Tomador de Riesgos – ‘Susanta Misra’

As we end 2014 and step into 2015, we also end this guest series called ‘Tomador de Riesgos’ which is Spanish for ‘risk taker’. So far we’re read about different perspectives from different entrepreneurs and most of the featured entrepreneurs are fairly young and new to the game. Today I present to you a completely different perspective on entrepreneurship. As a curator and knowledge seeker, I believe it’s important to view something as a whole- a 360 degree view. In this last post FDB is featuring an inspiring entrepreneur who has a very rich library of knowledge to share. He is also a very important person in my life. He’s my mentor, uncle, friend, sounding board, and teacher all rolled into one.

I hope that this guest series has been useful in some way to you guys. If you’d like to see more of these or similar series, comment below or drop me an email. Happy new year!

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Sunayana asked me if I would oblige to write about my journey as an entrepreneur. It was like asking a child, would you mind to have a chocolate or an ice cream ?  At the age of 45, I was a budding entrepreneur and at the age of 50, I am a budding author.  I am happy to write and I am happier to share my writing..

Incidentally, I just finished my first book ‘Ready  To Fly’. It is now available in the market. Will talk more about the book at a later point of time. You can also visit susanta.in to know more about it.
Ready To Flye

‘Ready to Fly’ written by Susanta Misra

Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs are very lonely people. Many of them are known for building great organizations and great teams. But they, themselves are very lonely. Dreaming is one of the few things that cannot be done in a team. Dreams are very personal and if you cannot dream, you may not have a great chance in enjoying your entrepreneurial journey. Not all dreamers are entrepreneurs but almost all entrepreneurs are dreamers.
So, what dream did I have or do I have?
Let me first tell you what dream I didn’t have.  I never had a dream of becoming a billionaire or being in the cover page of a popular magazine or having a business empire.  My dream actually started from a nightmare.! I had many sleepless nights wondering where were we going with our jobs and careers. The stress levels were mounting with the uncertainties in jobs, growing imbalances in work-life balance, deterioration in health and financial stability. There came my dream — a dream of a world where everyone enjoys the right to work based on his/her strength and interest. In my dream world, no job is good or bad, it can only be right or wrong for you based on your strength, interest and the context of your life at that point of time. It was an ‘aha’ moment when I coined the word NICEFIT to represent my dream.
That’s how it started. If you wish to be an entrepreneur, you need to have a dream. Again, there is no right or wrong dream — a dream that is very personal to you and you must be honest about it (at least with yourself).
As you must have heard, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. I decided to step out of  a cushy, respectable  and high paying job in  Motorola to take that first step — perhaps the most important step I have taken. Before taking that step I had a 17 yrs long career in Motorola and I shall remain grateful to Motorola for all the learning I had while working in Motorola.
Steps 2-3-4  were easy but exciting nonetheless. We got registered as a private limited company, created a logo, got a website done. Thanks to some wisdom and experience (that comes with age), I didn’t spend any time creating business plans and business spread-sheets. Business spread-sheets are one of the most dangerous addictions an entrepreneur can have. A spread-sheet gives you unlimited freedom to project your revenue, expenses and profit. In my view, it is a total waste of time at the beginning.
To do business, you need to have just two things –a defined product/service and a specific target market. I had neither. It’s easier to follow a road than defining it. NICEFIT as a concept was very new (and even today it is new) and I was repeatedly asked — ‘what service do I provide — training or recruiting?’ The market gets used to existing products/services and often it is reluctant to accept a new one. You would need patience and faith to survive rejections of new ideas — not once but many times.
It was not even clear to me how we will make NICEFIT happen.  I thought, Training can help, Recruitment can also help but both are incomplete as a solution. So, the journey started in search of the solution and is still continuing.
If you are curious about entrepreneurship, please do remember that Entrepreneurship is not always about making money, it’s often about solving a problem or pursuing a dream.
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 In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering what this series is about, make sure you read the introductory post and other posts written by MrinmayeeSarojini & the Postbox duo.
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Tomador de Riesgos – ‘Nikhil & Madhuvanthi’

A Tapas Bar, loud music, and drinks on the table. It was an unwinding Friday night. Amongst conversations revolving around food, architecture and music, it slowly led to us speaking about our mutual love for photography and just, in general, inspiring visuals. Tissue papers were taken out and The Postbox was written. And thus began our exciting, challenging journey.

