14 Delhi-based creative Startups and Entrepreneurs you should know about.

14 Delhi-based creative Startups and Entrepreneurs you should know about.

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“I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs.

In a country that’s seemingly pre-programmed to burden themselves with (largely) unfulfilling work for a majority of their day simply to get a halfway decent education in a bid to bag a job with a half-decent pay package, there are only a few among us who refuse the lure of the monotony. These are, of course, the entrepreneurs. The ones who dare; the ones who risk it all on a whim of passion; the ones who are willing to live with a foot off the edge for as long as it takes for their true potential to be fully realized within their own dreams. Over the last 6 months, Homegrown’s learned that most often, these entrepreneurs are also some of the most interesting people you’re likely to meet. As part of this year’s Coalition, we’d already featured some of the best creative start-ups from Mumbai. The wait has been too long so we turned to the country’s capital for further inspiration.

Without further ado, here are some incredible Delhi-based creative start-ups you should know about. And in case you happen to be on the verge (or beyond the verge) of starting something of your own, there’s plenty of invaluable advice for the ones who choose to scroll on.

I. QREOH – Promoters Of Independent Spirits
QREOH is a crowdfunding platform for designers. Started by Cecile Baltazart (28) and Shirsendu “Troy” Karmakar (28), it was launched at Startup Weekend Delhi, April 2013 Edition. After working on the first version for almost a year, it was finally launched in April, 2014. Cecile, who worked as Senior UX Consultant for Design For Use and Troy, who worked for SlideShare as an Engineer started QREOH to promote independent designers and their work.

“It’s tough to start off as an Independent Designer,” said Cecile. “With our platform we hope to ease this process. Help designers get pre-orders and feedback on their products and then help them getting those products shipped. To help independent designers showcase their work, we organised the QREOH Indie Festival.”

Image Via : YourStory.com

Image Via : YourStory.com

Difficulties are aplenty, especially when you’re a start up, and Cecile admits that was the case. “We started and had the first working prototype ready in 3 months. After that we had a bit of struggle with technicalities, like getting the right payment gateway and accommodating both Indian and international customers. Researching the right people to showcase, who are doing something different, are passionate about it and who would be interested in participating on the platform was also a challenge. It was sometimes through personal recommendations, browsing through blogs, by chance also. It then took some time and interaction explaining and convincing the designers to participate in the platform and festival, as independent and young labels are very conscious about where they are placing their products. Talking face to face or on the phone, individually, helped them understand what we were trying to do and why. We have met really great people thanks to these interactions.”

Still, as a nascent company in its early stages, QREOH has shown tremendous potential. Cecile signs off by adding, “Our next challenge is marketing the platform further, getting more customers on the site and generating engagement.”

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
“Find great partners to work with. Building a good team is not enough, your network is as important when you are starting up. Pick up the phone and talk to people directly, meet them.” 

II. BrewHouse – Harbingers Of Creative Influence

Founded by Abhineet Singh and Emilia Bergmans, Brewhouse is a creative agency, which was started in October of 2010. Emilia and Abhineet, who both worked with Wieden & Kennedy as professionals, felt that their vision of how a creative businesses/agency should be run was starting to evolve. “We had this belief that marketing shouldn’t be an excuse to say things to people but rather a chance to do things for them,” says Abhineet. “This became our guiding principle. Moreover, experiential and digital marketing were still nascent in India and we felt that there was a great opportunity for brands to build a strong proposition based on creating a definitive culture and social engagement. In fact, that became the core of our agency and how we approach all our projects.”

Three and a half years on, the agency has finally started to blossom. Abineet says, “We’ve had an opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects for amazing brands. Our work includes brand strategy, graphic design, experience design, digital marketing, and advertising. For some of our clients we’ve created the entire brand world and culture from scratch. We recently put together a 3-day music festival forBhane. We are in the process of launching a really cool fast food pizza brand called Instapizza and are designing and curating a line of everyday products that are made by the inmates of Tihar Jail.”

brewhouse

Although they were both senior professionals in their field, getting the desired respect and attention was proving difficult. “When we first started, a whole lot of marketing managers (potential clients) we met would close our meetings by saying ‘I wish you kids the best of luck.’ That phrase would bother us immensely,” says Abhineet. “We had almost two decades of advertising and branding experience between us. We weren’t childish by any means but we realized that the average age of a marketing manager in India was 50 something. Obviously they didn’t care about what we young guys had to say until we changed strategy and started to position ourselves as youth and digital marketing experts. We turned our age, a disadvantage in this case, into our greatest strength and started approaching youth focused companies. That’s what got us our first piece of business.”

