International Women's Day Interview: Sonali Bulchandani, Founder and CEO of Toniq Retail Brands - Startup Terminal

Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day Interview: Sonali Bulchandani, Founder and CEO of Toniq Retail Brands

Name: Sonali Bulchandani
Age: 38
City: Chennai, India
Occupation: Fashion Retailer

ST: Please tell us briefly about you.

Sonali: I am the Founder and CEO of Toniq Retail Brands, one of India’s largest fashion accessories players. We currently run 200 sis formats pan India across our 5 brands. I am also a first time mom to a 20 month old and currently balancing (or trying to ) both roles.

ST: Who is a woman that inspires you the most and why?

Sonali: The women who surround me have all been tremendously inspirational women. My dadi was the first woman who graduated in French from Bombay University. My Nani, was a young window but decided she needed to learn English to help her survive and got a tutor to teach her the language. She not only mastered the language in 6 months , but would go on to run the largest greeting cards company in the south. My mom has worked from the age of 19 and run her own business for 30 successfully before giving it up to start an Ngo which in 2018 alone has won 4 national awards for governance and best practices. To say I am surrounded by incredibly strong role models would not begin to give justice to what they mean to me. I never had to look too far for strong women role models when they were always all around me.

ST: How are you celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day?

Sonali: Every year we take our team out on our annual day out. We are a largely women centric team with over 90% of our management team women so it’s definitely going to be a fun day out that’s planned.

ST: What is the most important message you want to send out to all the women around the world on this occasion?

Sonali: There is nothing stopping us besides ourselves. We have to believe in our dreams and ideas and surround ourselves with a tribe that’s going to support us to get there. Passion and self-belief can go a really long way.

ST: What according to you is ‘women empowerment’?

Sonali: The ability to choose and this can only happen when women are financially independent. When we take decisions that are motivated out of our choices and our dreams not our fears, that to me is real empowerment

ST: What would you say are the main challenges facing women at present in India?

Sonali: I say this often, for being 50% of the population; we just don’t have enough women in managerial positions. . We don’t have enough advocacies happening to allow female entrepreneur access to funds and capital. We need far more inclusions and hiring decisions they are more gender neutral. I also believe we need far more men part of this dialogue.

ST: Where do you want to see yourself in next 5 years?

Sonali: 5 years seems like a really long time as every day continues to throw up some interesting challenges both at work and the home front. On the personal front, I hope I get down to old passions like theatre and writing and spending more time pursuing them.

Sonali Bulchandani