By Cg Akhila:
Starting from the scratch is tough, but when it comes to starting one’s own business, it is the toughest, especially if one belongs to a middle-class family.
The story of five entrepreneurs that I am about to share with you have been a source of inspiration for me. They had the courage to come back to their hometowns to build their businesses. They wanted to prove those people wrong who thought successful careers could only be made in metro cities.
These young entrepreneurs that I am talking about are fighters, who are not ready to give up, who are busy creating history by breaking stereotypes, by making unconventional career choices.
Their decision to live life on their own terms hasn’t been an easy one to take but what can be more fulfilling than being your own boss?
Nishtha was my friend from college. I met her recently after eight years and realised that she hadn’t changed one bit. She looked and dressed the same way as she used to when we were in college. She was quite a style icon, back in those days.
I was always confident that she would do something great in life but wasn’t expecting the ‘style icon’ to create her own fashion brand.
My underestimation of her stemmed from the fact that she never wanted to move out from her hometown, but that is exactly what she used to her advantage.
Nishtha chose to stay in Bhopal with her parents after completing her graduation in Mass Communication from Indore and opened her own fashion brand ‘La Styliaa’ which is a huge success in the city after five years of ups and downs. She has also recently launched ‘Alayna’s Style Diva’ – a fashion magazine.
An MBA from a university in Bhopal, Nishtha is utilising both her degrees efficiently staying in her hometown and earning much more than what a graduate from any prestigious B-school would.
She is living life on her own terms and pursuing both fields of her choice, ‘fashion’ and ‘media’, in spite of the limited opportunities both fields offer in a place like Bhopal.
After completing her MBA, she was determined to start something of her own. She confesses that she doesn’t like the pressure of deadlines and working under a boss. Living life on her own terms was not easy. Being married immediately after starting her business and becoming a mother was the biggest challenge.
Till now, Nishtha has organised a fashion show, an anti-rape signature campaign, many women empowerment programs and CSR activities in the nearby villages of Bhopal.
With a wide range of products from ethnic, bridal to western female clothing brands her showroom in DB Mall is doing very well. She’s putting all her efforts to make ‘La Styliaa’ a Pan-Indian brand with her brilliant strategies.
As a tip for young entrepreneurs, she says “Follow your dreams, keep chasing what you want in life, be focused and never listen to discouraging people who want to bring you down.”
The next success story is about my school friends Baja and Rajat who finished their schooling from the education hub of Chattisgarh – Bhilai.
A bright student in school, Bala was always passionate about education and teaching and believed in inclusive education for all. He dreamt of a school free of discrimination.
A joint venture that he started with another school friend Rajat was the first step towards achieving his dream.
The idea of opening a coaching centre was Rajat’s as he was already handling a franchise of IMS Learning Centre in Pune. Realising that there’s a lack of quality education where he lived, Bala wanted to do something about it.
Both the friends strategized smartly by offering courses they were confident teaching themselves. They had previously cleared both the CAT (Common Admission Test) exam and the SBI PO entrance test, so these were the courses they put on offer at the coaching centre.
Now they also give coaching for entrance exams for the Railway, SSC (Staff Selection Commission) and CLAT (Common Law Admission Test).
They initially began classes in a garage and later shifted the coaching centre to a rented apartment in the city’s commercial hub ‘Civic Center’ where the number of students gradually increased.
Although they didn’t know too much marketing, they continued to focus on providing quality education and were popular before they knew it. This popularity had come because of word-of-mouth publicity.
The coaching centre started off with 15 students. They now have a strength of 300 students. They’ve also opened a second branch in the city and started the ‘Mind Wizard Academy’ along with three other batch mates from IIM.
The academy is open to school students from Class 5 to 8 and imparts experiential learning of subjects like Maths, Science and English by making use of a dynamic pedagogy and technology.
This year 38 students from his centre have got jobs by clearing the IBPS (Institute of Banking Personnel Selection) and SBI PO entrance tests.
Bala says that conviction is the key for young entrepreneurs, and one must have guts to leave high-paying jobs to start one’s own business.
When it comes to professions like film making, we naturally think of moving to places like Mumbai and Delhi, and that’s what Ashutosh Mishra did.
Ashutosh, the brother of one my ex-colleagues and friend, moved to Delhi to pursue his passion for photography and filmmaking but only to learn and return to his state of Chhattisgarh, where he opened his own production house ‘Abalone Films’.
The story of Ashutosh’s struggle as a budding filmmaker is one you haven’t heard before.
When asked about what his biggest challenge has been so far, Ashutosh tells me that it was the lack of capital. To make ends meet he worked before starting a business to save some money and gain work experience.
His list of clients today include big brands like Reliance, Bhilai Steet Plant, Chhattisgarh Government and many others.
He’s also a member of the ‘Indian International Photographic Council’ (IIPC), New Delhi and is also a former member of the ‘Indian Film and Television Director’s Association’ Mumbai.
Currently taking up projects for making commercial advertisements Ashutosh aspires to make documentaries on issues related to the environment.
He was clever in his assessment of markets. He could not have done what he did in a place like Delhi where the market is saturated, and the competition is very high.
When he came to Raipur things were not as professional, and organised but things are changing for good. After all, someone has to start bringing about change, and Ashutosh took that first step.
He surely deserves the tag of being an innovator that too in a field which is so unique.
He told me that no work was big or small. Even a small entrepreneur can turn out to be an established business person if he is persistent. One must keep working and not quit.
Next in the line of entrepreneurs is the young virtual assistant from the steel city Bhilai, who wanted to change the state of the dearth of opportunities in the city.
Swapnil, another school friend, says he could have shifted to IT hubs like Bangalore and Pune to take up a job, but he preferred doing something on his own.
He wanted to make quick money and what can be better than doing so by staying at home and being one’s own boss?
After working in an Indian based BPO in Bhilai for six months, he got a good idea about the work and decided to open his company. After doing market research for almost a year, he decided to give admin support to a US-based real estate company for which he also cleared an exam known as the ‘International Virtual Assistant Association’, IVAA.
He named his company as ‘Servozo’ which comes from the Italian word ‘Servizi’ meaning service. When he opened his company in 2013, he single-handedly managed his clients and now has a team of 9 members.
Swapnil says that his wife, Chaitali, has been a pillar of support, who continued working to support the family financially and encouraged him to pursue his dream. Right now he is shifting to a bigger office and has plans to expand his team further.
‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’
Vrinda, a young chef, believed in the above saying right from her childhood. When I met Vrinda for the first time in Indore, four years back through a mutual friend, I knew she was a woman with a bright future.
Losing her father at a young age and belonging to a lower middle-class family could have been reason enough to squash Vrinda’s dreams and ambitions but she decided to be determined. It was with the religious viewing of Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khana Khazaana that ignited in her the love and passion for cooking that she continues to nurture even today.
After completing school, Vrinda took up different jobs to financially support the family. A Home Science graduate from a college in Indore, Vrinda applied and cleared the NCHMCT JEE (National Council For Hotel Management And Catering Technology Joint Entrance Exam).
She got a call from a college in Aurangabad but could not afford the high tuition fee. A kind and generous cousin who knew about Vrinda’s passion for food offered to pay her entire tuition fee.
Her struggle, however, did not end there. After several rejections, she finally got selected by the ‘Marriott’ chain of hotels and worked with numerous big brands after.
She got married three years back. Her husband also doubles as her business partner as they now run ‘Zafferano’, a restaurant in Indore that serves Indian and Continental food.
Even though she is struggling to get her finances for the restaurant in order, she’s determined to keep going.