Chasing a Dream

Chasing a Dream

A successful business is about filling a gap in the market. And identifying that gap and making a move in that direction is what an individual does to become a successful entrepreneur. The right amount of investment, time-to-market and timeliness of the service or product offered are also critical factors that make the business idea a success.

Many a time, there is a great idea, but lack of courage to take the plunge. We outline five young entrepreneurs, who dared to take that first step and hope they will serve as an inspiration to those who dare to dream. The five share common ground on two factors – low investment (under Rs 5 lakh) and the uniqueness of their business idea. Professionals in their own field, these entrepreneurs were able to change tracks and sell their business to their target audience. Being small, made them agile and responsive to customer needs. The right skills, creating the right visibility and low investments have given them the bandwidth to experiment and explore. Being answerable only to themselves, the risks were commensurate to their comfort level.

Meet the 5

ASAP

Any Surprise, Any Place

Everybody loves a surprise. But, for the person planning it, time, knowledge and the logistics of organising it can be a nightmare.

ASAP, a New Delhi-based personalised gifting service, started by Ruchi Chopra, aims to multiply gifting options. Chopra reminisces, “The idea came to me in October 2006, when I was at work and a friend at a hostel messaged me asking for pizza.” She decided to gift her friend a pizza, but, despite trying for hours, could not arrange for one. “It set me thinking,” says Chopra, “this was just a pizza, the least complicated of all gifts.” When you know what to gift a friend, 80 per cent of the gifting problem is already solved. And yet, organising for one, the 20 percent, is so difficult, she adds. She left her job at GAP clothing and started ASAP in 2007 – to offer personalised gifting services to her clients.

Word of mouth was a powerful promotional medium and when she did some surprises for journalist friends, she got written about, which increased visibility. Today ASAP services 10 cities, including some abroad.

“In my kind of business, finding good vendors is the biggest challenge. It is also a challenge to do everything by yourself, as you do not have the kind of income to hire many people in the beginning,” she admits. But, that is more of a learning than a challenge at the end of the day, she feels.

Seed Capital: Rs 50,000

RoI period: 4 months

Skill sets: Passion, innovation, understanding

of peoples’ needs

Team strength: 6

Year started: 2007

Core business: Personalised gifting

USP: Personalised service, delivery any time, surprise moments created

Space required: Two-room office

Licensing/Permissions: Trademark


 

Rentoys

Toys on rent

 

Any parent will vouch for this – the need to provide their children with the best of toys. The flip side – when the children outgrow it, what do they do with all the old toys?

“It leads to not only a hole in the pocket, but, also clutter at home due to unused toys and landfill causing environmental issues,” points out Manoj Kumar, who started Rentoys.in with Neeta Verma and Shilpa Prasad in Bengaluru.

A B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, he has worked with multi-nationals, but always wanted to be on his own. He discovered that though there are libraries for books and even puzzles, there were no libraries for sharing, safe and sanitised toys.

Thus, was born, Rentoys.in, which is India’s only online toy library that provides branded toys on rent for children in the age group of 1 month – 6 years. The team has established strategic tie-ups with multiple vendors and educates parents about Rentoys.in through various channels including email marketing; online marketing – Google Ad words, Facebook, Twitter, blogs; offline channels – posters, fliers; and events.

The toys can be ordered online and are delivered and picked up at your doorstep, free of delivery charges. Or one can also visit the library and pick up the toys. The services are currently available in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Mumbai and will soon be coming to New Delhi, Chennai, Coimbatore, and Kolkata, through the franchise route.

Rentoys.in also promotes toy donation for underprivileged kids as part of its responsibility towards society and has an association with a children’s NGO.

Seed Capital: Rs 5 Lakhs

RoI period: N/A

Skill sets: Strong entrepreneurial spirit, customer service, basic working knowledge of computers, enjoy working with children and commitment to children in your community.

Team strength: Do More With Less

Year started: Sep 2009 (Pilot); Jan 2010 (Launched in Bangalore)

Core business: Toy Rental Company

USP: The pioneer tag in this segment gives us an edge

Space required: 200 sq ft (Min)

Licensing/Permissions: Registering company


Boring Brands

a promise never to be boring

Aakriti Bhargava completed her public relations and event management course at MICA, and worked at Info Edge for four years, when the urge to do something on her own took over. She quit her job in October 2009 after putting in four years at Infoedge. In the one month notice period, she decided that whatever she did had to be disruptive, and established Boring Brands (Boring) in New Delhi.

