This is an article written for WiseOwl, a Bangalore based youth magazine. I’ve been waiting for long for this to be published. The issue isn’t available on line and I haven’t got a hard copy of it either but this was the copy sent to me before the final proof reading.
Before you go on to read the article in the image, here it is. Making it simple. 🙂
I enjoyed writing the piece, got to speak to many young entrepreneurs. Very inspiring.
Hope you enjoy reading it.
Be Your Own Boss
We’ve all heard many ‘rags to riches’ stories of how people with small time jobs have made it big by themselves. Often, these success stories would have got you thinking about yourself, about how you could get there too. Ever wondered what is common in Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or our very own Ratan Tata and Kiran Mazumdar? Despite having come from different fields and family backgrounds, these achievers had one thing in common; they all had some ‘ideas,’ something they believed would change the face of the industry they were to step into. No matter how disastrous or preposterous it may have sounded to the rest of the world, they believed in that idea and went ahead to start their own businesses and today, as we all know, are among most acknowledged entrepreneurs worldwide.
Owing and running your show may sound simple, but making money out of it is not as simple as it may seem. After all, it isn’t just about being an entrepreneur; it’s about being a successful one. Having an idea and believing in it can be a great start, but making that idea work needs the perfect equation of mind, skill and talent. Did you know that two percent of the world’s population earns 60 percent of the world’s wealth? That’s not because of the charm of these entrepreneurs but their ability to turn financial skills into revenue-generating models.
A Bangalore based, young entrepreneur Farhan Hussain proudly states that when he began, his resources were too less. He was short of professional equipment and his team was too small as well, but he used them to their best. The famous ‘Happy Bangalore’ video was created by him and his friends, parts of which were incorporated in the official ‘Happy’ video by Pharrel Williams on VH1 and Comedy Central. This created a ‘Happy trend’ among the youth of the nation, youngsters from different cities began creating happy videos of their cities and uploading it on YouTube.
Farhan is the co-founder of F-Stop, a media company, and Poster House, a home décor company. Farhan’s clientele boasts of brands including Puma.
Being interested in photography, art, design and film making, Farhan calls himself a visual artist. “The whole idea of F-stop stemmed from the start-up fever wide spread in Bangalore. We were keen on starting something new and so, F-stop was born. Our goal is to help start-ups create quality-brand identities using visual media.” He started marketing and brand building from the scratch with ‘zero’ initial investments. Social media, he describes, is the best platform for start-ups to spread their message. It has gained a strong hold as a marketing platform and it is a ‘no cost’ and extremely efficient means of spreading the word.
“F-stop started as an artist page on Facebook. We got good response to this community forum and people wanted us to help them out, most of them were start-ups. So, we registered it as a small home-based company and started publicity in the virtual world,” said Farhan. This three year old company is growing by leaps and bounds, making its presence felt across the different media fields.
Before you begin thinking about the ways you can register and get your company up and running, weigh out the pros and cons. Invest good time and research on your idea and learn more about it. Hasty decisions can cost you a lot. A thorough analysis of the idea and other similar ideas of people who have established their companies must be done. Known as ‘Competitor Analysis’, it is of utmost importance to be prepared with the understanding of the business sector you are to join. Many a time, you may bump into your own idea being executed differently by somebody else. Therefore, it is very important to acquaint yourself with your potential competitors.
“You need to ask yourself what makes your idea unique, it need not always be in monetary terms. You can be unique in terms of the services you offer and the way you address your client’s grievances,” said Shuba K, co-founder of Visionways, a human resources (HR) consultancy established in 2012.
Initially, you have to go through the process of registering your company, developing a website, filing taxes and also getting your sales tax registration done. For this documentation process, Shuba relied on newbies who carried out the complex job throughout the setting up phase at reduced cost. “Help with documentation proved beneficial only to an extent as the worries and mental stress of dealing with amateurs, on the other hand, is a burden that came along,” says Shuba.
Being a HR consultant for seven years, Shuba developed a vision to empower individuals by helping them create a visionary approach in their line of work which provides them with a competitive business edge. When asked about her initial investment she explained that after she carried out research based on other similar companies, she realized that other consultancies gave more importance to money involved and targets met compared to the individuals taking up a job. For them, candidates were secondary. “Visionways works towards giving quality service. Although people de-motivated me a lot in the beginning, I knew that if I worked towards what I believed the end result would be worth it.”
Shuba had enough contacts to begin working independently. She started off connecting with more and more people through references, job portals and social networking sites. She required an initial investment for the registration and to set up an office. The rest slowly fell in place. Today, Visionways has established itself in the market and serves US-based clients among others.
As HR expert, Shuba advises that before you start your own company speak to other people who have been in the field and try learning from their experiences. Reading autobiographies of successful business persons helps too. It is also essential to determine a target group for your idea. Your idea needs to be appealing to this group. If your products and services are not plausible to them, then there is no use doing it.
Speaking about target groups, Johnson Rajkumar, another co-founder of Poster House says, “The youth love sticking posters on their walls, be it of their favorite artists, movies or soap operas. In the West, you get inexpensive posters neatly framed, ready for your walls. But here in India the scenario is quite different. Not only are we short of showrooms that sell posters but the ones that do, sell them at exorbitant prices which the youth cannot afford.” The wooden frames are used for pictures of deities and do not cost as much. After a lot of deliberation, Johnson along with Farhan and Muhammed came up with the idea of Poster House, where they create classic wooden-framed posters. According to them, their target customers are young people who are aware of who’s who of Hollywood and rock music. People between the ages of 16 to 30 forms their target group. “The set target customer base is only approximate and not absolute. We are here to cater to anybody who wants posters,” explains Johnson.
Though, an idea can get you started on your dream to set up something of your own, but without the much-needed investments to support it, an idea can die a slow painful death. It is crucial to have an estimate of the investment needed and revenue that can be generated. Founders of Poster House looked into the initial capital that would be required; they calculated the costs required for delivering the posters and making the frames. That was all the investment they needed, which luckily turned out to be affordable for them. Poster House was publicized only through Facebook. “We had 300 orders in just one month. People were thrilled about the fact that what would generally cost Rs 2000 otherwise, was available at just Rs 500 at Poster House, and that too posters of impeccable quality,” beams Muhammed.
If you refuse to sell mediocre services and products compromised on quality, profits will eventually follow. There are several local investors and banks that help raise capital for one’s start-up. However, it is best to start small with an affordable capital and then work towards growing the firm and expanding the business.
Owner of beauty services Ezina, Sahar Khatija, has cut across conventional trends. Ezina offers professional services in make-up, hairstyling, nail art, henna and photography, and that too at the customer’s doorstep. At the initial stages, her only investment was her pocket money after which her family supported her. Now Ezina has grown beyond Sahar’s imaginations and she is all set to opening a studio to continue her work.
The first and foremost quality much needed to be an entrepreneur is patience. It may not always come easy and ‘by when?’ is a question you may have to ponder over for a long time. To start a business is certainly a big risk, but if you have faith in yourself it is a risk worth taking. So don’t refrain from dreaming big and going after making your dream larger than life. After all, even these successful people started from the scratch at some point of time. Give your idea and your faith in self a chance and you never know, you may just end up as the next business tycoon. In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”