“My biggest challenge is designing and sourcing my products”

“It’s not as difficult as it looks. You should have the conviction as well as a lot of self-confidence to do business”, says Amrit Borkakoty of ‘Serenity: Blissful Living’, an interior styling boutique from Mumbai

Amrit Borkakoty is the proud owner of 'Serenity: Blissful Living', a distinctive interior styling boutique at Bandra in Mumbai. A hotel management graduate from Chandigarh, Amrit has worked in marketing and public relations before shifting to Mumbai six years ago to become an entrepreneur. Focusing on her passion, with sheer hard-work and a strong belief, she has now grown to be extremely well regarded in her industry. Her business has an annual turnover of about Rs1 crore and on an average she gets 12 to 15 customers per day. (USE the LOGO with Part2 in it)

Read about her growth-story in these excerpts from an interview with Konica Bhatt of Moneylife (ML).

ML: What gave you the idea to start your own business?
Amrit Borkakoty (AB): I found my true passion for interiors when I was decorating my own home in Mumbai. Sometimes I didn't find the exact article I was looking for, or I was travelling and saw these small artefacts or souvenirs, but thought buying them would be futile. That was when I realised that if I couldn't use them, someone else could. The need to fill this niche drove me to start my own business.

ML: What was the concept behind Serenity in particular? What makes it unique?
AB: According to me, home is the best place to relax and stay calm. It is the most serene place you can be at. Here at Serenity, we want to give you the best items which reflect who you are and what give you happiness in your own home. This is how the entire concept of "serenity" began.
 
Also, I believe that this field is all about creating a trend… it is about art. This is what makes this shop unique. While travelling within India, I found some really great and unique items. My idea was to collect them and create something which was "made in India", so people would understand the real beauty of Indian art.

ML: Where did you first set up your business? Are there other branches elsewhere in India?
AB: Initially I set up a temporary business in Chandigarh where I have my family business. My first actual venture was in Mumbai. Given the retail scenario at the moment, I am not sure whether opening other branches, is a good idea. I am more inclined towards focussing on online retailing.

ML: What were the challenges you faced while starting the business?
AB: Right from setting up a business to running it smoothly every part in the business is a challenge. My biggest challenge is designing and sourcing my products. It is important to choose the unique products and maintain their individuality. It is very important to keep them cost-effective as well. I try to get a variety of products, which I try my best not to copy. Not to be repetitive and making sure that they are unique and cost-effective as well. That's the whole joy of it; I'm doing what I love.

ML: Did you face any problem with your staff as a female boss?
AB: I never faced any problems with my staff. They have always loved and helped me. Currently there are four employees here, and I have an understanding relationship with every one of them. We understand the importance of growing the business, yet we love to breathe. I believe as long as they are comfortable and respected, we get the work done.

ML: What were the biggest challenges you faced as a woman entrepreneur?
AB: As a woman, I was treated very well. There were times when I walked into government offices, and was treated with respect because I was a woman. In fact, it was an advantage. Especially in cities like Mumbai, women are treated with a lot of respect. And this sector is female-dominated. Probably, the only challenge I faced was that they tend to take you lightly, or take advantage of us being softer and more tolerant, unlike men. You have to keep pushing them, and they find it hard to take orders from women.

ML: How do you deal with the competition?
AB: Competition is there. You cannot kill it, change it and ignore it. I admire my competitors for their zest, creativity and imagination to put things together. It's nice to see so many people interested in these things. It gets tough when the market is slow. There are also times when people blatantly copy my designs and sell it for a cheaper price. Although it gets annoying at times, I am not too worried about it anymore. After all, imitation is a form of flattery. I just ignore it and carry on with my own business.

ML: What plans do you have for the future of your company?
AB: Right now, I'm focused on the present. My focus is on expanding sales and products. Right now I'm focusing on in-house designing, product innovation, new lines as well as starting online sales.

ML: What are your tips for women entrepreneurs trying to make it in a competitive world? What three things would you advise aspiring women entrepreneurs?
AB: The three things would be conviction, understanding and attitude. It's not as difficult as it looks. You should have the conviction as well as the understanding of how to do business. Always be sincere and honest in what you do. You also need a lot of self-confidence. There are times when someone has the conviction and passion, but lack confidence. That is when they falter in proceeding towards their aim. Ultimately, it is extremely important to stay rooted no matter how much you succeed.

