The X Factor
Hardwork pays. But many of you will agree that luck also plays an important role in one’s achievement and success. Six entrepreneurs share with us their encounter with lady luck during their entrepreneurial journey
I believe obtaining the domain name Shaadi.com has been the luckiest moment for us till date. There is actually a story on how it all happened. Shaadi.com was previously called Sagaai.com and it was around 2000 – 01 when we bought the domain name Shaadi. I became aware that Sagaai as a name wouldn’t work. We needed something short, one that could strike a chord and be easily remembered. Sagaai didn’t have that ring to it and people spelt it differently. So, I decided to buy Shaadi.com, which I was convinced was a great name for a matrimonial website. But the man who owned it was demanding US$ 25,000! Since the bubble had already burst, I thought if I wait it out, he would probably give it for lesser. I had started negotiating by offering him US$ 5000 but he did not budge. So, trusting my instinct, I decided to invest most of the money we had saved up to buy the domain name and bought it for US$ 25,000. Over the years this name has proved to be a turning point for us. People started talking about it and even global media companies like BBC and CNN started taking notice of this marriage (pun intended) of technology and culture.
Anupam G Mittal, founder and CEO, People Group, the parent company of shaadi.com
After relinquishing my charge at Maruti in December 2007, I got Carnation Auto registered as a company in January 2008. The proceeding two to three weeks were significant for me and my venture. About dozen managers, none from Maruti, contacted me expressing a desire to join this startup as they believed in the concept. The team leveraged their experience and networks resourcefully, driven as we were by the belief that dreams do come true. Here we were with a brand new concept, and a core team in place. But in order to get it all together, we needed investment. FDI was becoming problematic as we were a multi-brand company. What was the alternative? I remember, I was on my way to the office when I read in the newspaper that Azim Premji’s private equity fund called PremjiInvest had made an investment. It was an Indian fund. I wrote him an email and within five days, his team arrived at our office. The next four to five months were a whirlwind of activity as investments were firmed up; the first hub was launched in February 2009 and 12 more were added during the same year. If you have the passion to realise your dreams, things have a way of falling into place. Call it luck or anything else. I call it kismet and parents blessings.
Jagdish Khattar, managing director, Carnation Auto, an independent multi-brand automobile solutions provider
When I started Vardenchi Motorcycles in 2005, high end motorcycles were only grey market imports of Japanese motorcycles. Modification of motorcycles was something very few mechanics tried their hands on and fewer were half decent at it. So, marketing the concept of customising motorcycles seemed like an impossible task for a startup like mine. The luckiest occurrence was the airing of a TV show called ‘American Chopper’ on Discovery Travel and Living channel. This show was based around a father and son duo custom building motorcycles for big brands and motorcycle enthusiasts in the U.S. The number of people who watched this show in India and referenced it to what we were attempting to execute was uncanny. Our attempts at establishing the value addition of a new concept like motorcycle customisation in an organised fashion was made far easier by a validation made by the show. The novel concept drew the attention of auto magazines and auto shows since they were intrigued by an Indian company attempting a Western concept in motorcycles. This took us one step further.
Akshai Varde, CEO, Vardenchi Motorcycles, a company that customises motorcycles
At the helm of the corporate rigmarole, the two week mandatory off from Citi seemed like a bummer. However, it was a blessing in disguise which I realised later. I had been working on the HarVa idea for sometime but the time to jump in never seemed right. The two week vacation with no e-mails and phone calls made me take a step back. I took the opportunity to go off to the Himalayas with no preset agenda.
During my corporate career, I had a built a huge network of contacts consisting of district, state and national bureaucrats, politicians, financiers and bankers. I was planning to leverage these contacts at the right time to ensure smooth sailing of my entrepreneurial venture. When I finally launched HarVa, the delays caused us to spend more time implementing things on the ground level. However, by then, the state assembly elections were announced and state wide election code of conduct observed. All our contacts with whom we had a working relationship were transferred. Portfolios were shuffled and we were stranded on our own. While this seemed like a death knell at that time, this was probably the best thing that happened to HarVa. I improvised, bootstrapped and worked on a shoestring budget. Inadvertently, I decoupled completely from the bodies I had planned to work with. If you want to learn swimming, no amount of reading up, taking lessons or using floats helps. The only way to learn swimming is to jump in the pool.
Ajay Chaturvedi, founder-chairman, HarVa, a company that focuses on skill development, BPO, community-based farming and microfinance
Jaldhara Technologies is a brain child of the unending passion of the associated people. In starting Jaldhara, the luckiest thing that almost proved like serendipity was the founding team that came together to fit in like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. There was a time when we were in a serious crunch to save orders and we went into fire fighting mode due to lack of personnel. There were days when almost everybody we talked to refused to join a new venture developing sewage treatment technologies. With the support of friends, who were colleagues and who aspired to save the precious resource of the world, water, we managed to turn around the situation. We decided to join forces; our skills complemented each other perfectly. Harnessing our expertise in technology, sales and sustaining a profitable business, we embarked on the journey we now call as Jaldhara Technologies. Looking back it almost looks like providence. Vikrum, our technology guru, Rajesh and Nilesh, our sales wizards and I, driven by a common passion to change the way world treats water, sewage and waste water are gradually making our mark and setting performance and technology benchmark in the industry.
Harshad Bastikar, founder and CEO, Jaldhara Technologies, a specialised technology company in water, wastewater and effluent treatment products.
It has been an incredible journey from the very beginning. Starting with the first Strands Salon in Chandigarh, I have been blessed with a passionate and competent management team. Ninety per cent of the spa and salons focus on technicality of the business – their focus is mainly on skilled personnel and their technical expertise. Though it is a prerequisite that your manpower should be trained and experienced, I paid more attention to my managers who hire and deal with our staff. The management team looks after the operations and ensures smooth functioning of the salon. A good manager will handle the clientele positively and derive the maximum output from the technical team. All Strands Salons have been lucky in this aspect because management teams at Strands are smart, sensible and they know how to get things done. When I opened my first salon in Chandigarh, I realised how essential front desk is. Fortunately, my team made it easier for me to branch out to more cities. I could think of expansion because I could depend on my management and divide my attention. You can’t work properly unless there is coordination amongst management, staff and clients. Every time I begin operations in a new place, this is what I am careful about. You can train people technically but good managers are good leaders who aren’t made.
Naunihal Singh, founder and director, Strands Spa & Salon
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