Six months into his Sydney-based IT job in the late 1990s, Harry Hunjan was tired. He was spending 12 hours a day working but was not content. “I didn’t feel like it was worth it… it may have been silly but I thought that if I work 12 hours for myself instead of a company, I might be happier,” he said. And in that moment, an entrepreneur was born.
Harry owns Bollywood 4 U, a fashion boutique in the heart of Liverpool’s ‘Sari Street.’ When he opened the doors to his boutique in 2007, Harry’s was only the 7th store. Coming from a family with technical background (his father is an architect and siblings are engineers), Harry had no link to the fashion industry when he started his business. He describes it as “stressful but flexible, tiring, but also flourishing.”
“I love doing what I am doing. My main focus is on the customer and when they come back with compliments, it makes my day,” Harry says.
Outfits in Harry's store, Bollywood 4 U.
Currently working with 56 suppliers back in India, and spending half the year in India pre-COVID for business, Harry notes that the business grew from very humble beginnings. Originally, Harry used to have a wholesale business for Indian music and movies CDs and DVDs.
Driving through the Sydney suburb of Campsie one day in 2006, Harry saw a shop for lease. He parked his car, walked in and signed the lease then and there! “I had the shop keys two days later but had no idea what I was going to do,” he says. He started by painting the shop and doing some small DIY renovations before shifting the 3000 titles of CDs and DVDs sitting in his garage to the shop floor.
About a year later, Harry was having dinner in Liverpool when he drove past another shop for lease. Yet again, Harry walked in, signed the lease, and had the shop keys two weeks later!
“I initially thought I made a mistake by getting the shop. I didn’t even have fixtures, I only had tables! But then I used my tax return for that year to buy my first lot of stock and haven’t looked back since,” Harry says. 15 years later, Harry is still running Bollywood 4 U from that same shop.
A self-described ‘risk-taker,’ Harry wants to create an impact in the market and stand out in the community. He credits his wife, Roshini, with growing the business and being his greatest support. Roshini is heavily involved in the business, and does all the marketing and scoping for the boutique. She has a retail and merchandising background, and Harry notes that Roshini is always checking the latest fashion trends, and keeping an eye out for something different for their clients.
“In the fashion industry, we have to learn and watch what is happening around you. Building a brand depends on the quality, not quantity,” Harry says.
He explains that when he started the boutique, he tried to cater to both men and women from age 8 to 80. However, with time, he realised that demographics change, and that times are constantly evolving, and so he narrowed his target market.
He now tailors the business’s services for the younger generation of women, between the ages of 16 to 30. “When I started, my customers would bring their young daughters with them to the store. Now, these same daughters are grown up and working and are my customers,” he said.
Customer at Bollywood 4 U in a sparking black sari.
Harry arrived in Sydney in 1995, at the young of 17, to finish his tertiary education. He said that he was lucky to have found a job while he studied which helped him integrate into the community. “I hung out with more Australians than Indians (as there were not many Indians in Sydney at the time). I found I blended into that culture as well,” Harry said.
Customer service drives Harry, and having been in the business for so long, he feels that he has developed a sixth sense on how to deal with people thanks to his experiences. “Adjustability and versatility are key,” he said. An example of this is choosing a more ‘Western’ name for his business so that it appealed to all backgrounds.
Although his business started as the 7th store on the strip, the community has now grown to about 38 stores, mostly fashion. This growth is something that Harry finds inspiring. “Competition is healthy, and it is great to be a part of what we do here for our customers,” he said.
Outfits in Harry's store, Bollywood 4 U.
A businessman by day, and a DJ by night, Harry is still very much connected to his business’ origins in music and movies. When he has an evening spare, you can find him DJing a wedding, a party, or a club. “A good beat keeps me happy!” he said, noting that Bollywood, RnB and Punjabi are his favourite music genres.
His advice for the younger generation is something his grandfather, a heart surgeon by trade, used to tell him. “If it adds up on your piece of paper, then go for it. Everybody has doubts initially, but if you have a passion for something, then you will succeed. Everything is possible!”
SAARI Collective is a media partner for Starry Sari Night.
Tia is a freelance journalist from Sydney.