After graduating in Geology from the University of Calabar Nigeria, when John Uche Jesus came to India in 2010 to study fashion designing, he had never imagined that he would set up a fashion brand in India so successfully. John got admission in JD Fashion School in New Delhi in the January 2011 batch and graduated as one of the best students in that batch. John’s entrepreneurial journey began right after his collections got the ‘most outstanding collection of the year’ award at the JD Annual Design Award. After this recognition at the JD institute, John got orders from his friends. Subsequently, more orders poured into John’s bucket.
Since John didn’t have initial capital to rent a shop or workshop, he managed his work from his living room, which was in a way zero capital investment for him. While being asked how difficult or easy it was for him to start a business in India as a foreigner, John Uche says: “Business is not easy to establish anywhere in the world, be it as a citizen of the nation or as a foreigner.” John further said that at first, he had to fight with his apprehensions, which was more psychological than that actually was. His biggest challenge was to be able to convince the intending clients that he could deliver the job. John was also sceptical about the acceptance of his collections in the Indian market or by the Indians.
John conveyed, “It was not easy and I never expected it to be easy because nothing good comes easy in life but the support and encouragement I got from my India friends boosted my spirit to go ahead and establish here.” John recalls that everyone was very happy with him, from his school friends to the director of JD school, models who worked with him, the Nigerian embassy and some other embassies, personal friends. John also got encouragement from some Indian designers.
With his little savings, John Uche set up the first showroom of his collection by the name of ‘Diamond Ark’ in September 2012. It was in a small built-up area in Safdarjung location of South Delhi. John’s clients include some celebrities, top government officials, army chiefs, police chiefs and politicians. “These sets of clients knock at our door when they have special events and want outstanding outfits,” John remarks.
As there are ups and downs in the business, John didn’t want to share any financial figure. He said: “Every day is not Christmas. Sometimes we have more than 100 clients in a month and sometimes below than that. However, we have lots of permanent clients in India, Nigeria, Italy, Spain, Malaysia and so on. These permanent clients are our strength.”
Diamond Ark manages its marketing through word of mouth publicity mostly. Besides, it markets through social media and newspapers. Diamond Ark has now two showrooms in India and one in Nigeria commercial capital Lagos.
On what makes his collections different from that of others, Johns says: “My designs are daring and fresh along with carefully selected quality fabrics, the detailing, colourful and stylish. I like playing with colourful fabrics; my suits are usually slim, fitted and embellished. My target is clients who like something different; clients, who want to look outstanding at events and for that Diamond Ark brand creates new things every week. Diamond Ark is a lifestyle.”
In his uncertain entrepreneurial journey, John has seen many ups and downs in life. On 13 January 2013, India’s leading English daily Hindustan Times featured a story on John Uche Jesus’s collection at a prominent space of the newspaper. John considers that moment as a turning point of his career since the story portrayed him as a young Nigerian designer who happened to be the first African designer to establish his labels in India.
The news article attracted Indian embassy in Nigeria and Nigerian embassy in New Delhi also mentioned about the success story of John in their official magazines. Many media houses both in India and Nigeria gave him opportunities to share his success story.
Another turning point in John Uche Jesus’s life came when the Nigerian President Mohammade Buhari praised his work and India government shared his success story in front of all African Presidents at the India-Africa summit in October 2015.
My plan is to expand Diamond Ark, I want to penetrate the European market and possibly be a household name in Africa. He wants to create more jobs for people. At present, John has 2 showrooms in Delhi and 1 in Lagos, Nigeria
“From 2017, I will start to take part in different international fashion weeks to create more awareness about Diamond Ark brand. The brand is a legacy I want to bequeath to my kids. I love fashion not just because it is lucrative but it is fun. It is a fun to see people wearing my label with pride,” shares John.
India favoured john, and john has subconsciously developed a sense of belongingness with India. It is not just the business what gets him going. John rejoices with the nation at the time of celebrations and shares with the sorrows of it. In 2014, John celebrated Indian Republic day with Indian Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria; at the time of the Uttarakhand disaster in 2013, he donated 100 garments to an NGO based in Dehradun. Interestingly, John has kept an Indian name for his son, who was born in India a couple of years ago
At a time when allegations of discrimination against African people are creating political ruckus across nations, John’s success as an entrepreneur in India is certainly a positive example from Indians’ point of view. That’s too in the national capital, New Delhi.
Most importantly, John’s story is an inspiration for many young African nationals staying outside their country or in India.