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Shentrepreneur of the Week: Dipti Tolani, Founder & CEO, Salt Attire

Founder & CEO, Salt Attire, Dipti Tolani identified a gap in the Indian market in high quality business casuals and workwear for women – a gap that was becoming more and more profound as a large chunk of the female population was entering the workforce. With women working longer hours, and socializing as much as men, Tolani worked to conceptualize a one-stop store for 9am-9pm clothing needs, where any piece of clothing that consumers picked could be worn to both work and after.

Journey: Dipti Tolani began her entrepreneurial journey in 2017 without any connections or a network to rely upon. Prior to launching Salt Attire, she worked as a Consultant working on Financial Risk in New York. She also worked with HSBC as a software developer for their OTC Derivatives Platform. She began working towards forming her own brand when she realized there was a serious dearth in good workwear that could double as evening wear for women. For her, it was literally weaving together a business, one stitch at a time. Five years into the business, Tolani is a respected name in the Indian fashion market.

“After realizing the gap between what working women want out of their clothes and what’s available, I started digging into the reasons why the gap exists and started asking myself about what could be done better. Some core factors such as design, fabric selection and fit stood out clearly. I did a lot of ground research and studied the industry and the designing process in detail. I remember making a list of manufacturers on Google maps and went from manufacturer to manufacturer in Noida and Gurgaon, literally driving around and knocking doors until I found someone who referred me to another person, where I made my first 4 garments. I would visit the manufacturing unit and sit with the workers watching them craft the garment from a design sketch that I provided to the final product.

This experience gave me a lot of operational and business insights, ranging from tailor wages, to workflow, from designing a clothing item to its implementation,” she says.

Vision behind SALT Attire: To build a one stop shop that provides a high quality wardrobe solution for the professional woman.

Her Inspiration: Since childhood, Tolani has been fascinated by her father and his entrepreneurship spirit. Her parents have been her primary inspiration for daring to start her own venture.

“At the age of 12, I knew enough to understand that they (parents) were discussing a ‘business plan’ or the ‘ROI’ for one of their companies. They always seemed to love their work while still being attentive parents. And my dad believed that he could do it because he worked for himself. I knew then that that was the path I would eventually take as well,” she explains.

HR: SALT has come a long way from where it started – operations in a small basement with a team of 4 people. Today, it is a company that employs over 50 people, with business spread across the country. There is an in-house team which designs, develops, and produces clothing.

Retail Doors: The brand sells through its website and has 4 offline retail stores: 3 in Mumbai and 1 in Gurgaon.

Major Milestone: Opening three retail stores in Mumbai within 6 months and bouncing back post-Covid.

Challenges of Being a Female Entrepreneur: The challenges are huge – for both men and women. Specifically, as a female entrepreneur though, the challenges Tolani has faced are at the ground level/market level work of working with suppliers/vendors in the Indian market.

One Female Entrepreneur She Admires Most: Zhou Qunfei, Founder of Lens Technology.

The Future: In the next 5 years, SALT Attire sees itself coming up with multiple brands.

Advice to Young Entrepreneurs: “Don’t be rigid and get stuck on an idea, or method; one should be flexible enough to learn to pivot. And once an idea / method is proven, you should stick to it with utmost discipline.”

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