Being artists in a digital era, the two of us realized the need for an online space that would full-fill two specific pinpoints. One, a space that focuses on ethereal original prints, which are inspired by surreal spaces and popular culture. Two, we wanted this space to promote artists and their work by helping them monetize it. Think about it, there is right now, no single unified platform, which promotes art in all its forms, gives them a space and helps them monetize it. India is a country of a billion people, that in itself is a huge opportunity just staring at us right there. We’ve been doing a lot of research around graphic artists in the country and our single biggest takeaway is that, there is definitely a need for clean platforms that promotes such collectives.

The Postbox was a well thought out and structured plan. We brainstormed for over two months on how we want this platform to exist and what we should be working on. Six different products split into two different sections defined Postbox as an Art & Lifestyle brand.

We had to move fast because we had set the aggressive goal of launching in the second week of September. Even though we ended up launching in the last week of September, our respective roles were very clear. So, while I was working on Product development, Nikhil covered the entire website construction and operations piece.

After testing out the platform and going through product iterations, we finally launched in the last week of September.

Set of coasters inspired by the tranquil Marina Beach

Set of coasters inspired by the tranquil Marina Beach

There were very hard times, and in my case, I had already committed to a Masters program in Fashion Management in Milan, which was to start in October. But Nikhil and I strongly believed that now was the time. Our country is a beautiful place to be in, people are slowly letting go and taking to what they love. We may not realize it, but there’s a silent revolution happening. And we definitely felt The Postbox should contribute to this and not sit back and watch.

It’s been two months now since I’ve moved here. Trust me, it’s most challenging to run a “long distance start up”. Living simultaneously in two different time zones, I have been asked multiple number of times how I manage my deadlines. Very simply put, it’s the belief that keeps us(I speak for Nikhil here as well) going. We have come to understand that beneath every strategy, every goal that you set, it needs to be supported by a strong sense of hope and faith. Everyday is an opportunity, we are constantly learning, our research is always an on-going process. The key is to never settle. We are still very young in this industry. But there is no law that states the pace at which we should engage ourselves in. And that is something that sets us apart from the rest. For instance, a month into launching the online store, we got our first offline space at Chennai’s most celebrated boutique- Chamiers. Our first corporate order rolled in sometime before that. We’ve had people writing to us expressing how they connect with the photographs under the Fine Art section, how the colours have livened up their living space, and how the notebooks makes them want to write again. And most recently, we had an order from Karachi, Pakistan.It is these little moments that matters the most to us. To reach out to people, to connect with them, and touch their life. The idea of Posting is an age-old concept of just this- keeping in touch with your loved ones. At the end of 45 days, when we look back, we smile knowing that stories have been created, people have managed to reconnect in the most wonderful of ways, that they now, will always have a token of memory with them.

Notebooks based on all things symmetrical

Notebooks based on all things symmetrical

The ride from thereon has been a terrific, enjoyable roller coaster one. At the end of each day, it’s just a sense of gratitude that we have for all those who cheered us on right from the beginning and continue to do so.

There were testing periods. At the earliest stage, we’ve tackled situations wherein we got cheated by one of our vendors and at the same time we had to go through two more rounds of proto-typing for our coasters. Our packaging materials gave up in the very beginning. And all this happened in direct proportion to the pace with which we were progressing. At this point, we kept orders waiting but our customers understood us. In all best intentions we delivered to them what we had promised. And our clients came back to us. To let us know that they are thrilled.As goes the line in the movie, Into The Wild, “Happiness is real only when shared”, it stands testimony to every single order we fulfill. We attach a small note in every package to let our customers know that we are there to listen, to make their experience better, to understand what they want. This is also one of the reasons why we started our blog, www.thepostboxin.tumblr.com. Being staunch supporters of Communication, Nikhil writes at regular periods to keep our followers updated on what is happening behind the stage. We put forward all the chaos, the madness that persists only because we believe in transparency. Internally, we have regular meetings scheduled over the week (yes, I have woken up at 4 am here in Milan only to cringe at the sight of the team enjoying filter coffee in Madras) to reflect, discuss and decide how we will implement the lessons learnt. It’s always about moving forward, bouncing back. I have, personally, realized the beauty of mistakes. The harder it hits you down, the higher you rise above. Our advisory team has always spoken to us about Cricket matches. That it’s not just about playing a great T-20 but also giving your best shot at that test match.