“We’ve also had to part ways with a client that we felt didn’t help us grow, for whom we couldn’t make the work we wanted to make. That was ballsy because it meant revenue off the books as well.”

And it wasn’t just the clients who proved to be a problem. “We’ve had the usual growing pains like convincing clients that we had more people working for us than we actually did, being the janitor, the finance guy and the creative director at the same time, getting our ideas ripped-off, hiring and firing, dealing with Airtel internet, late nights, early mornings etc.”

But what about the future? “Our long term goal is to be creatively influential,” came Abhineet’s prompt reply. “This sounds crazy, but 15 years from now we hope to work as creative consultants on large projects that shape society, economies and culture – an urban planning project or a theme park would be cool. We’re also starting to put together an insight driven trend watching platform for India. The start of this is our monthly blog and newsletter called Hectic Traffic.”

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
“That’s flattering given that we’ve been around for only three and a half years,” says a modest Abhineet, “but here goes.”
1. What makes us good at work is what we do outside of it. As a creative, it’s important to step away even for a little bit and go feed yourself, sometimes literally.

2. Be patient. What separates successful entrepreneurs from the rest is who can win the waiting game. It took us well over 3 months to start work on our first client. Those months were the hardest.

III. Jamun – Breaking Away From Bollywood
At 38 and 33 respectively, Ayesha Sood and Udayan Baijal are certainly not naïve within the framework of the entertainment industry. But what exactly is Jamun all about? “We are a small film company, with our studio in Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi,” says a modest Ayesha.“We are an independent film production house,” adds Udayan. “Our work ranges from advertising and brand films to more socially and politically engaged work. Most of the work we have done thus far has been for the internet. We’ve had a steady run so far and I think we are really finding our own voice this year. Defining who we are and what we do is a continual process I think it evolves as we do. We have some exciting work coming up – both commissioned and our own projects. It’s hard to describe what our aim is – but I’d like to think of Jamun as a collective – a space where a film crew can come in, ideate, and collaborate to make films.”

The inception of Jamun has quite the story too. “Our collaboration began after a Soju-infused dinner at Gung Palace in Delhi – we had met there accidentally after ages [we were in the same high school – though many years apart],” says Ayesha. “We connected instantly, talked openly and started working together the next day.”

jamun

Being one of the more ruthless industries, the entertainment business isn’t for the faint hearted, as Ayesha duly highlights. “One of the big challenges in Delhi is finding the right kind of crew for a varied range of projects. Unfortunately the brain drain is true in the film industry.”

“I think surviving in a filmmaking space outside of Bollywood and main stream advertising is our challenge,” adds Udayan. “But I think that’s also our biggest opportunity. We like to think that we are defining a new independent space – a space that we hope has a huge future. Filmmaking is a hard long laborious process. I think what has been liberating about producing short work for the internet is that we have managed to do a fair amount of work in a short time and have distributed/released it on the internet – that has been really rewarding.”

Speaking about the future, Ayesha says, “Both Udayan and I have trained on foreign and independent feature films (some of the details of whom we’ve worked with are on our site). As for the Future – we hope to find a balance between commissioned work and our own work [voice]. I think we might finally get there this year.”

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
AYESHA: Be honest, do your research, work hard and only listen to the people who criticise your work – that’s how you’ll grow.
UDAYAN:  I think the easiest thing is to start something…keeping it going when there seems to be no future is the hard part. But you have to keep at it, be relentless and remember that things take time to grow. Also, somewhere you have to love what you do or it’s really hard to keep at it.

IV. Safomasi – Purveyors Of Hand-printed Textiles
A portmanteau consisting of the first two alphabets of their names, Safomasi is the brainchild of Sarah Fotheringham and Maninder Singh. The company makes hand-printed home textiles, inspired by their many travels all over the world. “Each collection is focused on a particular place,” says Maninder. “So our most recent collection, Alleppey, was conceived after a trip to Kerala. The colours and motifs reflect the region, but also have a touch of our different influences. You’ll see Sarah’s English background in the classic nautical stripe edging, paired with tropical coconut palms.”

safomasi

 

As a company making good progress, it ultimately proved that their passions could also be their livelihood. “We began Safomasi as we had a passion for print, pattern, colour and travel,” says Maninder. “We felt that there was a space for contemporary homeware that told a story, yet wasn’t kitsch or twee. We started with cushions and quilts, and have expanded to kitchen and tableware. Look out for a new collection in the autumn – we try and add a couple of new product lines with each new release.”

