Disha Singh Founded Zouk To Marry Indian Designs With Modern Functionality

May 18, 2022, 12:24 IST

Disha Singh

Disha Singh was a happy MBA student at IIM Ahmedabad, doing her research papers and presentations, when a trip to Kutch with her peers changed the course of her life. Disha noticed that her peers were easily attracted to local handcrafts but refused to buy them due to lack of functionality. She understood that to work well, the two needed to be married. “I had always felt passionate about doing something in the fashion and lifestyle space, and this gave me the opportunity to address the gap in the market and come up the idea of designing bags with a combination of style and functionality, married with Indian ethos and rich heritage of our handcrafts,” says the founder and CEO of Zouk.

Evolution Of The Idea

Disha’s thought process was a hit, as Zouk’s over 60,000 happy customers (since 2018, when it was founded) certify. This lifestyle and fashion brand has also raised over $1.5M as venture capital. Starting with a vision to bring Indian-inspired prints and products to the global diaspora, thus keeping the country’s rich heritage and handcrafts alive, Disha was further propelled into thought by a video she watched of how animal-based leather was made. When she watched it, she just knew she had to use only cruelty-free, vegan leather, that added another feather in her cap.

Disha Singh

Going The Contemporary Way

One of the essential aspects that Disha did not want to compromise upon was bringing modern functionality to Indian designs. Her logic was simple. “If you look around, most bags are similar in look and feel – either they are dull blacks and grays, or come in solid bright colors. They look western and are a cheap replica of foreign brands. Overall, the market does not have options for bags and wallets that stand out,” she mentions.

The process of going contemporary did not end with this, it was only the beginning. Post this, a rigorous design method was set up with primary and secondary research to figure out what bag to create and how to create the same. “We ideate on the looks and functionality as it should be a combination of our current sensibilities. We also encourage inputs from different sources including our customers and try to solve some of their pain points with better product innovation with each design,” Disha reveals.


At the heart of the designs remain Indian women, who, Disha believes,

carry their world in their bags, and she wanted to help them achieve this. “Women need to fit their laptops, carry their lunches and also need the space for a separate snack bag,” she smiles. This apart from the all and sundry –wallets, makeup, phone and the like. That’s perhaps the reason why, when we forced her to choose, Disha said the Laptop bags were her personal favorites, given that they were the first product launch and have now undergone multiple iterations to achieve the perfectly functional and stylish bag.

Disha Singh

Artisans’ Aspirations

In her journey of becoming an entrepreneur, the part Disha is most proud of is that she has been able to upskill and support over 200 expert artisans. But it was no mean feat. “It was difficult to convince artisans to work with me as a woman founder. It was one of the biggest challenges, as they were so conditioned to work with male leaders that it was strange for them,” she remembers. Gradually, when they saw the passion she shared for the products they made together, it all fell into place. “That really helped us grow in terms of the quality and quantity of products made over the years,” she informs.


Challenges – A Part Of The Play

Being from a middle-class family, without any background in business, Disha had to spend time in convincing her family of her idea. Her strong determination and faith prevailed, and she took the leap, supported by her alma mater IIM Ahmedabad. She went on to secure the IIMaverick scholarship for entrepreneurship.


Despite overcoming these initial challenges, the entrepreneur in Disha knew she had to be ready for anything that came her way, because more challenges meant more room for growth. “We have achieved certain milestones in our brand building phase, so I would say that solving some of our customer pain points and readying my team to handle their next set of challenges is something that keeps me excited, and I look at these challenges positively,” she smiles.

Disha Singh

Beyond Work…

Every designer needs inspiration and Disha is no different. And when she is desperate to get some, she likes to take a step back from her schedule and evaluate her decisions. “Take a break from work, read through, take some time off to rejuvenate and take inspiration from the smallest things around me- I believe our regular surroundings have a lot to offer that helps me with design thought and clarity,” she elaborates.

Her favourite way to unwind is by reading books. “I read a lot, and on a variety of topics. So, from travel to fiction and non-fiction, I cover a wide range of material. The last book I read was Paying The Land by Joe Sacco,” she signs off.

Images courtesy: Disha Singh

Also read: This Homemaker Of Over 30 Years Co-founded A Luxury Candle Business