Putting some fun on your walls

Place some fun on your walls

Today, The Postbox is not just a collective of designers and artists but people coming together to appreciate and acknowledge the skills of these insanely talented people. Our vision comes to life here.
It’s been a great ride so far, we’ve had close to 7000 hits on our website already and along the way we’ve learnt more than we ever could. I think for us, we’ve realized no matter what happens, you just have to keep at it. Your moment will come and you have to have faith that it will. And along the way, it always helps to have some fun. 😉

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Reach The Postbox, Nikhil & Madhu on:


 In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering what this series is about, make sure you read the introductory post and the last two posts written by Mrinmayee & Sarojini.

Tomador de Riesgos – ‘Sarojini Dantapalli’

In the last post on this series we had a lovely young textile designer write about the thought process behind choosing between gathering knowledge of the work under an established designer and starting her own venture. In this new post we see that there’s more to a ‘title’ than just the literal definition. There is a primary skill associated with every job, but then there’s that one thing beyond it that makes you great. Think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson.

The perspective shown in this post by a young design practitioner Sarojini Dantapalli is a brilliant one. Having co-founded a firm called Design Experiment with designer Abhitej Velore, she shares with us what she believes is the most important lesson the last two years of her journey taught her. We hope that it helps you find the spark that brings you greatness.

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The designer and the story teller

“For a young design practice the only thing more dangerous than lying about what they do, is to not talk about what they do.”

One of the most important aspects of being a designer is to observe people – what they like, what they don’t, how they move, how they use what we give them, and how their surroundings can be improved. As engrossed as I was in studying interactions of human beings with the world around them, it’s the subtleties of human interactions that evaded me – the interactions between people.

As a child I remember being very bogged down by the constant nag of “what will people think?” (Watch how you behave, watch what you say, be careful how you speak, so on and so forth.) Not knowing how to deal with this array of uncertainties, I decided to lock those voices out. I told myself they didn’t matter and shunned them all out.

It wasn’t until I ventured out on my own, trying to sell what I believed was the “genius of great design”, that I began to take interest in people again. I learnt with time that the important question is not “what will people think?” but “what do we want, people to think?”

Let me confess that when I first started out I was just a silent observer of the world spending most of my days solving design problems or making products come into existence. I very naively presumed that when I do good work, the world will be my stage and I’ll have a very enthusiastic audience craving to know what I have for them. Hell! Of course that was far from reality. Well it is true that the world is your stage, however, the audience in question are the ones we need to earn.

This is how I understand the world- we are all creators, with different perspectives and perceptions; we all have our notions of right and wrongs, what should be and shouldn’t. We all have our stories to tell. We all play the audience and the performers at some level or the other.

The few people that stick out in our heads however, are the few performers that excelled at what they did. Not always because of the inventive products they made or the creative work they put out, but many times because of the brilliant stories they said.

I started to notice that most of the popular architects/designers/inventors were more often than not known for something beyond their products. People loved their work but more importantly, people loved them. I loved them. They inspire me because they show me not only their work, but they share with me their stories, their struggles, their beliefs, their aspirations and of course their successes.

I realized it’s important to take out time to speak your mind. People like to know about other PEOPLE. They like knowing about great work, but they LOVE knowing about great people.

This has till now been easier said than done.

Realizing my shortcomings, I started to observe all the designers/inventors who were great presenters and what they did right. Gradually it started to make more sense. The key, I noticed, was that every step of the way they not only thought about how people would use what they make, or the difference their work would make, but also what is the impact they want to make on the world. How do they want people to perceive them and their work?

