketplace - products which would make life simpler, clutter free and organised. Creating something very useful, using our vast natural resources and traditional skill set for a wide range people was the driving force behind my entrepreneurship initiative. In real terms, using natural material in manufacturing was always my focus," informs the entrepreneur who idolises Ratan Tata and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.

Inclusive work-culture

Manjir works with traditional artists and has a comprehensive design, production and packaging team. With our 12 years of experience in making merchandise for major global brands, Manjir has been able to expose and upskill the craftsmen to global tastes and benchmarks.

"At Folk we believe in the distinctive ancestral heritage of India which can give rise to a range of exciting products for the world market. Also as a citizen of a developing nation, I see a larger socio-economic relevance in my business activities to empower and emancipate a section of the society. 40% of our artists are women who are actively associated with ideation and product generation process," asserts Chatterjee.

A staff friendly workplace

"We have tried to build a synergistic and inclusive organization where meritocracy prevails. Experience is valued and teamwork is encouraged. There are departmental heads of course which makes the task of delegation easier. But what I have personally tried to ensure is that all employees have a voice, so that we truly become larger than the sum of our parts. This lends a small organization like ours an incredible capacity of resilience and additional bandwidth," shares the 40 year old business woman who believes in smart hard work.

Secrets behind success

  • For entire B2B sale "Folk' customises as per customers needs/requirements.
  • User centric design
  • Quality
  • Customer service
  • Being environment friendly

Challenges in the journey

First challenge for Chatterjee was to make people believe that it wasn't a passing fad for her and that she was serious about the venture. "People weren't very enthused discussing business with a 23- year old girl, more so as there weren't many young woman entrepreneurs at that time, that too in manufacturing with an export ambition. My friends and family were my absolute bedrock allowing me to pursue my dream. Not coming from a traditional business family, I think I was extremely lucky to have very progressive and broadminded upbringing," admits Chatterjee who started her journey very early and thinks it is easier as with age people develop inhibitions and start having larger responsibilities.

Chatterjee's top 5 for women professionals/entrepreneurs

  • Start counting yourself as a professional and not a woman.
  • Always remember if someone can do it, you can do it too.
  • Take the failures as challenges.
  • Surround yourself only with people who have complete faith in your ability and dream.
  • Don't try to follow the herd; try to find your own niche.

Important landmarks

  • 2003- Graduating from merchant exporter to setting up the factory. It gave the opportunity to start individual manufacturing
  • 2010- Setting up an office and warehouse in Liverpool, UK
  • 2015- Expansion with more manufacturing space and augmenting capacity. 2016- Start of retail operation.

A strong believer in John Lennon's, "A dream you dream alone is only a dream, a dream you dream together is realty' – Chatterjee sees Indian women making collective contributions in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the country not just in terms of quantity but quality as well.

Baishali Mukherjee

Former Freelancer

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