Down her yellow  Brick road

Down her yellow Brick road

You’ve got to give every experience a shot, at least once in life. Neha Arora swears by this mandate and has even made a business out of it by gifting people experiences of a lifetime. Through her company, The Yellow Cycle, anyone can gift out-of-the-ordinary experiences to their loved ones. A wine tasting  session with a picnic at a vineyard, a helicopter ride over the city, recording an album in a studio or playing chef at a top restaurant – one can choose from a variety of experiences. “Most people value experiences over gifts on special occasions and that’s exactly what The Yellow Cycle intends to address,” says Arora. The Bengaluru-based company was established in October 2011 and currently caters to the city’s residents.

“Most people value experiences over gifts on special occasions and that’s exactly what The Yellow Cycle intends to address.”

For Arora, the transition from working professional to entrepreneur has been a challenge, one that she loves. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride. I’m sure every entrepreneur would agree that the line between work and personal life is blurred. But I wait to get up every morning and get to work,” she says. Her decision to plunge into business was sound as since its inception, The Yellow Cycle has signed up over 75 clients at an average rate of 15 people per month. And the experiential gifting ideas on offer range from Rs. 2850 to Rs. 22,500. “In the past six months, we were occupied with setting up the processes and posing quality checks. We have not concentrated much on marketing except through Facebook. In the coming financial year, we want to broaden our social media reach, undertake promotions and build on corporate offers,” she shares. At present, The Yellow Cycle has catered to four corporate companies and Arora is looking to add to this number and sign annual contracts.

Round the clock

Arora’s day starts early and ends late. Up by 7 a.m., she is busy responding to emails, delegating work and setting out the task-list for the day. As her home doubles up as an office, the team gets in by 10.30 a.m. and begins with brainstorming to plan for the day. Since Arora or one of the team members are always present during a customer’s experience to ensure it plays out smoothly, she is often travelling in and around Bengaluru for more than two days in a week. “I need to be at the venue before the experience starts. On a day when there are no such experiences, I meet up with the suppliers, look into marketing and attend to customer’s calls. Though official work hours end before 8 p.m., after dinner, I often end up working till midnight,” she says.

Arora admits that the hectic pace has thrown her personal regime haywire. “My diet is a mess – I regularly end up skipping breakfast. When I fell sick a while ago, a doctor had advised me to eat well. I need to focus on my health again and balance it with my work,” she adds, as a reminder to herself. A trained Bharatnatyam and Salsa dancer, a form that she once taught, Arora now finds it hard to find time to dance. “I hope to get back into it soon and also take up more reading,” she wishes aloud.

Make a wish

An honours graduate in Economics, Arora also holds a communication management degree from Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune. She has headed corporate communication for information technology companies such as HCL, HP and Ness Technologies. It was Arora’s experience while vacationing in Singapore in 2010 that led her to thinking of this business idea. “From the way tourists were handled to how the programmes were designed, everything was experiential,” she recalls. And then in April 2011, when she wanted to find her foodie husband the perfect gift on their anniversary, she found there was nothing new to offer him in the city. “That’s when I realised there was a great opportunity for something like this.” Soon, she researched experiential gifting ideas from friends and family and did the ground work before establishing the company with an investment of Rs. 5 lakh.

Arora has also put in a lot of thought while naming the company. ‘Yellow Cycle’ denotes an unhurried journey and the colour evokes memories of sunshine and happiness. The inspiration also came from one her favourite childhood books, ‘The Wishing Chair’ by Enid Blyton, where the protagonists, Mollie and Peter sit on a magical chair that makes their wishes come true. “The hardest challenge was to turn this idea into a sustainable business proposition, including the process of designing and positioning it.” Though Arora feels that the concept might be a little ahead of its time, she didn’t have difficulty approaching suppliers, who were very excited about it. Her team consists of nine members with a majority of them freelancing; she adds that hiring has not been a worry till now. “Since we’re a startup, we hire freshers, which is also good because they come up with different ideas,” she says, adding, “I want to foster a work culture where one learns and has fun. It should be a creative environment.”

Arora shares that the feedback has been great. “All kinds of people approach us – whether it’s a father gifting his daughter or vice versa.” One can choose these off-the-shelf experiences from The Yellow Cycle’s website and pay for the same. The surprise gift kit is sent with balloons and chocolates, and details about the experience that the user can choose to undertake within six months. The Yellow Cycle earns 10 per cent to 25 per cent either through commissions or margins depending on the experiences. As with every business, there are challenges to get past. To date, one of her biggest stress points was when her sole car supplier showed up with an Audi when her customer requested a BMW for a certain experience. “Though they’re both luxury cars, the BMW was critical to my customer. It’s through such instances that I’ve learnt how to deal with people,” she says.

Next up

“My inspiration is Walt Disney. He was the ultimate when it came to offering people great experiences, be it through his movies or theme parks,” says Arora. In the business of making people happy, she is considering introducing more experiences in the range of Rs. 1,000 – Rs. 5,000 and also adding premium ones. Arora is also looking into tying up with discount buying sites to help spread awareness. “Though I have received calls from people in various cities, my focus is on Bengaluru for now,” she concludes.


QUICK TAKE

Unresolved dream: None – I’ve embarked on my dream
What keeps you up at night?

The same dream – my business!

Pet peeve: Unprofessionalism

Your best experience: My trip to Universal Studios in Singapore

Biggest critics: My husband and my mother