“It is important to aim high if you want to succeed,” says Namrata Kothari of InOnIt.in

Namrata Kothari and Meghna Mittal, both founders of online fashion and shopping portal—www.InOnIt.in, say that entrepreneurship leads to innovation, which eventually results in growth provided you stay persistent and focused

Namrata Kothari and Meghna Mittal are Mumbaikars who met at the Wharton School of Business, spent some time in investment banking before deciding to turn entrepreneurs. After business school, Namrata worked at Goldman Sachs while Meghna worked at Bear Stearns for several years. But soon both were bitten by the entrepreneurship bug and chucked up their jobs to return to India.
 

www.InOnIt.in, an online fashion and shopping portal, that they cofounded in April 2011 started as a simple experiment in e-commerce. This has now an annual turnover of more than Rs1 crore. They receive 1.5 lakh visitors on their website every month and have managed to get 1.03 lakh followers on Facebook. A free online newsletter that they bring out also boasts 40,000 subscribers.
 

Read the excerpts of an interview of Namrata Kothari with Konica Bhatt of Moneylife:
 

Konica Bhatt (ML): Tell us something about your business.
Namrata Kothari (NK)
: The main aim of InOnIt is to create a platform where women can come and read about fashion trends, as well as buy products that suit their style. They can follow the fashion trends of their favorite celebrities and shop accordingly. It is an online fashion blog as well as a one-stop shop for all women’s clothing.
 

ML: What inspired you to set up this particular business?
NK:
We wanted to start a technology-related business, as well as one that would fill a niche in the online fashion industry. There were not enough online content websites back then, where we could browse products in one place as well as get information about latest trends. This was the main idea behind www.InOnIt.in

 

ML: What roles do you play in the business? What is the staff strength of the company?
NK:
Meghna (Mittal) takes care of the marketing and finance, while I take care of the content and merchandising. We started with a staff of eight women. As the business expanded, we hired more people for the tech team. Currently, our staff consists of 13 people.

 

ML: What is the main source of revenues?
NK:
Our online sales definitely play a prominent part in generating revenue. Our dresses and jackets are the most sold products, and we have as many as 40 sales per day. We also work with a lot of brands and expertspeak who act as our sponsors.
 

ML: How do you deal with the many glitches that come up with being an entrepreneur?
NK:
Glitches are of different kinds -- like in picking the right vendors to managing your business. We try to be as resourceful as possible, without wasting money. Managing time and work is also a tough task. Also, being an e-commerce industry, website malfunctioning is one of the biggest glitches; we have to make sure the tech team stays on it all the time to fix it as soon as possible.
 

ML: What drives you to work everyday?
NK:
Mainly the excitement to build a product that will change or enhance the way customers learn, discover and ultimately make purchase decisions. Its fun to create something that will enhance the shopping experience for people and it is challenging to try to get someone to actually spend money. That challenge is what fascinates us to go to work everyday. There was an incident where someone purchased 35-37 items online for Rs50, 000. She was a second-time customer and the purchase left us flabbergasted. It is still the largest one time sale we have made till date. Such exhilarating experiences motivate us to follow our goals.

 

ML: What are the future plans for both of you and for InOnIt?

NK: As of now, we are planning to revamp the website. We hope to bring more connection between content and e-commerce and enhancing the experience of the visitors. We are also planning to do a fashion event this year.
 

ML: Who are your main competitors?
NK:
We have a different set of competitors from both sides of our website. For the forum side, other websites that do similar content, numbers of independent bloggers who talk about fashion and follow celebrities are the main competitors. Some of the big fashion websites like Jabong, Myntra have a great collection of items on sale. They are the biggest competitors in the ecommerce side.
 

ML: What were the biggest challenges you faced as women entrepreneurs?
NK:
We never really faced any challenge, if fact it is more of an advantage. As there are not many women entrepreneurs, people look up to you for being a woman entrepreneur. So people generally treat you positively. Balancing personal and professional life can be a personal challenge for women.
 

ML: What business apps, tools or mottos help you run your business efficiently?
NK: We use a variety of apps for the business. The main ones are Mailchimp for emails, Asana for organisation to create projects, tasks, Hootsuite for social media, Wonderlist to create a to-do list and Evernote for quick office making notes, interviews. We also use the ever popular Google Docs as well.
 