A communication consultancy firm for startups, Boring takes on communication projects that include understanding what the startup’s business is, its customers, the branding message and various kinds of communication to the media based on data and information available about the company.

“The greatest challenge is that there is a budget constraint with startups, though they understand the need for public relations. We address that by being competitively priced because we do not have any operational costs,” points out Bhargava. Currently, it is a two person show. The fact that the two work directly with customers is another advantage, she feels.

Within one year of inception, Boring has handled 12 clients, of which six are retainer clients. Word of mouth and forums such as Startup Saturdays help the duo meet prospective clients.

Bhargava expects that she will continue with her niche focus and prefer to expand with a team of experienced consultants. “There are many women who have the experience, but have had to take a break due to personal reasons. I would prefer to recruit such people,” she says and expects the team to grow to around five in one year.

Seed Capital: Laptop and a workspace

RoI period: 3 months

Skill sets: Communication analysis, writing skills, analytical ability, industry knowledge, media  intelligence

Team strength: 2

Year started: 2009

Core business: Communications consultancy for startups

USP: Disruptive thought, as the name suggests

Space required: A laptop and a desk for each person working along.

Licensing/Permissions: NA


Rage Chocolatier

hand-crafted chocolates

For Rashmi Vaswani, a management student from New Delhi, starting her own business was always the number one goal. She had little work experience during her college days but she was convinced she was ready to start a business.

Some homemade chocolates she gifted near and dear ones for Diwali were much appreciated and seemed like a good business to get into. Vaswani decided to venture into the specialised chocolates business on a small scale in Bengaluru in 2006 and participated in exhibitions, with less than Rs 5 lakh investment over a span of couple of months. It was more like a hobby, but when corporate orders started coming in, she realised she had to formally register Rage Chocolatier (Rage) and turn professional.

After the corporate orders, there were wedding orders and through word of mouth, Rage grew. Today, it has moved out of the kitchen and established a workshop and has a retail store in Bengaluru. Online ordering is possible, and Rage chocolates are delivered across the country and even abroad. Packaging is the key here, as is the type of chocolate. “I never recommend the perishable variety for long-distance orders,” she explains.

Rage is today a high-end chocolate boutique with customised products. “We were also supplying to retail stores, but, competing with branded names just did not make sense,” explains Vaswani.

The team of 10 includes two chefs and the rest for packaging and designing. The aim is to start a chain of boutiques, but all over a period of time. Currently, Rage is establishing its Bengaluru store, and based on the learnings from this store, expansion across the country will be planned.

Seed Capital:  Rs 5 Lakhs

RoI period: 2 years

Skill sets: To be able to deliver as required by the client and on time

Team strength: 10 – 12

Year started:  2006

Core business: personalised, custom-made chocolates

USP: High-end product that is customised

Space required: approx 2000 sq.ft for Manufacturing & Packaging

Licensing/Permissions:  Registered under VAT. Certificate from Weights & Measures


Effect Works

for effective presentations

An engineering degree, working part-time while at college, a successful stint for a year at ICICI and later at Iridium in Hyderabad gave Narayanan Hariharan experience in the marketing function.

He started Effect Works in Chennai, to offer marketing services and training to clients. His sales pitch became so popular that prospective clients reverted with requests to have him design their presentations too. Since October 2009, Effect Works has been creating presentation designs (in PowerPoint), helping companies strengthen their pitch, with focus on the angle that would be relevant to their customers. This involves understanding the business of the customer and the audience they are targeting.

The team currently is six-member strong, and has ideators, designers and copywriters. Being the only one in the country to offer such a service, he finds breaking the mental barrier the greatest challenge.

Mostly, the initial signing of a deal is for a one-off project, but most clients prefer to get into an ongoing relationship, he adds. He has around 10 long-term clients across the globe.

From this year onwards, Effect Works plans to expand its team and start cold calling on companies to increase its reach. Effect Works uses several social media platforms including Facebook, twitter and Slideshare to spread the word about Effect Works and showcase its PowerPoint presentations.

Seed Capital: Rs 5000

RoI period: One week

Skill sets: Understand client requirements, the business, design and technology

Team strength: 6

Year started: May 2010

Core business: Presentation Design – Strategy, Ideation, Design and Workshops

USP: “Effective”, customised presentations

Space required: Place for a few laptops!

Licensing/Permissions: None