Although there were difficulties, they never let it affect the quality. “One of our main challenges has been to get our production flow smooth. We’re perfectionists and track every part of the process to make sure that the quality is top notch. We spent about a year before we launched working with different people to get that right,” Maninder said.

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
Identify your strength, what your niche is, and stay focused on that.

V. Do One Thing – Connectors Of Creative Gaps
In a multitude of ways, this company (along with OML) and their ‘Coalition’ initiative were the catalyst of our interest in researching interesting start-ups across country in the first place. So we caught up with its founder, Laura Quinn (32) an advertising & entertainment executive who amassed over 8 years of experience working for various international ad agencies to find out what brought it on. “It comes from a simple ambition,” says Laura, “to connect the corporate world with society and culture in meaningful ways. That means helping them to do well while doing business.”

doonething

Start-ups are never easy, and Laura admits to having headaches of her own. “A major challenge has been to project our vision to sometimes sceptical audiences and clients,” she says. “What we do is quite progressive and it’s not always simple to understand the long-term potential gain for a company – but that just means we have to seek out visionary clients and partners, work harder to prove ourselves, and be intelligent in our long-term strategy for growing DOT’s portfolio. A related issue that applies to many creative businesses is convincing clients to pay for work that feels very intangible. But we try hard to not compromise our vision just to appease clients looking for quick gains – it has meant turning down work (and money) but it also means I’m very proud of what DOT does and stands for, and that’s ultimately why I quit a great job to go it alone.”

Laura’s company has great potential, and her plans for the future are a testament to that. “The work we do is really varied but expect to see us announcing some interesting new partnerships with companies supporting young artists and creative organisations,” she said.

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
The best advice I was given was to commit three years to making the business work, no matter what it takes. Running a creative business isn’t the same as doing creative work – you spend half your time managing admin, calculating fee proposals, looking for new clients and customers, hiring and firing, and paying bills. It is hard work and the hours are unforgiving but if you have a grand vision that you really believe in then it will be more than worth it. So my advice is stick it out and remember you’re not alone, we’ve all been there. And if you need some moral support join The Coalition and get connected to other entrepreneurs going through the same thing – yes, an obvious but useful plug! 

VI. Qilla Records – Forerunners Of Fresh Dance Music
Qilla Records is a company that specializes in forward-thinking dance music. During a 3-year-long stint in Australia, Madhav Shorey (28) studied design and also worked as a DJ and Producer. He came back to India in early 2010 and started planning things out with his childhood friend Gaurav Malaker (BLOT!) and that’s how Qilla came into existence. Speaking about his company, Madhav says, “Our aim has always been to push forward fresh ideas in dance music and to create our own niche space. We’re continuing to do so in every way possible.”

qilla-records

In a country where dance music is only just starting to reap the benefits of its initial potential, setting up a company like this one had its hurdles. “Well, for starters it’s not the biggest business model financially,” says Madhav. “Especially when you keep in mind the select audience we cater to and the state of music piracy today.”

“Setting the label up in India was quite tricky for us in many ways but after a year of doing everything we could, we finally had it up and running. Our objective was much beyond that anyway, so we can’t complain. We’re trying to put together a set of like minded people via the label from across the globe,” he added.

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
If you don’t stand for something unique that is your own creative space, the chances of getting lost and being irrelevant are a lot higher. So stick to your guns and work hard at owning your own space, avoid emulating others and don’t be afraid to be bold. 

VII. Now Delhi – Documentarians Of Cultural Engagement
A web-based documentary series on contemporary Indian sub-cultures, Now Delhi  is an ongoing project directed, shot and edited by Akshat Nuriyal (30). It features short documentaries on artists and independents and their engagement with the city. “I’d imagine the films to be short video-time-capsules that (hopefully) give a sense of the alternative scenes of the city, in this place and time,” says Akshat.“Future memories in high definition, in a way.” It is a fully self-funded, independently run project.

