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[I-WIN Startup Stories] What led Sonia Khatri Anand to build a global brand from the brink of shutdown

Sonia Khatri Anand had already given up a two-decade-long career in management consulting to start Monk & Mei in its first avatar when 2019’s Cyclone Fani completely destroyed their workshop and equipment in the outskirts of Bhubaneshwar. The company, which was then making uniforms, had to shut down. And with it, the dreams of 91 women who were being rehabilitated by Sonia’s company were also on the verge of shutting down.

To Sonia’s trained mind, it was only the start of challenges. An alumnus of ISB herself, she wasted no time in restarting Monk & Mei out of the garage in her home with just one Karigar (skilled artisan), where Masterjis (experienced cutters) used to come, pick up the fabric, make garments and deliver them. There was no looking back from here.

Today Monk & Mei (monkandmei.com) is an indo-western luxury women’s wear brand that is both affordable and responsible. In just 500 days, the brand has cultivated an organic following of more than 15 thousand women and 250-plus celebrities/influencers. All this has happened, like Sonia says, because of its strong team of 20-plus designers, merchandisers, community builders, and skilled craftswomen and men.

Not only is it among one of the top sellers in several categories on Nykaa Fashion, but garments from Monk & Mei can also be bought off Myntra for Earth, Tata IndiLuxe and it’s now even catering to the NRI market through Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop.

The initial success of the Odisha initiative inspired Sonia to create a designer brand that is both responsible, and conscious; one which helps build a cleaner, greener, and more inclusive planet. Through their efforts, the good people at Monk & Mei have distributed 15,000 seed tags, 7500 jute bags, and 15,000 masks. That, along with the employment it generates for rural artisans, makes Monk & Mei a truly sensitive brand.

Sonia feels that being incubated through the I-Win program made their way of working even more structured. They connected with the right people to resolve the right challenges which helped them address some of their core problem areas.

Monk & Mei has accomplished in 500 days what few brands can do. We wish the whole team more power to achieve their goals for the next 500!

This is one of the the sixteen startups in the current cohort being incubated under I-WIN, I-Venture @ ISB’s flagship program for women-founded and co-founded start-ups. I-Venture@ ISB is proud to take them through our I-WIN Accelerator program and we wish the venture a successful journey!

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