It is often said that when you embark on a new leg of your career, you ensure you change things for the good. By that, we mean everything ranging from how one perceives life to sartorial intricacies and even personal style. It was no different for Devika Saigal, a 26-year-old Mumbai-based entrepreneur, who has been an integral part of the revamping of Mandwa Jetty. Starting with an idea to make the space more accessible for recreational activities, Devika opened Boardwalk by Flamboyante in January 2016. She later joined in to set up Beach Box – a container concept space comprising flea markets, performances, exhibitions and more. Read on to know more about her work and how her personal style has evolved with time.
Team WODROB: Give us a background on how you turned into an entrepreneur?
Devika Saigal: About three years ago, when I was working in digital marketing, my father discussed with me that there were plans on changing Mandwa port, an area comprising over 100,000 sq. ft. They were looking to create something offbeat for people. I was fortunate that he put me in touch with the right partners, who are now on board with me on this project. In fact, one of the partners is from the yachting business and had a clear vision of what this space should be like. We came up with a plan to create a getaway destination from Bombay, Major cities in the world like Melbourne, San Francisco, London have pier ports where a lot of activity goes on. We wanted to give people something similar, and with Mandwa being just about an hour by ferry and 20 minutes by speedboat, it looked like the perfect opportunity.
Back in 2014, about 3,000 people would visit Mandwa on a daily basis. We thought setting up a restaurant would be a good start so we contacted hospitality partners, and ultimately Boardwalk by Flamboyante came on board and helped open Boardwalk. January to May 2016 seemed like a very slow period and we were surprised. Then we shut for the monsoon, but this time decided to market the space well in September. Once we opened after, the place started getting noticed. By October, things started changing. Initially, we thought it would be a weekend business but our weekdays started selling out too. There was a crowd to cater to on weekdays as well, as people came by to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.
Later in November, we had reservations lined up till February, and we were completely sold out. We realised that we could do so much more, and decided to open a container park like the ones that exist in Dubai, Vegas as well as London. That’s how Beach Box, which is basically a space comprising 20 shipping containers converted into food courts, shops, and an open amphitheatre that can easily accommodate over 250 people, came into existence. Now, we see a footfall of 10,000 to 13,000 people at Mandwa per day.
TW: Was the shift from digital marketing to hospitality a gradual one? Or was this a domain you always wanted to explore?
DS: After completing BBA from NMIMS, Mumbai, I went to study international management from University Of Bath, UK. I always wanted to get into hospitality. In fact, opening a restaurant was something I had in my mind, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon. I was fortunate to connect with the right partners for this project. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this on my own. We had the right team, the right support came along and we started this together. I learnt everything on the job. From working on the interiors to running a restaurant, dealing with operations, we figured it all out. We did have teething problems in the first few months. But once we were set, it took off rather smoothly.
TW: Talking about your style, do you think it has evolved after turning into an entrepreneur?
DS: Definitely. You know when we were setting up I didn’t bother much about dressing up. I would wear just about anything. But once Boardwalk by Flamboyante launched, things changed. I suddenly wanted to dress up more often. Not that I wouldn’t do it earlier… when I would go out for a night out I would deck up. But I never did it on a daily basis. That happened to me only after turning an entrepreneur. I guess you get the confidence and it also shows in your personality and the clothes you wear. Honestly, two years back, I would never bother applying makeup but now I don’t step out without it.
TW: Tell us how your personal style changed?
DS: I was always a jeans and t-shirt person. But now I make an effort to know what’s trending. I’ve started playing with colours, mixing and matching, and I try things that are on trend. Now, when my friends meet me after work, they’re like, “You are so well dressed… we’ve never seen you in college like this… what’s happened to you?” I think it just comes naturally to you when you turn an entrepreneur.
TW: You studied in the UK where the sartorial culture is so on point. What, according to you, is different in India?
DS: When I was in the UK, I never cared about dressing up because the winter got me and all I would do was wear layers. But when I look back, I wish I could wear those fur coats, long jackets, trench coats that you don’t get to wear here. Also, those stylish British brands that I love, you don’t find it in India. I wish I had made more effort to dress up at that time. That said, I feel Mumbai has caught up very well and people are very trendy.
TW: Has travel played an important part in changing your fashion sense?
DS: Yes, travel opens your eyes. I’ve gone backpacking with two of my friends to Croatia, Amsterdam as well as Germany. I recently went to Spain and shopped a lot in Barcelona. I think travelling on your own gives you confidence. Every country has a different sense of fashion, and their locals have a different fashion story. When I went to Capri, I realised people wore flowy, summery, linen fabrics with fancy hats and so on. Croatia, on the other hand, is all about casual dressing. Travel changes your perspective on fashion, and it teaches you a lot about the culture. In fact, the clothes people wear tells a lot about their personality.
TW: What do you think is the most important aspect of dressing up?
DS: Being comfortable is important but, at the same time, one has to be trendy and stylish. I will never wear something that I am not comfortable in. Like I mentioned before, I was quite a jeans and tee person. But now I prefer wearing something flowy, as it is more comfortable to me than a pair of jeans.
TW: What’s your dressing up routine like?
DS: For everyday dressing, I have a section in my cupboard with only my work wear. If I am going to Alibaug, I sport slightly more comfortable outfits. For occasions, I pick clothes in advance and plan accordingly. As far as my makeup goes, I can’t do without sunscreen. On a daily basis, I wear kajal, eyeliner, lipstick and some concealer. And I ensure I remove my makeup before I sleep.
TW: What’s your personal style quotient?
DS: I love wearing dresses, as I feel most comfortable in them. In fact, you can wear it with a pair of flats or heels and it is perfect for both work and party. Dresses are my go-to outfit.
TW: Do you prefer shopping online or by going to a mall?
DS: I have tried online shopping and I do it once in a while. But there’s nothing like going to a mall and shopping. That said, I usually shop when I am travelling.
TW: Are there any brands that you’re fond of?
DS: For Indianwear, I love designer Arpita Mehta. When I’m looking for gowns, it’s got to be Monisha Jaising. Then there’s Tannya Ahuja, an upcoming designer. There’s also Krésha Bajaj; I love her stuff. I also like Deme By Gabriella. In international brands, it’s Ralph & Russo, Valentino, and Zuhair Murad. On a regular basis, I prefer fast fashion. I love discovering new designers either on Instagram or through friends and celebrities. Designer outfits I’d want to own are Payal Singhal and Sabyasachi.
TW: Are you inspired by anyone’s fashion choices?
DS: I love Blake Lively’s style and her fashion choices.
TW: Tell us your favourite pieces from your wardrobe?
DS: There are these two Armani dresses that I love. Then there’s a Monisha Jaising gown I bought recently. Apart from that, there’s a Tarun Tahiliani lehenga.
TW: What’s your shopping routine like?
DS: If I am buying something exquisite I definitely go with friends, otherwise I go by myself. Also, I don’t mind splurging on bags. I have an LV, a Michael Kors, DKNY, and I love shopping for bags.
TW: What is your most extravagant purchase?
DS: On my recent visit to the US, I bought three watches at one time.
TW: Do you have any pet peeves in fashion?
DS: The Matrix-style sunglasses that are in trend now, I don’t like it at all. Then there are harem pants. Even printed leggings and pants, embroidered jeans, or jeans with tassels on the hem… they’re not my style. Polka dot dresses as well.
TW: Is there a closet organization trick that you apply on a day-to-day basis?
DS: I separate my work outfits and casuals from my occasion wear. Also, I have an entirely separate cupboard for Indian wear.