Observing some of my favourite presenters from different fields, from how they drove their point in, to how they unveiled their ideas. How they explain and imprint the greatest strengths of their theories and stories in our minds, It slowly became apparent to me, that presentation was much like design. It relied heavily on understanding people. While designing they’re your users; while presenting, your audience. You need to understand what they are looking for, what their tastes are, what they would find enticing, and what they would overlook.

Presentation is basically like storytelling or movie making or choreography. You think about how you start, how you build and how you end. You need to know what points would excite the viewer and what would put them at ease. You need to make sure these absolute high energy points are separated by a sense of calm otherwise their impact would not be felt. You need to make sure that you build an expectation, let the audience know something is coming, and then give them the satisfaction of being right. You need to make sure you maintain the emotion you want throughout the presentation. You need to make sure you end with a lasting impact. At every point in choreography, you need to put yourself in the audiences’ shoes and think about how they would feel – just like how you would in design. Good presentation can only come out of a good understanding of people. The only way you can understand people better is to put yourself amongst them and embrace their presence.

I’m not saying presentation is everything. Design, in the end, is ultimately what satisfies or dissatisfies a user. However it is presentation which converts a viewer into a user in the first place. Presentation is what gives you a chance. For emerging designers, chances are vital.

Here is where my struggle from being a passionate designer to an aspiring story teller begins.

Blog - Sarojini - alternate

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In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering what this series is about, make sure you read the introductory post.

Tomador de Riesgos – ‘Mrinmayee Dhobale’

TUNI- Textiles, yoU aNd I, is an enterprise aiming to focus on bridging the gap between textile and interior design. Mrinmayee Dhobale, an alumnus of NIFT and London College of Fashion, began the conceptualization and planning of TUNI in early September of 2013. Finally, TUNI Interiors Pvt. Ltd. was born on 29th January 2014 and had its successful debut exhibit in March 2014. Nine months into business, here’s a peek into the journal of Mrinmayee….

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I started out with what seems like a basic debate between campus placements and self-employment. Most young entrepreneurs (I would assume) have been through that dilemma. There was some scepticism, some support, lot of perspectives on the business model, advice from the well-wishers and the not so well-wishers. The most common advice I received was “work for 2 years and then start your business”.  At first, I had no idea how that was relevant. My response to that was “Will 2 years of work experience guarantee success at my business?” Being stubborn as I am, I was looking for a yes or no kind of answer to that. In my opinion, today or 2 years from now, the risk was going to be the same. Learning on a jobwould definitely have its own advantages, but it just wasn’t me. I didn’t see myself investing 2 years in a job while I could invest it in TUNI. For me, it all came down to that and the debate finally ended. Half the battle was won when the result was in favour of “start your own venture”. So, a lot of scribbling pads, unsent emails, business proposal drafts and broken pen nibs later, TUNI was born. And here I am today writing for a blog titled ‘From the desk of a Businesswoman’!

It took only a few days to realise that it was just half the battle. There I was, rather proud of myself for taking the leap, when feasibility and logistics entered the scenario.  I had things all planned out from the design to execution to when the first event would be; a rather elaborate party in my head. But then again, the plan in my head was far from reality. As my friend called it, “my bubble had burst”! I started planning this venture in September 2013 in Kolkata. Yes, ‘in Kolkata’ is an important part. Everyone who has been to the city at that time of the year knows the festivities that take on the city. It was not the best time to get work done or even started. And having just moved to the city didn’t help much either. The city looks beautiful that time of the year, and there’s most certainly an awesome vibe through the pujas. But the unstated fact is that work pretty much comes to a stand still. It’s like trying to find a cab in London on Christmas day (no exaggeration)! Except imagine a month long Christmas. There wasn’t much I could do than wait for people to resume work post pujas.

