Published: 01st May 2017
Want to be a good leader? Learn horseriding, says the founder of Ayesha
Jacqueline Kapur, Founder of Ayesha talks about her fashion brand and how horses can instill leadership qualities
German-born Jacqueline Kapur has made Auroville, Puducherry her home for the last 27 years. She spent years travelling across the country sourcing material for places like Titanic, a clothing store and Casablanca, an interior accessory store, and this soon gave wings to her own brand of stylish jewellery called Ayesha Accessories, named after her daughter. Ayesha is run by a small team of people, mostly women. And Jacqueline accredits horses for her unique leadership style. Yes, horses!
With the enthusiasm and energy of a 13-year-old, Jacqueline talks about fashion, her life in India and of course, horses, when we catch up with her at the launch of Auronya College. Excerpts:
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Germany. When I was 21, I went to Tokyo for a year to study Japanese. Then, I came to India. That was 27 years ago, when I was 24. I love it here. I wouldn't want to live in Germany ever again. I love the warmth and slight chaos. I love the sun. Someone once said, India is like a cake that hasn’t been totally given out yet.
How did the idea of Ayesha come up?
I used to have a department store in Pondicherry. At one point, I started exhibiting fashion jewellery in a corner. It had a tremendous response. Jewellery and accessories can instantly change your look and I've always enjoyed that. Nine years ago, there was no organised designer for fashion jewellery. Now, we're one of the biggest fashion jewellery companies in the country.
When we came out with global trends, they didn't make much of an impact. Since India is so diverse, what sells in Delhi might not sell in Chennai. Understanding the trend was definitely the biggest challenge
Jacqueline Kapur, Founder of Ayesha
What were the challenges that you faced as an entrepreneur?
There were so many challenges. Being a fashion company, you have to set trends to be well-known. We weren't known in the beginning. When we came out with global trends, they didn't make much of an impact. Since India is so diverse, what sells in Delhi might not sell in Chennai. Understanding the trend was definitely the biggest challenge.
You have a special connection with horses, don’t you?
Horses have been a part of my life since I can remember. I was and will always be passionate about them. Even in my next birth, I would want to ride a horse. They're what keeps me sane in all the madness of life. I live in the riding school now and there is no escape anyway. I try to make money with the company and I spend them on horses. There's no money in horses (whispers).
Decked up: The guest house at Jacqueline's riding school red earth. It is made of recycled shipping containers
How does horse riding teach leadership skills?
It is not just the sport that I teach. When my children were young and they were riding, I taught them to overcome fear. Most people are scared of horses. Overcoming fear is mammoth and it brings a very positive experience.
Another technique they learn is non-verbal communication. If I approach a horse and look into his eyes, he will become aggressive; similar with human-to-human interaction. Horses are herd animals. If you don't behave like a leader, they won’t listen to you. It has to come naturally. Confidence is another thing people learn. Responsibility too, comes naturally as you're in charge of another living being.
Do you have a favourite horse?
Oh yes! (excitedly). Her name is Campera. (Points to the picture of a white horse). She is very intelligent and has great movement. She was found by my trainer in Spain who asked me if I'd like to buy the horse. She'd never ridden her. Ever since Campera came here, she's won every competition.