Monday, November 5, 2018

The Brigade that Builds Brands: Veteran Air Force wife Doreen Choudhry's successful jewellery brand

Hello everyone! I’m popping back in just to share another interesting interview in the #TheBrigadethatBuildsBrands series. We’ve recently moved to a small town base and between living out of a suitcase, getting ready to move into a house & getting used to new responsibilities, I’m grabbing a moment to hop onto my blog. Today, I’m sharing Doreen Chowfin Choudhry’s story. A veteran Air Force wife & jewellery designer, Mrs. Choudhry tells us about how she started a business at a time when entrepreneurship amongst ladies was almost unheard of in the defence services. I do hope her story spurs many of you to build your own brand & create meaningful work opportunities for yourself that you can cart along with your trunks as you move from one base to another.


 C. Please tell us something about yourself – what do you do, where are you based and how long have you been a fauji wife.

D. As a child of five my father was posted at the JSW (later known as NDA), as the Record Officer, at Clement Town Dehradun. I guess I grew up influenced by the fauj!

Mrs. Choudhry at her wedding

My brothers too joined the Indian Navy and the IAF as pilots, and I got married to an Indian Air Force Pilot at the age of 24. In January we completed 50 years of marriage and that’s how long I’ve been a fauji wife. For the last 35 years or so I have lived in Delhi. 

C. What has been your business or creative journey been like: how & when did you start your venture?

D. It was 1982 an I was attending the annual AFFWA garden party hosted by the Air Chief’s wife, when to my surprise and mild embarrassment, I was handed a tray of pearl strings to show and sell that morning by none other than the hostess herself and of course there was no question of refusing!  Many of the ladies bought strings but wanted matching ear tops etc. This was the beginning of my journey of jewellery designing.

Mrs. Choudhry, 4th from the right, seated & in a check sari

When I was a child I used to have glass beads of different colours and textures and I used to make small necklaces with those. Later on when I got the opportunity at the Ladies Club, my hidden talent got a wake up call. 

C. Were you in a different profession and re-trained for the current one? If yes, can you share how/where you learned the skills required for your current profession? We’d also love to hear how you got into jewelry design.

D. I had worked at the YWCA in Delhi before I got married. That was an exciting phase of my life. Jewellery design is as much my hobby as my profession. I learnt all about stones through books and gem dealers and you could say I trained on the job. I found designing fascinating and never looked back. I guess it was a natural talent that I had and I would just design around a stone and create an original piece that people seemed to love. I am learning constantly and get inspired by nature. Nature is so full of colours which any creative mind can draw from and produce a beautiful ornament!




C. Fauji wives make their home in an assortment of obscure places across the country. Our lives are about living in the moment and doing what we can, when we can. Can you share how you continued your work as you moved from one base to another?

D. When your talent travels with you it does not matter where your husband is posted! Fortunately for me jewels are welcome anywhere. Travel has only helped me to source stones and handcrafted pieces from quaint places like MHOW, small villages in Uttrakhand, the Johri Bazar in Jaipur and the Dariba Kalan in Chandini Chowk. The ‘obscure places’ have and put me in touch with craftsmen from various parts of the country.  I am not just a working woman, I have many hobbies like gardening, cooking, knitting but most of all I love dogs and have had them since the age of eight years!

C. These days most fauji wives use social media to promote their business. When you started your brand, how did you spread the word about your work + build your clientele?

D. My business was just was spread by an old fashioned social medium – the word of mouth! Once an Air Force wife approached me to ask whether I could show a pearl choker to a visiting foreign IAF Chief’s wife. I agreed, but declined when I was told to take my wares to show the lady concerned at her hotel.  The IAF Chief’s wife was told about this so she asked whether I could bring my jewellery to the Air House. I agreed and went there with a suitcase full of stuff  neatly arranged, as I had just finished an exhibition at the National Defence College.

I was asked if I supplied to Santushti, I replied in the negative. The Chief’s wife called the lady in charge of Santushti and sent most of my stuff there. It was my first brush with retail and spurred me on a lot. Later my designs were stocked at the NEXT shop in Greater Kailash too.

The Air Force always supported my entrepreneurship but I also got a lot of recognition from senior Army wives. I was invited to display my jewelry at the farewell lunch for the retiring Army Chief’s wife at the DSOI Club.





C. What challenges did you face as an entrepreneur in a time when entrepreneurship wasn’t very common amongst service wives + teaching was the norm?

D. My group of friends in the Squadron was very talented, either in sewing, crafts or cooking. We always found the money ran out all too quickly and the desire to earn something ourselves made us take a shot at entrepreneurship.

C. How did you juggle that load of social commitments & welfare activities that are an integral part of the fauji community, while nurturing your passions and meeting work deadlines?

D. I have always found it easy to switch roles. I had my share of social commitments but took care of them with joy and energy. It wasn’t about getting the table to look Pinterest right. It was about enjoying meals with friends.


C. As a creative/entrepreneur + fauji wife, is there something that you cherish very much about being part of this community? And is there something you feel must/can change for the better?

D. Today when I have moved on in age I sure have less energy but my enthusiasm has not diminished! Being a proud wife of a soldier is my medal! I cherish the close knit Air Force community and the sense of belonging that we have over the decades. Our Air Force friends have remain unchaged and unaffected by time and tide.

C. What tips would you give to fauji wives out there who’d like to pursue their dreams while living at small and busy bases?

D. If one enjoys what one does, then you have everything.


 C. A parting quote or philosophy that helps you stay calm and do what you do?

D. It will be of interest to many that my creative hobby was not only a business, but also a therapy for me after my cancer surgery many years ago. It not only healed me but also helped me stand straight.

Something which I enjoy doing and which is really like a soothing balm, is to lose myself in colours, beads and creating something new and special in my working space, which is in my home. 

Thank you for answering these questions! J

For more fauji wife + entrepreneurship tales, dig into all our stories here.


Note: If you'd like to be featured in this series, write to me with details about your work & how long have your been doing what you do at chandanabanerjeewrites@gmail.com (we feature creative spouses who move along with their husbands on postings & make their project/brand work from the boondocks).

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#thebrigadethatbuildsbrands #faujiwife #faujiwifeentrepreneur #entrepreneur #creativeentrepreneur #handmadebusiness  #militaryspouse #airforcewife   #jewellerybusiness #jewellerydesigner

2 comments:

  1. Hi Chandana, just to let you know that you have done a great job of my mum’s Interview. I loved your page and layout but most of all i like the fact that you write about an aspect of some of the best women in the world - Fuji wives! They are troopers and your blog captures their indomitable spirit, so thank you! Priti Choudhry

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  2. Hi Chandana, loved the interview! It's inspiring to read about all the creative things things you do while still managing to pack your trunks and move locations. Thank you for the beautiful piece on my inspiring mum and on other fauji wives who manage their 'brands from the boondocks' and military life, with equal ease.

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