How India revealed my secret ingredient

Resilience.

I NEVER KNEW THE DEEP RESERVOIRS OF RESILIENCE I HAD UNTIL I STARTED A BUSINESS IN INDIA.

Several years ago, I was a classic small businesswoman; living and working in my established knitting shop on the east coast of Australia. 

These days the majority of my business is based in India. 

Danielle Chiel Fashion
Hand knits India

The road to India was a rough but rewarding one. It began when legislation changes for manufacturing made producing handknits in Australia unviable for my business. I explored options for basing production overseas and a colleague introduced me to a contact in India.

In many parts of Indian society, particularly in rural areas, women are very much second-class citizens. A foreign woman is a rare thing in rural areas. Ordinary tasks in Australia, like opening a bank account or securing a lawyer, became huge tasks as I navigated the business culture in India.

I’ve been through four accountants in just a few years. I’ve had screaming matches with men because I’m a foreign woman. I’ve been in a bank where the staff didn’t even talk to me. 

When I engaged a law firm and turned up for my first appointment they kept me waiting 2.5 hours. When I asked: “Is the wait normal?” their response was to get up and leave. 

“Where are you going?” I asked.
“We don’t deal with people who talk to us like that,” they said.  

I never felt like quitting. I always had strong motivation to put handknits onto the world’s catwalks. My upbringing as the daughter of two working parents and experience as a mother-of-two, teacher and shop owner had taught me a lot about bouncing back.

I did not know I would face these challenges when I first went to India. When I decided I would establish a network of artisans there, I took the simple step of buying a plane ticket. 

It was a one-way ticket to resilience.