1. Passion to profession

Passion to profession

Whether it’s travelling, gardening or football, some enterprising youngsters in the country are building business models over their hobbies and interest areas, and launching their own startups

Updated: November 9, 2014 7:15 PM

ABHISEK BASAK, a 30-something graduate from Delhi’s National Institute of Fashion Technology, has been a designer for as long as he can remember. However, while working for a product designing company in 2013, he realised that his love for design was way more than he had anticipated. It was then that Basak, a firm believer in reuse and recycle, started creating jewellery and other items using old watch parts and reclaimed wood. What began as a hobby has now turned into a full-fledged business called Absinthe Designs.

Till date, Basak’s company has satisfied customers across all seven continents and more than 100 countries around the planet. The brand has been a part of several exhibitions around the country and has created a different genre of products across several categories.
Basak promotes his designs, which he claims are unique and one-of-a-kind, as, “each and every item that you buy from my label is unique and handmade, and thus there is no way they can be replicated. I make each and every item myself and ensure its exclusivity”.

“My designs are deeply inspired from the Victorian era and ‘steampunked’ to bridge the gap between the two centuries. What started with jewellery has now moved into other things like USB drives, decorative lights and ‘personalisation’ of objects such as a special Nintendo Game Boy that I designed for a client recently,” says the Delhi-based designer.

Like Basak, Kishore Gam Taid, too, left his cushy corporate job as an investment banker to take up football—of which he has been a fanatic fan since childhood—full-time in 2010. After working as an investment banker for about two-and-a-half years, he and a former IIT-Delhi classmate Anurag Khilnani approached Indian football star Bhaichung Bhutia sometime in February 2010 to facilitate the education and training of children in the sport at the grassroots level. Six months later, Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools was born.

“From just one centre in Delhi-NCR, we have now expanded to 15 centres, training about 1,200 youngsters across the country. Apart from training students in schools, for which we charge a fee, we also impart free coaching facilities to underprivileged but talented kids through our Indian Football Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation,” says the 30-year-old Taid. Currently, Taid’s team is also involved in managing the Delhi Dynamos team in the ongoing Indian Super League football tournament.

Basak and Taid are not the only ones to have cashed in on their hobbies and pastimes and turned them into entrepreneurial successes. Take Kaavita Das, for instance. A former marketing executive, the yoga enthusiast started The Yoga Chakra in the tony Greater Kailash I area of New Delhi in 2013.

With plans to open her second yoga studio soon, 30-year-old Das says, “I started doing yoga when I was six years old and have continued ever since. However, after working for a few years, I realised that the corporate way wasn’t my cup of tea, so I started The Yoga Chakra along with a friend.”

Das, who teaches vinyasa yoga, aqua yoga and aerial yoga, plans to take yoga to the masses. “We plan to share with the world the energy and happiness that yoga has brought into our lives. That was the basic idea behind my first studio. With the response that we have witnessed, we now plan to launch our second studio very soon,” she adds.

Another successful entrepreneur who banked on his hobby bug is Kunal Mittal. For Mittal, who claims to have explored more than 23 countries around the world, travelling was all about discovery and thrill until he started 90Bids.com, a travel site that follows the bidding model.

The Delhi-based CEO and co-founder of 90Bids.com says: “I have often wondered if one could offer travel-related products, which users could not only enjoy, but also avail themselves of at cheaper rates. We worked on this idea and came up with 90Bids.com in April this year,” says Mittal.

The quirky model enables users to bid for air tickets, hotel stays and even international holiday packages with the bid amount going as low as R350 for a Delhi-London-Delhi air ticket. To get started, one needs to create an account on 90Bids. Once signed in, users get 20 complementary tokens that are automatically credited to their accounts. One can start bidding with these tokens—each token gives one the capability of bidding once. If one happens to finish them off, additional tokens can also be bought, with each token costing R10.

“We have grown at a very fast pace and have about 10,000 active users on our site in just a couple of months’ time. We are targeting one lakh users within a year’s span and are also coming up with some very unique categories,” says Mittal.

Mumbai-based Megha Agarwal started ArtisanGilt.com in 2010 after she realised that there was a demand-supply gap not only for handmade products, but also for several non-branded, non-standard designer product categories. “We started our business with a small collection of handmade home and living products (handicrafts) in June 2013. As our interaction with customers and suppliers grew, we noticed there was a huge demand-supply gap,” explains Agarwal.

ArtisanGilt.com provides consumers with novel, authentic and affordable handmade lifestyle products sourced from the finest of Indian artisans. The team travels the expanse of India to discover skilled artisans and their art forms, so that they can provide them with good reach using the Internet as a platform.

Currently, Agarwal and her team undertake about 20-22 orders per day with an average ticket size of around R2,000. In the past 12 months, a large part of their focus has been on building a strong product portfolio for customers and optimising logistics.

“There is no point in marketing unless you have some good thing to sell. We have only started marketing actively in the past four months and today we get around 6,000 visitors on our website daily. We have over 2,90,000 Facebook fans and have built a proprietary database of around 19,000 customers,” says Agarwal, adding, “In the next two months, we aim to cross around 50 orders a day with an average ticket size of R2,000-R2,500.”

Green Carpet is a similar venture that offers gardening solutions comprising garden furniture and accessories, among
others. Its founder, Myna Batavia, started Green Carpet to nurture her hobby of gardening, which has today become
a full-fledged business with a pan-India presence.

“A hobby provides the necessary expertise and experience in the chosen area. Thus, having a green thumb with a knowledge of plants was a huge advantage when I started my company in May 2002,” says Batavia. She scaled up the startup’s operations to the nationwide market within three years of its launch.

“Currently, I operate through a network of my own dealers, architects, landscape consultants and builders. I also have a healthy list of corporate clientele whom I cater to on a regular basis,” adds the Bangalore-based Batavia, who calls herself the chief consulting director of Green Carpet.
While Batavia of Green Carpet aims to penetrate tier-II and tier-III cities now, Agarwal of Artisangilt.com wants to ramp up her product portfolio to over 75,000 in the next three months and over 1,50,000 in the next six months, from the current 40,000-plus.

“We have recently launched a new user interface for our desktop website to enhance user experience. We now plan to launch a mobile website, as more than 25% of our customers currently visit our website through mobile devices,” adds Agarwal.

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