Meet Devika – A chartered accountant, an MBA, Bharatanatyam dancer, Animal lover And Founder of KANABIS (PETA-approved vegan footwear brand)

24 March 2017

Devika Srimal Bapna

I grew up in Delhi. My father is in the pharmaceutical business. My mother is a home-maker and teaches Yoga.

Fortunate to be born in a family of high achievers, I was inspired at a very early age to stretch myself, aim high and work really hard to achieve your goals. I had an entrepreneurial itch since I was a little girl. When I was 7 years old, I thought I’ll open my own stores called ‘Devika & Spencer’ –because I knew of Marks & Spencer back then, and thought all stores have to be called that! So that made for a nice dinner table joke for my family to have a laugh at.

I did my undergrad in Accounting& Finance at Uni. of Warwick, UK. I started my career at Ernst & Young in London and simultaneously qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the UK. Later I did my MBA from Duke University, USA.

I moved back from London in 2013 and started working at Deloitte, Gurgaon but somehow I wasn’t fully satisfied. So I decided to quit in 3 months and start on my own. I started my MBA at the same time as well.

As an animal lover and PETA volunteer, I gave up leather a few years ago and had a tough time finding good non-leather shoes that were stylish, good quality and affordable. I noticed the unstructured footwear industry in India- we either have the non-Indian players that are expensive and mostly do leather shoes or the unorganized/unbranded segment where quality, price, make etc. is questionable. It was almost a light-bulb moment when I thought ‘what the heck, I should start my own brand!’  And in October 2014 KANABIS was born- a brand for fashionable, high quality and PETA approved VEGAN footwear. We launched our first footwear collection in April 2015.

It was a hectic year juggling a start-up where I had to do everything from scratch, travel and spend nights studying and taking exams!

KANABIS is a play on the word Cannabis (aka marijuana!) since we use a lot of canvas instead of leather in our shoes and canvas was historically made from hemp that came from cannabis. All our products are made of high-quality canvas, fabric and other leather substitutes keeping compassion for animals as a core value of the business. The designs are exclusive and tastefully crafted with a careful mix of fabrics for the right look and comfort. We keep a close eye on the current and upcoming trends in fashion. Each shoe also has a quirky name that tells a story about it. We are available offline at exhibitions/trunk shows and multi-brand stores across the country. We are also available online at and all leading marketplaces.

Our strategy is to bring that something new every season and expand our offering. We are currently only focusing on domestic market, but plan to start global deliveries at some point. We are working on increasing our online and offline visibility to acquire new customers and earn their loyalty so they keep coming back for a new pair of Kanabis. We also do other events such as corporate pop-ups, warehouse sales, and lately, we are seen at colleges organizing competitions or being invited for start-up related events and talks. So lots of exciting work!

I had to go through very difficult time as I don’t come from a fashion/footwear background. From London to Delhi, finance to fashion, big corporate to a start-up, life had taken a 180! Building a team, running a company, learning to sell, promote, market a consumer brand has been exciting, challenging and rife with learning.

My family has been an excellent source of support and encouragement. It’s great to bounce off my ideas (as crazy as they may be!) and get some solid advice from them whenever I hit any roadblocks. Also, I started doing Yoga recently and find that quite energizing.

A lot of my time and effort goes in designing the shoes, picking out the fabrics, sampling, working with vendors and once the products are launched the sales and marketing follow. So, I don’t get much spare time but, I like to travel, read and swim.

The joy of seeing our customers wear Kanabis shoes, send us positive feedback and come back for more motivates me to keep on top of our game.

I’ve learned that nothing comes easy, but perseverance can take you far. I believe in Carpe Diem! I have always lived by this. Seize the day and do what you love to do.

As an entrepreneur, I feel that the learning is endless and that makes this path extremely fulfilling. So my 2 cents would be if you have a solid idea and the passion for pulling it through then just going for it. Proof of the pudding is in the execution.

I am Woman Of Courage because I have gone against the grain to pursue my passion and what I truly believe in.


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