ML: What are the major opportunities for women to start their businesses?
NK:
The type of business you want to open depends on your educational background. It only makes sense to enter in a field which you know about, and also are passionate enough to follow. Though the public relations sector, fashion industry, education sector have some major opportunities for women, there are no stereotypes anymore.

ML: Any tips for women entrepreneurs trying to make it in a competitive world?
NK: It is very important to have conviction. Also, once you enter the competition, stay persistent and focused. There are times when the pressure builds up, or you have a number of distractions. At such times it is extremely important to maintain the focus and not get side-tracked. Remember to always aim high in life in order to succeed.

 

You may also want to read…
 

“Love what you do,” says Sharmila Bhide of Calsoft

 

‘Giving up is not an option,’ says Pavithra from e-Vindhya InfoMedia

 

“My biggest challenge is designing and sourcing my products”

 

“Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can”

 

(In the run up to International Women’s Day on 8th March, Moneylife is running a series of Women Entrepreneurs who have made a mark. If you know women who ought to be featured in this series, do write to us with details at [email protected]. And if you are a women entrepreneur wanting to expand your business and grow, do keep in touch with our not-for-profit entity at foundation.moneylife.in - we may have some news in store for you!)

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  • “Love what you do,” says Sharmila Bhide of Calsoft
    According to Sharmila Bhide of Calsoft, entrepreneurship gives one the opportunity to make her own mark. Her 16-year old technology venture, which employs around 500 professionals, is a specialist in software product development services with niche expertise in storage, virtualization, cloud-computing, embedded, and networking
     
    With this simple mantra in mind Sharmila Bhide co-founded Calsoft about 16 years ago. The company specialises in software product engineering services with niche expertise in storage, virtualization, cloud computing and networking. With highly skilled resources, innovative business models, and reusable accelerators IP (Internet Protocol), Calsoft helps its customers to minimise ‘time-to-market’, improve quality and reduce risk of failure of their software products. Calsoft Pvt Ltd has a turnover of Rs90 crore and aims to go up to Rs125-130 crore by the end of this year. The company has a team of 500 professionals and has successfully completed more than 200 projects. Ms Bhide is an MBA from Yale University, a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), and has a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. After gaining experience from companies like Hedgeware and Oracle in the US, she shifted to Pune in 1997 and started the company a year after. 
     
    Read an excerpt of her interview with Hitisha Jain of Moneylife
     
    Hitisha Jain (ML): Tell us something about Calsoft? When was it started?
    Sharmila Bhide (SB):  We started Calsoft in 1998. We are software consulting company. I came back from the US to Pune in 1997, and we (me and my husband) were figuring out what to do? At that time, outsourcing was relatively in its initial stages and internet access was not as easily available. That was the environment in which we started Calsoft. 
     
    ML: What inspired you to turn entrepreneur?
    SB: Our education and work experience was appropriate for starting a venture like Calsoft. My husband holds PhD in computer science while I did my Bachelors in Computer Science and then my MBA from Yale University. There I worked in a software company called Hedgeware, which deals with hedge funds. After that, we both worked in Oracle where I was Product Manager on the application side and he was on the derivatives side. So, we both had the appropriate background and it seemed like an absolutely right model to take it further. We came back with few contacts from US and we started outsourcing.
     
    ML: Has it been smooth sailing, or did you face any challenges while starting your business?
    SB: The first challenge was to settle into the Indian environment after shifting from the US. During the first few years, there were a couple of times when we thought of packing our bags and moving back. Dealing with the various factors out here was really tough for us at that time. Luckily, in the IT sector with Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) being the primary government window to deal with, it was relatively easier and cleaner to do business here.  And I think, in a year and half things just got into place. 
     
    ML: How did you arrange the startup capital for your business?
    SB: We started with just Rs4 lakh, but, we have been cash positive from day one. When we started Calsoft, we had Hewlett Packard (HP) as our client and they were ready to start working with us even before we formed the company. In fact, the name of the company, its registration and other formalities happened because HP wanted to put our name in their system and they pushed us to ensure a formal incorporation. We were lucky enough to have client in hand even before starting the company. 
     
    ML: What drives you to work everyday?
    SB: I enjoy going to office. It keeps you mentally stimulated; you get to meet a lot of people and you can make decisions on your own. I can’t imagine being at home and doing nothing. 
     
