Sonali Lalvani is the co-founder of Toniq Retail Brands Pvt Ltd. Starting her career at the age of 21 and having spent the past 15 years with the retail industry, she has a multitude of experience from across the globe. She, along with her brother and business partner, Sohel Lalvani, the two set out to start a fashion accessories brand, ToniQ. Over the past 5 years the brand has expanded to multiple stores across the country, by adding new locations every day. The product line has also increased threefold in the past 5 years and now includes women’s bags and men’s accessories. Developing the portfolio further, the duo launched The Bro Code in 2014, a high fashion men’s accessories brand at affordable prices as well as Fida, a contemporary Indian jewellery brand.
What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?
Being an entrepreneur when I started Toniq Retail there were challenges that I faced as a first time entrepreneur in India and not necessarily as a woman. The business landscape in India has myriad hurdles with no centralized agency to share information on how to set up, legalities or taxation. It was and continues to be trial and error and talking more to my industry peers that has helped in the past 7 years. The more you prove yourself, the more opportunities open up.
Living and working in a traditionally conservative city like Chennai, was also challenging at times when landlords refused us spaces to lease because I didn’t have a man to co-sign.
In spite of busy work schedules, how have you been able to maintain a balance between personal and professional life?
There is no such concept as “balance” for a working mom. It’s an urban legend. There are some days you are incredible at work and close an important deal, but had to juggle a lot of other balls to make the personal life work. Bring a new mom, I have realized that it really does take a village to raise a child and to be open to asking for help. Two things I have learned this past year: Be flexible & Be patient.
What is it like to be a woman entrepreneur today?
More things I feel have changed, more they haven’t. VC funding is still dismally low for women entrepreneurs. We are still taking about more inclusion and matching Salaries to male counterparts. But the dialogue and the Conversation that has been happening makes me positive that women will find a way to make it work. Personally, it’s a great time to be an Entrepreneur. The retail landscape is going through transition at an alarming rate and it’s both challenging and a lot of fun to be a part of that ride.
What is the one accomplishment you feel most proud about?
Career wise, having built Toniq Retail to a 200 store presence with 0 debt and a GAGR of over 18% every year.
On the personal front, it would have to be being a mom to one lovable 20 month old who is the bossiest baby around and my 8 year old fur baby, Zeus. The fact that they tolerate me means I’m doing something okay.
What message would you like to share with other women across the globe on this Women’s Day?
Our time is now. Let’s not take ‘no’ as an answer.