How did it all begin? Akshat says, “I started Now Delhi in 2011. This was right after quitting my job with a television channel for 4 years. I had always been part of the independent music ‘scene’ by virtue of being a drummer in bands here. By then I’d also been exposed to the several different cultural layers within the city. There were legitimate global sub cultures here, the same as in any other major city in the world, but on the fringes, the underground in a way – with not much attention being given to them. Unlike the conducive online environment that alternative culture finds for itself now, back then even on the internet there weren’t many websites dealing with urban culture.” In fact there were none focusing solely on alternative culture. “There was need for an independent platform which focused on these communities and artists and also to document all the amazing things that were happening in the city. Now Delhi was born out of that need. In a way, it was the first of its kind to do so from India.”

nowdelhi

Akshat is also an independent / freelance director and operates Now Delhi as a studio/production house which creates audio-visual/film content for agencies and artists. Their aim, he says, is to constantly create unique project specific treatments and visual styles, with a strong emphasis on real, honest and impact-based storytelling. In these years the studio has worked with some of the top brands in the country effectively producing a range of digital and new media content – across documentary to corporate / ad films, fashion films to music videos and even designed thematic visuals for live shows for bands and fashion designers.

The challenges, as always, were aplenty. One of them, Akshat bemoans, is the low attention span due to the internet today. “The internet has meant that there is an infinite amount of content available at a click. Thus, attention spans have now become very small, especially for videos. One of the main challenges is to create content which is engaging for the viewer, yet holds true to a sensibility and aesthetic that does justice to the content and story. That is a fine , which has to be walked on every time I make a video. I don’t want to just make videos which are good looking cut to some dubstep music. Even though that’s probably what’s ‘popular’.” Another worry is the lack of respect for Independents. “I do feel that there is a lack of respect for Independents in this country, especially from big corporate companies and agencies. Delhi is pretty bad in that regard, although Bombay is much, much better. There is always the lowballing, and then, of course, the delay in payments. The number of independents I know who suffer from that is alarming. That is something that needs to change. The only workaround to that are contracts, but then the nature of some projects (timeline / budgets) make it difficult to have contracts for everything specified. So that’s a bit of a grey area.”

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
Persist with what you believe in. There will be a lot of days that are filled with disillusionment. Remind yourself of the reasons why you started doing what you do and hopefully that should be enough. Create, collaborate and breathe when you’re dead.

VIII. Sayon – Carver Of Exquisite Frames
“I always had a journal in college,” pips Sayon Chatterjee (25). “It was where I wrote and sketched down every idea that I had. About a year back, I chanced upon some of my old ideas, and thought making an offbeat eyewear would be a wonderful break.” And just like that, the idea for Sayon, his exclusive eyewear range, took birth. There began the road of experimentation and prototyping, and after some dozens of wasted wood and broken frames, he finally made a piece of wooden eyewear which he was happy with. The project, however, did not begin as a commercial idea. “I gave some of the pieces to my friends and asked them to find out what all problems they faced with it in an everyday work atmosphere,” says Sayon. “Slowly this project started getting a lot of inquiries and orders. Here is where I realized the potential of the eyewear and frankly speaking, the high of seeing your handcrafted products being sported by so many people, is unparalleled. Creating a good, clean and consistent work is not easy, but I try to aim for perfection in every piece. Experimentation with new materials is the real exploitation of my creativity.”

sayon

When perfection is what you crave, the barriers are just as challenging. “Trying to create a new kind of a product is a challenge in itself,”reflects Sayon. “There is no proper production channel or supply chain established when you’re trying to make a new product. And being creatively inclined, business management isn’t one of my strong suits. Finding the right kind and quantity of materials or people with similar design and product aesthetics is equally challenging. However with time and experience, all falls into place. I have had a lot of support from my close friends and family.”

One of the most naturally creative people on this list, Sayon’s plans for the future have left us intrigued. “Wooden frames were just one page of my journal! Stay tuned to find out more exciting ventures by me,” he signs off, leaving us hungry for more.

His Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
Don’t strive to do something that already exists, we have enough mediocrity. Finding your own piece of gem of a design isn’t going to be easy, but it wouldn’t be as fun if it was.

