Putting her best foot forward: Devika Srimal Bapna CA
Many CAs follow an unconventional career path, some going as far as to set up their own business. One such entrepreneur is Devika Srimal Bapna CA, Founder and CEO of KANABIS.
Based in New Dehli, India, KANABIS is a vegan-friendly fashion brand specialising in shoes made from canvas and leather alternatives. Devika founded the business in 2015 and was a finalist in the Entrepreneurship category of the 2017 ICAS 35 CAs under 35 awards.
She talked to Eleanor O'Neill about her journey to entrepreneurship.
What drove you to start KANABIS?
As an animal lover and PETA volunteer, I gave up leather a few years ago and had a tough time finding shoes that were stylish, good quality, and affordable.
I also took notice of the unorganized footwear industry in India - we either have the international players that are expensive and mostly use leather or the unbranded segment where quality and price become questionable.
It was almost a light-bulb moment when I thought "What the heck, I should start my own brand!". And KANABIS was born.
Running a company has been exciting, challenging and rife with learnings.
KANABIS is a play on words as we use canvas, which was historically made from cannabis hemp, as a core component in our shoes instead of leather. All our products are made from high-quality fabric and other leather substitutes, keeping compassion for animals as a core value of the business.
The designs are exclusive to us and tastefully crafted with a careful mix of look and comfort. We keep a close eye on the current and upcoming trends and each shoe also has a quirky name that tells a story about its origins.
Did you face many challenges?
I still do! I don’t come from a fashion or footwear background - I am an accountant and I started my career at a Big Four firm in London - I walked away from that job to sell shoes. My life really did take a 180 turn from London to Delhi, from a corporate to a startup and from finance to fashion!
Building a team, running a company, and learning to sell, promote and market a consumer brand has been exciting, challenging and rife with learnings.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
I have had an entrepreneurial itch since I was a little girl. The idea of building something from scratch fascinated me.
Starting KANABIS and receiving such a positive response for our products was very encouraging. We now have repeat customers and orders from overseas, always knowing that with each pair of KANABIS shoes, we are helping save an animal’s life. That is deeply satisfying.
How has the CA qualification helped you pursue an entrepreneurial career path?
The CA is an excellent qualification that sets you up for the future, whether one decides to continue in professional services or start a venture. It provides a holistic knowledge kit that comes in handy for all walks of business: from setting up a company, to handling your tax returns, and to preparing business plans for the investors.
If you have an idea you’re passionate about, go for it. The possibilities are truly endless!
A crucial skill you learn is how to work under pressure. Knowing how to accept and learn from failures is tremendously important.
Do you have any advice for budding CA entrepreneurs?
My advice to budding 'CA-preneurs' is to not feel pigeon-holed or that you’re stuck in the number-crunching world for life. If you have an idea you’re passionate about, go for it. The possibilities are truly endless!
Images appear courtesy of KANABIS