    ML: What are the future plans for you and Calsoft?
    SB: Till about four to five years ago, we were trying to establish ourselves in this niche area. We didn’t wanted to be a general consulting company like Infosys. We wanted to be specialist. So after brainstorming for about four or five years, we decided on growth as the driving factor for future. So, we came up with a five year plan. We are aiming at 50% growth on a year-on-year basis and we achieved it last year. Initially, it was more about creating a brand name for Calsoft, as a high-end product outsourcing company. Now, the first priority is growth then working on technology. 
     
    ML: What are your plans and projects for the coming year?
    SB: We have a whole bunch of clients working in several niche areas. We have several big companies for whom we have on-going projects with large teams, which go on for years and years. And then we have individual products that we do for some companies, which is the very core work that we do. 
     

    ML: Who do you see as your main supporters?
    SB: For me, my main support is my family. If, I am able to manage both work and my personal life, it is because of their support. Calsoft started with only four engineering freshers, who were employees along with me and my husband making a total staff strength of six. We have several engineering colleges in Pune, these student are full of curiosity. They will put in 18-19 hours to get the work done. Our client really appreciates this commitment. So, while recruiting we looked for such students and they proved to be our supporters.
     
    ML: Do you think it is important to encourage entrepreneurship in India, especially among women?
    SB: Yes, indeed. It is very important for women to have an identity of their own. Either you sit at home or have a career where you may be working with someone. It is very difficult for a woman to work and balance family. So, working in big companies can be difficult for women. But, as an entrepreneur, you can manage your time and family, as there is flexibility. You can maintain your individuality at the same time.
     
    Entrepreneurship gives you the opportunity to make your own mark. It allows you to take your own decision. In a corporate career, I believe that women find it harder than men. I can work from home and start my day with emails; I don’t have to be physically present in office at 9am to get the things done. There are no time constraints as such, so entrepreneurship provides you that much more flexibility when you are the boss. 
     
    ML: What challenges, if any, did you face as a woman entrepreneur?
    SB: I think, leaving my kids at home for the first time was difficult choice. I actually cried when I left for office. When your child is sick, then your heart is somewhere else and you are rushing to work to get things done. That’s the only emotional challenge. Other than that, women are capable of handling the entire situation.
     
    ML: What are the best ways to connect in your industry – which national and local networking organisations, conferences have you found most valuable?
    SB: Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), Software Exporters' Association of Pune (SNEAP) and National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASCOM), are where you meet people who are on the same platform and speak same language. This really helps.
     
    ML: Will you share with us your secret weapons – what business apps, tools or mottos help you run your business and life efficiently? 
    SB: You have to be good at what you do. People are not going to respect you unless you know your stuff and you do it well. You need to articulate it well and communicate your vision. You should have the ability to take decision and stick to it. Decision making comes with the ability to take risk and you cannot be like “should I do this or that” or I want someone else to say OK, so if something goes wrong, it wont fall on me. So, being an entrepreneur you should be good at your work and know what exactly you want. 
     
    ML: What are major opportunities for women to start their own businesses?
    SB: It depends on the career, the woman has and what her background is. Today, you can do anything. There are so many things, which are happening like you can be passionate about cooking, you can be passionate about travelling. The world is at your feet. You have to love what you do.  
     
    ML: Who is your role model?
    SB: I don’t think I have any role model. Actually, I have never consciously thought about it before you asked me that question.  Role model as a concept is so different. How can you model your life with someone else? You are going to face different challenges; you are going to be in different environment. 
     
    ML: What three things would you advise aspiring women entrepreneurs?
    SB: Firstly balance your work and family, particularly children. They do need you. Secondly, having communication channels open all the time is very important. Thirdly, love what you do.
     
    (In the run up to International Women’s Day on 8th March, Moneylife is running a series of Women Entrepreneurs who have made a mark. If you know women who ought to be featured in this series, do write to us with details at [email protected]. And if you are a women entrepreneur wanting to expand your business and grow, do keep in touch with our not-for-profit entity at foundation.moneylife.in - we may have some news in store for you!)
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    COMMENTS

    Shruti

    6 years ago

    This is truly inspirational. We need more Women Entrprenuers like you!

    Akam

    6 years ago

    - lame interview.
    - You should ask questions about what polcies and changes have you implemented specifically for woman and get the feedback from their staff to know the truth.
    - this is a show off, no content in this.

    Avinash Murkute

    6 years ago

    Good One

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