IX. LIMN Entertainment – Entertainers Of Millennial Masses
LIMN Entertainment, as the name suggests, is an entertainment company that offers a variety of services which include business consulting, music programming and consultancy services, concept creation & execution, content creation, artist management, events and graphic designing. “I have always wanted to do something of my own and I have always wanted to do something within the creative space and that’s how this whole thing started,” says Divij Kaul (26). “I’ve been in the music industry for close to 8 years now and always wanted to do something full time and this was another reason why this happened.” After completing his MBA, Divij turned down the monotony of a 9 to 5 job and decided to take the plunge and start something of his own.

limn

As mentioned before, the entertainment industry is one of the most gruesome and unforgiving ones we can think of. Naturally, the hurdles and challenges lived up to it. “The challenges have been setting up the company in the first place as I didn’t really know much about starting a company,” Divij says. “I learned a lot. There are not too many challenges as such but work hours are odd and work is most hectic during weekends. There are major challenges as an artist manager I face but these are challenges and issues within the music industry in India and in particular in Delhi. If I talk about that it’ll take another interview just for that so I’d rather not. I guess a challenge that everyone in business faces is the challenge of a steady flow of income and it was hard initially but I feel with time it will settle down. I think what makes me overcome these challenges is the support I have received from the industry and most importantly my kick-ass team who are the real heroes.”

Divij, although modest at present, has big plans for the future. “You can expect a lot of things but I’m taking it one step at a time and not trying to get ahead of myself,” he says. “Music will be my forte for the first year and then I will expand into other areas of entertainment.”

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
It’s tough it’s hard but if your intention is right and you work hard, there’s no reason why you can’t make a space for yourself within any industry. But most importantly for me it is critical to always be a good human being no matter what you do and only then will people always respect you.

X. Unmute
Essentially a management agency, Unmute was co-founded by Dev Bhatia (30) and Arjun Vagale who both decided to work towards its fruition about 3 years ago. “We felt there was a dearth of quality management agencies in the electronic music space and we wanted to bring the professional work ethics and business network we had built for Jalebee Cartel to other talented DJs in and from India,” says Dev.“Besides the obvious work mandate, we also saw and felt that our friends who were DJs as well as other artists we admired, had potential and needed a platform to take off from – we wanted to be an enabler to make that happen for them. And I think we’ve been fairly successful till now.”

There’s miles more to go, as they say, but the agency provides numerous services, some of which include managing and booking a select cache of quality Indian electronic dance music artists, DJs and Producers, managing and programming venues and music festival stages, serving as a countrywide agency for international artists and also working with brands to create solutions across these areas.

Unmute

Like every other business, they too have their own set of troubles, which range from complicated to borderline silly. “Not to sound pompous, but common sense is a prime requirement of our business and we find it lacking with most people we deal with,” says Dev.“There is a dearth of professional people as well as promoters and managers in this industry. Things as basic as email confirmations and signed contracts or even timely payments are issues that crop up on a regular basis. To add to that, there are more artist management agencies/promoters than artists themselves in the country today. But to be fair, a few of them are doing great work without maybe a hoopla about it.”

Presently functioning at a national level, they plan on going international soon. “In the near future, we aim to expand our reach to the Asian market and start a touring route for Indian artists across the continent,” says Dev. “We’ve also started a host of Intellectual properties like RESET, Uncensored, our Hip hop night with DJ Sa in partnership with blueFROG clubs, MOARdisco, our disco series with Gaurav Malaker in partnership with Impresario, GOTwax, our old school vinyl house/breaks events among many others and aim to develop these into major properties.”

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
“Please don’t get into the music business for the wrong reasons – it’s not glamorous and all about parties. The DJ’s aren’t your best friends and neither are the venue owners – you are working with them and for them – and you need to maintain a work ethic. We can’t just party at every gig and wake up hungover the next morning to find our artist is stranded at the airport and missed his flight.” 

XI. Little Black Book Delhi
Little Black Book is essentially a way to make cities more interesting for its own people. And Suchita Salwan, all of 24 years of age, says that LBBD was born out of her own need to make Delhi a more exciting city for herself. “It’s easy to get caught up and frustrated by the mundane parts of life in any city – I found myself hanging out at the same old restaurants, bars, with people I saw pretty much every other weekend,” she says. “So as a challenge to myself, I began stepping out every weekend to do something or meet someone I hadn’t been introduced to before and documented that on this blog on Tumblr that I called Little Black Book. Over 2 years later, LBB is more than just a repository of conversations and eclectic finds. My colleague and partner {business} Upasana Gupta and I, along with an awesome content and events crew, run LBB as an online and on-ground curated guide dedicated to discovering and experiencing the best of Delhi/NCR.”

