From Software to Women's Workwear: A Woman Entrepreneur's Journey
By: WE Staff
Dipti Tolani, Founder, Salt Attire began her career as a software developer at HSBC, where she played a crucial role in developing their OTC Derivatives Platform. Later, Dipti transitioned into a consultancy role, focusing on financial risk management. Working in New York, she collaborated with numerous clients, leveraging her expertise to assess and mitigate potential risks.
Dipti holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Pune University, where she honed her technical skills and acquired a strong foundation in computer science. She then pursued a master’s degree in operations research & Financial Engineering from Columbia University in New York.
Dipti's journey in building SALT Attire is focused around creating a women's workwear brand that goes beyond providing stylish clothing options.
Your professional journey began as a software developer followed by a consulting role. What motivated you to pivot from being in the corporate world to becoming an entrepreneur?
I had the privilege of living and working in the bustling city of New York during my previous stint. It was undoubtedly a remarkable experience, brimming with worldly exposure and significant accomplishments. However, amidst the hustle and bustle, there was a sense of something missing – a void that led me to explore new avenues.
Growing up, I had always been captivated by the idea of entrepreneurship. This fascination can be traced back to my childhood, where I drew immense inspiration from my father's entrepreneurial spirit. His unwavering dedication and innovative mindset left an indelible mark on me. During my time in New York, I found myself increasingly drawn towards the world of startups and entrepreneurship. Engaging in extensive research and immersing myself in the realms of startups, I couldn't help but be drawn by the potential impact and boundless possibilities they held.
The thought of creating something meaningful, and contributing to a larger purpose resonated deeply with me. It was during these contemplative moments that the idea of taking the entrepreneurial plunge started to take shape. After several years of careful consideration, my passion and an unwavering belief in the power of innovation, I finally made the decision to embark on this new and exciting journey. I believe that my past experiences, combined with my newfound passion for entrepreneurship, will serve as a strong foundation for the endeavours that lie ahead.
Salt Attire is a modern-day brand for the working woman. What led you to foray into this specific niche? Did you observe any loopholes in the existing market? If yes, please elaborate.
During my trip to India, an unplanned work meeting came up, but I didn't bring any business clothes since my visit was mainly for leisure. I found myself in a situation where I urgently needed suitable clothing. I visited different showrooms, increasingly disheartened by the slim chances of finding what I needed. All I was looking for was a well-constructed shirt with quality fabric and a pair of pants. Yet, my quest quickly evolved into a struggle, forcing me to compromise on aspects like design, price, fabric, and fit.
This disparity prompted me to recognize a gap in India's market for high-quality business casuals and workwear for women. With the evolving needs of working women, I envisioned a comprehensive solution for clothing needs from 9 AM to 9 PM – a collection where each piece seamlessly transitioned from work to after-hours. This led to the conceptualization of SALT Attire, a one-stop destination catering to the professional woman's wardrobe requirements. Offering an affordable and chic brand of business casuals, we also provide customization and personalized shopping experiences based on individual preferences, lifestyles, and body types. Our design ethos revolves around clean cuts, functionality, simplicity, and sophistication.
Recognizing the chasm between working women's apparel preferences and the available options, central aspects such as design, fabric selection, and fit became apparent. These initial steps immersed me in the operational and business intricacies, encompassing aspects like design realization, and implementation. This experience provided invaluable insights that started my journey as an entrepreneur to build SALT Attire.
As someone who heads a brand for the modern Indian working woman, in your opinion, what are ‘her’ needs and desires from a work-wear brand?
I believe that the needs and desires of a modern Indian working woman from a workwear brand revolve around a combination of functionality, style, comfort, and empowerment. They aim to achieve seamless adaptability to the active lifestyle with clothing that effortlessly transitions from work to social engagements. Women need workwear that allows them to move comfortably and confidently throughout the day, without feeling restricted by their clothing. The clothing should strike a balance between being stylish and professional.
Attire should be appropriate for workplace settings while allowing women to express their personal style. And, high-quality workwear at accessible price points ensures that it is within reach for a broad spectrum. Ultimately, the modern Indian working woman seeks a brand that aligns with her multifaceted lifestyle, celebrates her individuality, and equips her with attire that enables her to conquer her professional aspirations while maintaining her personal style and comfort.
In your opinion, what is the key element of power dressing for Indian women professionals?
Power dressing for women professionals involves the strategic selection of attire that reflects confidence, authority, and professionalism. The goal of power dressing is to project a strong presence, boost self-assurance, and create a positive impact on others' perceptions.
We have transitioned away from rigid formals, which are now reserved for specific occasions, in favour of more pragmatic, high-quality business casual clothing. Beyond simply being stylish, the emphasis is on functionality—a crucial aspect. This entails the ability to effortlessly navigate from client meetings to travel and even picking up kids from school. Premium quality fabrics that are gentle on the skin and offer day-long comfort are of paramount importance. We acknowledge the necessity of practicality without sacrificing aesthetic appeal.
What are some strict don’ts that women professionals must be mindful of while building a work wardrobe?
Avoid clothing that restricts movement or causes discomfort during long work hours. It's important to respect the dress code of your workplace. Avoid wearing outfits that are too casual or otherwise inappropriate for the professional environment. While style is important, sacrificing comfort for the sake of fashion can hinder your productivity. Invest in well-made, versatile basics such as tailored blouses, classic trousers, and well-fitting blazers that form the foundation of a functional work wardrobe.
How does Salt Attire crack sizing for the Indian market? Does the brand offer customization?
Customization is a fundamental aspect of the Salt Attire experience. We understand that every individual has distinct preferences, lifestyles, and body types. To address this, we offer personalized customizations that take into account these specific requirements. This ensures that each customer can find garments that not only fit impeccably but also resonate with their personal style. Our dedication to providing a wide range of sizes and customization options is aimed at empowering women to confidently embrace their unique selves, enhancing their professional image while prioritizing comfort and style. Recognizing the unique characteristics of the Indian silhouette, we have crafted our own body measurement ratios based on comprehensive studies. Unlike the prevailing practice of relying solely on western proportions, we have honed our sizing system to accurately align with the needs of Indian women.
What are your future plans for Salt Attire? Is the brand looking to foray into any new categories or markets in the near future?
At present, we have established our presence in Mumbai and Delhi, and we will be extending the reach of our collection. Our focus is on expanding to various regions across India, driven by the aspiration to engage with a more extensive audience. This expansion serves a dual purpose: not only does it facilitate a greater connection with people, but it also empowers us to address the evolving fashion demands of the modern working woman.