(In the run up to International Women's Day on 8th March, Moneylife will run 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 have some news in store)
 

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    CCEA clears GlaxoSmithKline's Rs6,400 crore FDI proposal

    After the purchase, promoter group holding in GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals will go up to 75% from the current 50.67% stake

     

    The Indian government on Thursday cleared a foreign direct investment (FDI) proposal worth Rs6,400 crore of healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline to acquire additional 24.33% stake in its India unit.

     

    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the proposal of Singapore-based GlaxoSmithKline Pte Ltd for acquisition of 24.33% shares in its existing Indian subsidiary GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals.

     

    The said acquisition "would be done by way of a voluntary open offer under SEBI (SAST Regulations) in the pharmaceutical sector," an official statement said.

     

    "The approval would result in foreign investment of approximately Rs6,390 crore in the country," the statement added.

     

    GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals is already majority owned and controlled by the GSK Group.

     

    After the purchase, holding of the promoter group firm in the Indian subsidiary will go up to 75% from the current level of 50.67%.

     

    GSK Pharma makes, distributes and trades in a variety of drugs. Its portfolio include prescription medicines and vaccines across areas such as anti-infectives, dermatology, and gynaecology.

     

    The company employs more than 5,000 people and generated more than Rs2,600 crore turnover during the financial year ended 31 December 2012.

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

    That is the advice of Shubhra Bharadwaj of Ferriswheel Entertainment, which has carved a niche for herself in a highly competitive event management industry

    In just five years after she started Ferriswheel, a Mumbai-based event management company, Shubhra Bharadwaj has managed several large events such as the Commonwealth Games at Delhi in 2010, the First South Asian Winter Games at Dehradun, Auli in 2011 and the Kerala Handover Ceremony at the National Games Ranchi 2011. Her company, Ferriswheel Entertainment Pvt Ltd also handled several popular stage productions such as ‘Ticket to Bollywood’ & ‘Bollywood Through the Ages’, which focus on promoting performing arts in and outside the country.

     

    Ms Bharadwaj now conceptualises shows and designs and executes different aspects of event planning. She is passionate about encouraging folk dancers and artists and this in turn has led the company to gain international fame and helped her make a mark in this competitive industry.

     

    Read about her journey in these excerpts from her interview with Hitisha Jain of Moneylife:

     

    Hitisha Jain (ML): Tell us about your business and how it all began?

     

    Shubhra Bharadwaj (SB): I started Ferriswheel in 2009 with a clear agenda to become the best in the business. We are a one-stop entertainment and event solution company, which can deliver large-scale public events. This means, if my client is happy, that doesn’t mean my crew is unhappy or my artist is unhappy. I work harder, earn less money, but we have strong goodwill in the market.  The company in the long run hopes to be a game changer in the performing arts industry in India. Ferriswheel’s current turnover is approximately Rs20 crore and the business is valued at about approximately Rs30 crore.

     

    ML: What inspired you to set up this organisation?

    SB: The professionalism in the West and an eye for detail. I have lot of exposure to the West as I have lived there. What I learnt there was that people have a very fine eye for detail and do lot of planning. So, by the time event rolls out, it is very cost effective and efficiently done.  That was one of the things I learnt, when I worked in 60 different countries such as Japan, US, the Caribbeans, Canada and others over a 20-year period. I felt that in India at that time, we used our skilled work force and evolved aesthetic sense, but compromised on delivery with the result that there was no benefit to the artists or the client. So it was very exciting for me to set up an organization, which challenged norms and conventions in creative and management practices and which would set a bench mark for the industry.

    ML: How do you deal with the many hitches that are part of starting a business?

    SB: Challenges are a part of the game. One has to remain motivated and inspired and keep the team going. Expecting an easy or smooth start is the first step towards failure. There are no signboards, no guarantees and nothing given. In fact, as a person who is a non-conformist, I found it thrilling to play by my own rules and engage in an unstructured environment to create the brand and establish the company. 

     

    ML: What drives you to keep doing the work everyday?