A small tour of their website will reveal that they cover food, lifestyle, sports, events and culture of Delhi, and do a bunch of their own experiences in town and other similar areas. “It’s interesting, because it’s also become a wonderful way for people in Delhi to meet other likeminded Delhiwaalas looking to step out of the box, and do something different and valuable with their time.”

lbbd

She continues, “I’ve worked 2 jobs before – in events and in media and with two remarkable companies. I don’t think anything compares to what I’ve learned, personally and professionally, through creating LBB though”

As far as challenges go, she admits they pop up at just about every corner.“Finding the right people, monetising, finding good partners, tech, finance, admin, infrastructure, hell, finding a damn office that fits a budget is a challenge! I think the most interesting and rewarding of all of these, personally, has been finding the right people to work with and taking all these ideas and expectations of what LBB could be and moulding it into what it will become.”

She continues, “I am extremely fortunate to be in the company of people who work on the same wavelength as I do, and those who challenge me constructively! I feel a team that questions one another, not vindictively but positively of course, that is happy changing their ways to adapt to those around them, that’s cognizant of others’ way of thinking, and is happy to help each other out is one that succeeds.”

So what exactly can we expect from them in the future? “A lot!” says a smiling Suchita. “I think it’s imperative to spend enough time experimenting, finding what our personal strengths and weaknesses are, and what LBB, as an idea and entity, stands for. We’ve spent a fair of time making mistakes, doing extraordinary things, and we’ve got a good understanding of where we want to go next. Figuring out LBB’s bigger picture and future has been a source of great personal growth for me, too. It requires a lot of introspection, the strength to be okay with making mistakes and with failures, and the need to always challenge status quo. But it’s been the most fulfilling part of my work on Little Black Book.”

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
“Start somewhere! I started LBB as a blog on Tumblr. The best businesses I know and admire started from nothing at all, and build diligently on that.”

XII. Sewing New Futures
The story of Kristin Braddock’s enterprise is fascinating, to say the least. “I didn’t plan on starting a social enterprise,” she says. “I originally came to India three years ago after quitting a paying job in corporate America for an unpaid job for anti-sex trafficking NGO. I planned to stay a year, learn some cool stuff, have some great stories and then go to law school. Fall 2011, I went on a field visit to Najafgarh (West Delhi -past Dwarka) where the NGO I worked with ran a centre. We had an event for the kids that day to encourage education and literacy. One of the women, during the event invited me into her home for chai so I grabbed two of the staff members, to come with me. After we left, the field staff asked me to come back the next day – it turned out the staff had some trouble initially getting invited into their homes but when they came with a foreigner it was easier. Thus, began a year of my getting to know the Perna community. I learned how they are at risk to be exploited to a life of prostitution. No one bought them and sold them. But, because of their scheduled caste status, they spent years being treated like,‘criminals’ and ‘less than.’ In order to survive, they marry their daughters at a young age (around 14), and after the birth of their first child, the in-laws/new husbands would drive them to more populated areas of Delhi (such as Uttam Nagar close by) where they would be forced to sleep with men for money. It was a cycle driven by the need to survive.. Above all, I heard the women express their desire for some other employment repeatedly and how they wanted another life for their daughters.  The women all knew how to sew. They showed me homemade blankets, and things they had made. Although flawed, I thought with guidance, I could see people paying money back home for ‘handmade ideas’ especially with the story behind the product. I began working with a few women as a side project with a talented applique artisan from Bihar and selling them back home to a friend’s store. They sold within days. When the NGO I worked with didn’t want to further any income generation activities, I decided to quit and form my own social enterprise this past fall.” And thus, Sewing New Futures was born.

Sewing New Futures pays fair wages to the women to sew products as an alternative employment to prostitution. They function as both a profit business as well as a non-profit trust. This unique hybrid model allows the business to be driven by its social benefit model. Through this model, they rely on profits from sales as well as grants and donations from funding sources in order to expand to serve more women from their target group.

“We are moving into a new building this month where we plan on having two rooms for sewing/ employment,” says Kristin. “One room for education classes and one room for a creche (so the moms that can work without worrying about their children), and another room for dance classes where we are planning on hiring a teenage girl from the community to teach the other girls (she has gotten trained as a dancer). We are excited to have room to expand to reach more women/teenage girls.”

As noble as the job is, Kristin has had her fair share of difficulties too. “The biggest challenge is the struggle we are going through now, with trying to raise funds to scale operations,” she says. “It’s a tricky balance, we don’t want to wait around for the money to come in, but you also don’t want to scale too fast and be broke.”