 When people were finally back to work there it was, the switch from “good luck, beta” to “’I don’t know’ is not an answer”. This hit me when, while planning TUNI’s first exhibit cum sale, I told one of the organisers I didn’t know the answer to what he was asking (it was a basic VAT query). That was rather politely tailed by “Then whom can I ask ma’am?” followed by complete silence from my end of the phone call. That’s when I realised I had to learn and I had to learn fast. These many months into TUNI, the primary thing I’ve learnt is that from the tailor to the teller, no one will take ‘I don’t know’ as an answer! Having said that, as much as I have grown in these months, when it’s not the best day at work, crocodile tears are in order and I have no qualms in admitting it! Everyone on the receiving end of this is probably nodding right now.

 It would be naïve to believe that the learning curve isn’t steep in a business. I could ramble on for pages about things I’ve learnt at TUNI, but the most important of all has been accepting accountability. I remember when the very first event went well; I was ecstatic! But when another didn’t, I realised I was quickly looking for things to blame (yes, not very professional, I know). I blamed the marketing strategy, the choice of venue, the day of the event, the collection, the choice of city and a lot of other such things, only to realise all those decisions had been mine. That’s when I realised I couldn’t just be popping champagne after successful events; I am equally responsible for the failures. There definitely is a huge difference between knowing it and realising it. Everything said and done, at the end of the day the pride in calling this venture MINE is what drives me. I wish I could share more, but there really is nothing more to why I wake up and look forward to work every single day!

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Marketing Gyaan #1

You know how smart people say that you learn more while on the job than you do in the classroom? They are absolutely correct. (Read carefully you MBA-crazed robots.) I figured this out for the first time in my first year at Facebook and this week once again I realized that my decision to work instead of jumping into an MBA immediately after college was a really good decision I made. Anyway, I thought that I would share some of the marketing gyaan a.k.a knowledge that I receive from various avenues.

The first gyaan that I want to share is about hoardings. In my current job as the marketing head, I have to consider multiple things such as media channels, investment in each channel, ROI, schedule, etc. My company is launching a new property and this month onwards we will start a marketing campaign. And I had to look for hoardings in key locations for this. So the other day I took the car and driver and drove all around the property noting down hoardings that I liked and taking photos of them. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do this so obviously I didn’t know how to do it and what factors to consider. So I called my Marketing Director a.k.a my father and got some valuable gyaan on this topic from him. Here’s a list of factors to consider when choosing a hoarding:

  • The obvious factor to consider is the eyeballs that it can gather. It has to be in a prime location, some place that has  mid to heavy traffic.
  • Hoardings should ideally be on the left side of the road (For countries where it’s right-side steering). Because you drive on the left side it’s easier to view. Also in case there’s a high divider or trees or a flyover in between the two sides, hoarding on the right side will be hidden.
  • The elevation (height) of the hoardings should neither be too low nor too high. If it’s too low, you can view it only from a few feet away. If it’s too high, your info needs to be in massive letters which means you are left with little space for other info. It should be in the middle- it should be visible from a distance and have just the right amount of info.
  • If you can place a hoarding at a signal, there’s nothing like it. When people are driving, they have barely a second to look at a hoarding. But when they’re waiting at a signal, they have enough time to take in the info.
  • The orientation- horizontal or vertical -also is a thing to consider. If you already have an ad creative then your choice of hoardings becomes limited due to the orientation. In my case we decided to pick the hoardings first and design the creative later.
  • Illumination is a relatively recent addition to outdoor media. While hoardings with illumination are generally more expensive, it’s worth it because it’s visible even at night so you don’t miss out on the rush hour traffic post sun down.
  • And finally, it’s not wise to fill the hoarding with content. Like I mentioned above, people can barely focus on a hoarding for a second while driving so filling it with too much content will put them off. The ad has to be succinct, visually attractive and easy to recall.

I’m sure there are marketing folks out there who are more knowledgeable than me about this so would love to hear your thoughts on this. Keep those comments coming!

 

P.S.: I’ve included a couple of examples of good and bad hoarding I came across.

There's way too much information on this hoarding and not enough time to take it all in.

There’s way too much information on this hoarding and not enough time to take it all in.

While I hate that I chose a TRS hoarding, this is an example of a good hoarding - good height, illuminated, simple and to the point.

While I hate that I chose a TRS hoarding, this is an example of a good hoarding – good height, illuminated, simple and to the point.