When passion runs business

When passion runs business

“Why don’t we turn this into a business idea?” – this thought is all it seems to take to make a good idea into a revenue-generating prospect for a new breed of entrepreneurs. It requires a willingness to proceed cautiously, to make sure there is enough cash flow to implement the idea into action and good money management.

Mysunnybalcony.com saw four friends in Bengaluru turn a casual conversation, expressing concern about the vanishing green cover in the city, into a business idea and a point of positive action. Why not help create green cover in the limited area available in residences, like balconies?

Yogi Shah was working in his family-owned logistics company, when he started The Backpacker Co. He already had experience organising trips for friends and business partners, so it was just one step from there to turn that into a business. With his ex-air hostess wife Suchna Hegde-Shah, Yogi now creates exciting travel packages for the backpacker and the luxury holiday seekers.

The constant demand for both these services has vindicated taking this risk. They’re poised to take the companies to the next stage, but both require funds and they would rather wait and tie-up with a like-minded partner. Meanwhile, they have been able to sustain themselves and grow at a comfortable pace.

Recreating the Green

A desire to do something different and a concern for the vanishing green cover in their city, Bengaluru, took the foursome – Shailesh Deshpande, Sriram Aravamudan, Reena Chengappa and Athreya Chidambi to decide on starting Mysunnybalcony.com (MSB) on an experimental basis in 2009. The intention was to find a sustainable solution using the balcony spaces in flats that are often not used properly. Except Athreya, who continues in his profession of web designing, the other three are full-time partners in this venture.

The initial investment of Rs 20,000, and the first two customers – a friend and a family member – set the ball rolling. Word-of-mouth took care of client acquisition. Testimonials and pictures of its work posted on the Internet added to the visibility and its client list. The company positions itself between the landscapers, who do large areas, and the nurseries, where one can only source plants but not the design. The demand grew to such a level that they had to add two more people to the team to handle correspondence and oversee implementation. Three gardeners completed the set up.

Snap Shot

My Sunny Balcony
Founders: Shailesh Deshpande, Sriram Aravamudan, Reena Chengappa and Athreya Chidambi
Year founded: 2009
Location: Bangalore
USP: Design balcony gardens

It mainly targets homes since the aim is to provide customised solutions. And the place is designed keeping in mind the client’s needs. The inventory is kept minimum by sourcing the plants and the accessories from the local vendors.

Now, MSB also has a retail outlet in Bengaluru for a few of its accessories. They’ve recently opened another in Hyderabad by typing up with a local partner, who was convinced by their vision. Since many find the minimum budget of Rs. 10,000 steep for designing their balcony gardens, MSB also intends to provide consultancy and help select the plants and the accessories, but leaves the actual implementation to the customer in such cases.

As scalability is still an issue and Bengaluru is largely untapped, the initial focus will be this city. The company is interested in angel funding, and is waiting for funders with a similar vision, by giving them the freedom to design and to remain organic.


GENERATING IDEAS

  • The team is more focused on the background and a concern for the green cover.
  • The firm provides all round solution for gardens – from designing and implementing to providing the accessories, maintenance and workshops on plants and how to maintain them.
  • Based on individual requirements, Mysunnybalcony designs customised gardens. These include Zen Design, Lush Green Rain Forest, Mediterranean theme, among others.
  • To encourage healthy eating and boost company morale, corporates like Google, Yahoo, Kohl’s, and even Pepsi, develop organic vegetable gardens for their employees. Called Square Foot Gardening to develop herb and vegetable garden, these organic stress buster gardens yield regular crops of tomatoes, herbs, okra, spinach, turnips and beans in 3-5 months! Recycled wooden crates, lightweight, water-retentive coco-compost based soil mix and a completely organic set of pest repellents and fertilizers are used for this.
  • Gardening workshops for corporates, schools and apartments helps create awareness about the options available to grow gardens – ornamental or vegetable.
  • MSB’s ‘Gift a Plant’ products are popular among corporates and as birthday gifts
  • MSB has garden packages for different budgets and sizes. The Balinese/Zen style garden is aimed at providing an oasis of tranquillity. A lush rain forest-like garden makeover, a sunny Mediterranean terrace makeover, porch makeovers, kitchen garden, English-styled garden, Spanish-themed courtyard, old world Bangalore garden makeover with running water feature and lily pond are some of the popular designs they have executed.

Pack Your Bags

The travel industry is booming, and the Indian traveller is ready to explore the world – be it with the bare essentials packed in the backpack or the more relaxed and luxurious holiday.

The Backpacker Co is for those who want to go on long, fun trails and holidays that help experience culture. The husband-wife duo also runs ‘Away and Beyond’ for the discerning, who would like only the best. The latter also arranges family trips keeping in mind children’s needs.

While working in the family-run logistics company, Shah found that he was planning a lot of trips for his friends and partners. His wife, a former air hostess, also had travelled extensively. When his father asked him to turn this idea into business, it seemed the most obvious thing to do.

Currently based in Mumbai, the enquiries – mostly from professionals in the the age group of 25 – 35 years – is mainly through emails. But they plan on setting up offices in Bengaluru and New Delhi to provide a face to the entity. “We use the social media for promotions, but otherwise, it is mostly word-of-mouth and repeat customers,” explains Shah.

Snap Shot

The Backpacker Co
Founders: Yogi Shah, Suchna Hegde-Shah
Year founded: 2007
Location: Mumbai
USP: Design holidays that help experience culture

A customer can sign up for its already planned trips – announced on the Internet – or ask for customised tours. In the case of the latter, the team does a recce before organising the trip if the destination is new. The duo’s travel experience over the years has enabled them to set up a network of people at the destination locations to ensure smooth travel experience.

Girlfriend Getaways – one of the options that it offers are becoming popular. “In fact, women are more adventurous, and they constitute 65 percent of our clients,” admits Shah.

The team, which was steadily set up over its four years of existence,  is primarily made up of freelancers, who have other professional and personal commitments, but are passionate about travelling. Though there is competition from other such tour managers, the fact that the outbound traffic from India is growing at roughly 20 – 25 per cent year-on-year leaves room for each to create a space for itself.


Exciting Europe

For 2011,  the Backpackers have some trips planned to Europe:

  • The Beer-athon and OktoberFest to Germany and Czech
  • Eastern Europe – through the old Iron Curtain countries
  • Two trips through Spain and France, one of them with Italy and the other with Portugal as the third destination
  • Girlfriend Getaway to Iron Curtain countries
  • Away and Beyond trips to places like Tuscany, Burgundy, Provence, France, Italy, Morocco, and Scotland
  • And trips to other parts of the world

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