Another batch of ten women has started a three-month training programme on July 2nd.

The future, for both the women and the company, looks great. “We sell B2B, so we plan on continuing to grow our current relationships and increase orders while expanding to new retailers,” she says. “Most small boutiques/fair trade shops start with an order of 20-25 pieces. We are in current conversations with stores now and aim to be in 10 new stores by October 2014. We are also launching a crowd sourcing campaign on Indie go-go soon.”

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
“Your team is everything. You need to know your strengths and then find people who make up for your weaknesses. My weakness is anything with an excel doc. Which is why I wouldn’t be able to do anything without my partner, Priyanka Khanna, she is a excel wizard (among other talents). It’s so important you find the right people and don’t try to do everything by yourself.”

XIII. Bhane.
If you’re even remotely sartorially inclined, chances are you’ve already seen Bhane’s simplistically stylized lookbooks do the rounds of your internet feeds. In a country where good quality x trendy clothing usually equals major expenses, Anand Ahuja’s (29) Bhane. provides a much needed change. “bhane. started off as a side business,” says Anand. “I was working in my family’s apparel manufacturing business when I saw this gaping need for quality basic apparel – stuff that has a good fit, the right colours, is affordable and is on trend with global taste. The only apparel available was either very expensive or then was heavily branded. bhane. is just about arming people with the wearable tools to express their own individuality.”

However, it wasn’t easy to set up. The fact that retail is very fragmented in India is one of the biggest hurdles there is. Anand says,“Building a brand is kind of like fighting against the current. Everyone is used to seeing this product that is not the best quality and heavily branded. They are used to shopping only with discounts. We believe in offering the right price the first time instead of playing games. We believe in offering product that doesn’t say ‘bhane.’ all over it, allowing you the freedom to use your style as your self-expression. So all the time and effort we spend in creating our culture and brand, relates to a small population of people. We have built strong relationships with these people so we can get back constructive feedback and we hope that we can continue to grow bhane and share it with more people.”

anand-ahuja

Although it started off as an online store, bhane. now owns its own store in Delhi too. “We started online and are now extrapolating into offline stores, which allows people to really feel our product and have an overall stronger tangible experience with our brand.”

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
“It is my observation that the only thing that differentiates a successful new business and a failed new business is the ability for the founder(s) and the team to remain patient. Any new business takes time and a lot of patience. Some companies have patient founders but not patient investors. Some don’t have both. Bottom line is, the only thing that differentiates failure from success is constant perseverance. If you dedicate enough time with enough effort and patience, your business WILL be successful. Some times to keep you patient would be to make sure you set a horizon/projection for your business. When you start, you are often quite reasonable with yourself…you will tell yourself that it takes 5 years to build a brand. When you are 1 year or 2 years in and find yourself being impatient, remind yourself of the vision you had set and that can keep you motivated.”

XIV. 11.11 By CellDSGN
Shani Himanshu and Mia Morikawa are the creative heads behind the brand 11.11. Speaking on behalf of their label, Mia Morikawa says,“In the past 3 seasons, 11.11 has consolidated its roots in the luxury space, with an emphasis on creating links between farmers, weavers, vegetable dyeing and block printing traditions. This resulted in a coherent and meaningful luxury garment line that created grounds for ethical products while ensuring sustainability of local strengths. Attention has remained there and branched out from one plane to the next as we explore new layers of social and commercial engagement focused under an eco luxury lens.” In India, 11.11 retails from its flagship concept store The Grey Garden in Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi as well as at other select shops in Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. 11.11 is also available in the USA, UK, Japan, France, Australia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Singapore and Brazil.

11

Becoming a global brand is not an easy feat Morikawa confirms. “The challenge and the pleasure of working is to align beliefs with actual actions and create something authentic and meaningful. We always aim to create a holistically regenerative system, which nourishes all team members creatively and financially. Finding harmony within that and keeping our organisation within the realms of a positive vibration emanating oasis is the challenge we love to take on season after season.”

“Eleven-eleven sings about using the body as a field of expression while opening a dialogue on a range of dualisms such as modernity and pre-modernity / urban and natural based in the tradition of Khadi,” she adds. “The brand started because of a shared resonant vision on how to live and work…it continues in that way today.”

Their Advice To Other Young Entrepreneurs:
“Find your voice, and sing with it.”

This article has been adapted from Homegrown.

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