"Under Kavita Thulasidas’s leadership, Stylemart is fusing Asian styles and hues into uniquely Singaporean creations to celebrate our diverse traditions and cultures"
At only 42 years of age, Kavita Thulasidas is the soul and strength of homegrown fashion boutique, Stylemart. Under her watchful eyes, its reputation and reach has grown well beyond the shores of Singapore. Established by her grandfather in the 1950s, Stylemart had a humble beginning in Changi Village as a tailoring business that catered to the RAF officers in the 1960s. Kavita’s mother Mdm Huri Baxani cemented its name as a high-fashion Indian boutique on Selegie Road in the 1980s, when it came to be known as the “Singapore’s Indian Fashion Trendsetters”.
In 1992, Kavita joined her mother in the business. She was only 18 at that time. “In fact, I got involved in the family business at a very young age without even realising it,” she says, recalling how she grew up surrounded by fine fabrics and garments.
In 1999, during the Asian currency crisis, Kavita formally took over the reins of Stylemart, forging a path despite the unfavourable business climate and her inexperience. Stylemart proved to be a worthy testing ground for Kavita’s courage and integrity. What unfolded in the next six years is the inspiring story of one woman’s vision and determination to steer a family enterprise away from certain demise back to profitability.
As the Stylemart boss, Kavita quickly identified the need to change the management strategy as well as to secure a new niche in the market. Kavita decided to cater to a growing demand in the bridal segment. She created a new shopping ambience after an extensive renovation and also extended the retail floor space. These radical reforms paid off. Within a year, she grew sales by 50 per cent. Then tripled it over the next five years. Stylemart is today a high-end fashion label, thanks to Kavita’s tireless focus on branding, customer service, as well as her personal charisma and creativity.
A gifted fashion designer who loves creating beautiful things, Kavita has a passion for Stylemart that stems not merely from her quest to be a good businesswoman, but also from her personal drive to fulfil herself artistically. And it shows in her creations. With a dedicated team of in-house designers and seamstresses, Stylemart offers customised designs with an Indian twist. Recognising that service is the key to survival and success, Kavita trains her new staff personally.
Kavita appreciates that she has extended Stylemart’s market share beyond the Indian community. Recognising that high-profile, powerful women like to dress in modern styles with an ethnic twist that reflect their different cultural backgrounds, she launched her own fashion label, Asian Woman, in 2004, which quickly attracted much public attention. Her signature Asian Fusionwear has won the hearts and minds of many a Singaporean woman of substance. This is yet another initiative that further cements the success of Stylemart. Today, a large segment of its clientele is from the Chinese and expatriate communities in Singapore.
“What you wear is not merely a dress or attire that you wrap around yourself. It is a statement of who you are. It is an expression of your identity, which is why my fusion ideas have been such a success with my clients. They are not looking for another run-of-the-mill outfit. They are looking to make their own unique statement. And I consider it a privilege that I get to articulate their individuality and specialness through my creations, my mélange of threads and colours. I cannot tell you how deeply satisfying the sense of accomplishment is,” Kavita says.
In January 2006, Kavita purchased the commercial property from which she operated. This buy added to her retail space on Selegie Road. Kavita then moved her Asian Woman outlet from Centrepoint to Selegie Road. Consolidating her retail outlets under one roof has proven to be significantly better for her company, as it provides a more streamlined customer experience.
In 2007, Kavita embarked on an ambitious plan to tap the emerging Indian market by launching a spa and lifestyle boutique in Bangalore. The Indian beauty industry is worth more than US$1.5 billion and grows 20 per cent every year. Thanks to Kavita’s resourcefulness, she has carved a niche for herself in the Indian beauty market by emphasising excellent service that sets the standard for India’s spa industry.
In addition to her accomplishments as an entrepreneur, Kavita is also lauded for her philanthropy. The annual fashion shows she has been holding for the last 25 years have recently become fundraising events.
Kavita’s Stylemart accomplishments underscore the age-old foundations of success in business — excellence in service rather than marketing gimmicks, clarity of vision rather than fads, creativity rather than counterfeits, strength of character rather than excuses, and plain old hard work. There are no short-cuts to success, and Kavita has taken none.