    SB: People and places. I am a peoples’ person and I enjoy the action and energy of this industry and the work dynamics of people who choose to be a part of it. I enjoy this work and this is the work, I know. Everyday is exciting for me because some thing or the other is happening in each department, which challenges me. Ferriswheel is my ticket to the world and it opens doors and avenues for me and the team, which makes our lives exciting.

     

    ML: What plans do you have for your business?

    SB: To consolidate, restructure and grow into better profit making centres for each vertical in a professional way.

     

    ML: Who are your main supporters?

    SB:  The government of India has been very supportive. The Indian government loves me and I love them. We received support from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Ministry of External Affairs and the tourism ministries from various states such as Kerala, Haryana and the Andamans. But, while I have support from many individuals and organisations, at the end of the day, it is a driven and motivated team, which is the reason for Ferriswheel's success.

     

    ML: Why is it important to encourage entrepreneurship in India, especially among women?

    SB: It is important to encourage entrepreneurship in any country and for any gender. Like poets and artists, entrepreneurs are strong spirited individuals challenging the norms, structure and conventional thinking and business practices. The economy of any country or region sees a shift if there is a thriving entrepreneurial culture.

     

    ML: What is the main source of funding for your organisation?

    SB: We have been extremely lucky to be making money from the time we were established and Ferriswheel has been able to pay for its own growth. We started with Rs4 lakh, which I invested from my pocket. We were in business the day we opened this agency. So we always earned our own money and because all our eggs are not in same basket, we sometimes face a liquidity crunch.

     

    ML: What were the biggest challenges you faced as a woman entrepreneur?

    SB: The challenges were same as any man would also have had faced. Like, protecting our interest, living through a liquidity crunch, team motivation, foul play by the competition and structure and procedures within companies are few of the challenges I had faced. I work in very difficult terrains. We have worked at places where the temperature was -16 degrees celsius, sometimes at -30 degrees celsius or sometime at 54 degrees celsius. Weather conditions are a challenge for us as the team has to adapt to it. People leave their families and work, but if you have a good show then it’s all worth it. Women are strong and they can face any challenge that comes up.

     

    ML: What are the best ways to connect in your industry – which national and local networking organisations, conferences have you found most valuable? 

    SB: I generally don’t enjoy these outings. I think these are kitty parties. I don’t like going to do any networking events. But I do meet people. I had a great outing at the US Consulate General Peter Haas’s house. There are many networking platforms, which have been valuable to the business Assocham, CII, the Indo-foreign chambers etc.

     

    ML: Share your secret weapons – what business apps, tools or mottos help you run your business and life efficiently? 

    SB: Here, I want to share two important points. Firstly, once you make up your mind then you can’t change it. Stick to what you have decided. Secondly, in my view, the big difference between successful people and not so successful people are how you utilize your free time. My free time is my most productive time. I strategise, organise and plan ahead for each team and team leader so that by the time I meet people I am always prepared. But when I am alone, I don’t waste time channel surfing and using Facebook. I am not a dustbin for world information. I select what I want to put into my brain. It helps me to be efficient and organised.

     

    ML: What plans do you have for the future for your company?

     SB: The plans for the future are to restructure and consolidate the business and push for better profit margins on all five existing verticals. We are like five companies under one umbrella. Till now, we were working on building the goodwill in the market. We have already achieved that. Now, I want to streamline structure of the company.
     


    ML: What are major opportunities for women to start their own businesses?

    SB: All opportunities in every business are instinctively pursued. We can never generalize opportunities for a gender or an industry. Each entrepreneur's and company's growth graph is based on multiple components, which translate into actualizing opportunities. This industry does have potential for growth, profits and great conversions if one pursues it with conviction. If somebody really wants to do something, then there is no mountain that cannot be climbed. So it is not about a woman, there are so many women out there. Somebody wants to do and somebody doesn’t want to do. Opportunities exists everywhere, it is upto a person or an individual. A good intelligent woman can make an opportunity out of nothing. Opportunity should be created.

     

    ML: Who is your role model?

    SB: All entrepreneurs who have value based success stories in my time – NR Narayan Murthy of Infosys, Richard Branson of Virgin, and Bill Gates of Microsoft.

     

    ML: What three things would you advise to aspiring women entrepreneurs?

    SB: 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 will run 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 have some news in store)

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