Interview with Reika Shetty, by Fa Harrington

The entrepreneur Reika Shetty, who has an eye for fashion opportunity, opened Maryaya in 2012, when she saw a gap in the provision of maternity wear in Hong Kong. She is also a former student of ITS Education Asia and Fa Fashion Project. Here is the story about her success.

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1. Please tell us about yourself

Reika: I am the founder of Mayarya, luxury maternity friendly retail concept. We have stores in Sheung Wan, Stanley Plaza and an online store. I was born and grew up in Tokyo and spent half of my life in Europe and U.S. before moving to Hong Kong. Before launching Mayarya, I was working in New York, L.A. and Tokyo as a women’s RTW, accessories, bags and shoes for luxury multi-brand boutiques. Now I live in Hong Kong with my husband, Sid and my two children, Arya and Maya.

2. When did you know that you must set up your business? And how did you do that? Why did it have to be HK, Why not India, or Japan? How do you view fashion (maternity) in Asia?

Reika: I grew up in an entrepreneurial family so having my own business was always my aim. When I saw the gap in the market that there is no fashionable maternity wear and the current available maternity wear is short-lived, I knew there was an opportunity. I had the idea during my first pregnancy in Hong Kong and all my friends who were pregnant not only in Hong Kong but also in London, NY and other parts of the world were facing the same problem as me. I started doing the research and when I got pregnant for the second time, I knew I had to start. Hong Kong is our base now and we really enjoy living here. Hong Kong is between Japan and India and it is easy to see our families as well.

Fashion in Asia is evolving rapidly however, maternity wear in Asia has not evolved that much yet. Asian women are becoming more style savvy but when they become pregnant, there is almost no option for them to shop. That’s why we are here to cater to those fashion conscious customers who do not want to give up on their individual style during pregnancy. Also, our collection can be worn fashionably and seamlessly after pregnancy so it is worth money spent.

3. What critiria do you use when you chose the lines from the designers, how do you know which ones will sell and which won’t? Do you follow the trend? How do you plan your work and travel in a year?

Reika: When I select which brands to choose, I make sure that they have the same concept (“bump friendly but not bump only”) as us. I know what items/brands our customers are looking for so when I see the piece, I know right away. It is essential to follow the trend but we also carry basics since I believe everyone needs some basics. We have good mix of basics and trendy pieces.

It is very difficult to plan a travel since I run a business and you never know when the problem might arise. However, I have trustworthy employees who I can depend on at work and home so that is very helpful for me during emergency.

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4. What part of your work that is most difficult and how did you tackle, cope with it?

Reika: The challenge we face everyday is to hire the passionate employees who understand the brand DNA and deliver the highest standard of customer service. It is a challenge to find employees who have this good mix; however, the key to find if the person is right or wrong is really to communicate our brand DNA and make sure they understand. Also, even though they are less experienced we make sure that they have passion for our business and understand the same language (=our concept). If they have a good foundation and service comes to them naturally, we can always train them about the products and our expectations.

5. HK is so brand conscious, and there are many brands out there? What strategies do you use to compete with those ?

Reika: In maternity, customers are not so brand conscious but they look at quality and fit carefully. If they are not well-known brand, they need to have very good USP and we need to communicate that to our customers well.

6. I am sure you have read books and do tremendous research on every aspect of fashion, how much have you combined theory to practice?

Reika: I think books are important when you want to follow steps and how others have done certain things. However, during the path, you need to be flexible and think out of the box because every business is different. You cannot always follow what books say but it is important to come back to books when you are lost and need to get some new ideas to brainstorm.

7. You, are a mother of two, have got a crossed cultured marriage, neither live in Japan nor India; can you tell what pros and cons are?

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Pros: It is great for our children to experience both cultures, India and Japan from us. They can get to go to both countries often to see our families. They will also know that every culture is unique.

Cons: If we lived in Japan or India closer to our families, it would be definitely helpful for them to learn the languages and understand the culture faster and easier.

8. What part of your business that your husband helps the most?

Reika: He helps me the most in business development.

9. I know you are a very kind and nice person, personally, but have you ever encountered a disturbing woman? And in what situation was it?

Reika: Yes, I do encounter disturbing people sometimes in life. The most important thing for me is not to let them affect your mood just because they are trying to argue with you or having a bad day.