A concoction of failures and successes where the former makes an appearance more often than not—this is life in a nutshell, especially if you are a dreamer. Life does not come easy for those who prefer their dream world. But once in a while, a dreamer takes the courage to move beyond their comfort zones — to turn their vision into reality. Their innate belief in their dreams is what sets them apart from others in a crowd.
And, that’s the exact description you can find for an entrepreneur—an individual who takes risks and breaks social and economic barriers with thorough planning and constant motivation to never give up.
In a country with ever-growing base startups, we find you five such stories of inspiration. These are spirited entrepreneurs who have fought various obstacles to find their way into successful careers. But more importantly, these are entrepreneurs for whom planning was one of the key aspects that led to their success – planning in terms of finances, team management, resource management, and more.
1. Dwij — Soumya Annapurna Kalluri
To give a new lease of life to old, tattered and torn denim clothing, Soumya Annapurna Kalluri began a unique venture—Dwij in 2018. She rescues old jeans from ending up in landfills and create upcycled bags and other utility items with them.
Owing to her efforts, Dwij has upcycled more than 4,000 post-consumer jeans and 1,200 metres of post-industrial denim, till now.
However, despite the lucrative niche the startup has carved for itself in the market, marketing the products on a larger scale is where Soumya hopes to focus more.
“In the journey so far, finance has been one of the most crucial and difficult. Considering the nature of our products, a major part of the capital often gets blocked in the cycle of maintaining inventory. To remedy that, we have now reduced the types of patterns we make for our products. Every time, a new bunch of fabric arrives, we cut them into more generic patterns that can be quickly modified into multiple products based on bulk orders. The previous practice was both wasteful and expensive. We would make a variety of patterns that could churn specific products only. We have replaced that,” says Soumya.
2. Dhanalakshmi Lighting Works — Ashok and Dhanalakshmi
The story of Ashok and Dhanalakshmi is of cinematic proportions. The real-life Sui Dhaaga couple, from Arasanarkulam village of Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu, started a serial bulb setting business and took help from Gandhinagar colony women. The idea not only changed their lives but also empowered many.
With the support of wife, Ashok started the venture after quitting a decade-long job in a small serial bulb factory in Tuticorin. He would make the sketches and then mould the bamboo frames, while Dhanalakshmi would help with the light setting.
But even with the help of local women, the business did not bring in much in the initial stages. Most buyers would not pay in advance, and they did not have enough funds to push for more investments. Despite the problems, the duo persevered.
And after a few years of struggle, they finally received aid from the Srinivasan Services Trust, a non-profit organisation that advised them to involve more women and form a Self-Help Group (SHG).
The couple established an SHG—‘Gandhi’ which helped them receive loans from banks along with vehicular support to move their finished structures. Today, they get orders from across Kerala and Karnataka. With a proud Made In India tag, The products of Dhanalakshmi Lighting Works are known for their quality and unique designs and are competing shoulder-to-shoulder with cheap Chinese lights.
3. Native Chef-Leena Dixit
Along with 16 home chefs, Leena Dixit, a former techie, started Nativ Chef in 2018 to deliver home-cooked traditional food to people. Her idea found support and encouragement after she got selected in the Women Startup Programme at IIM Bangalore’s NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) in May 2018. Her startup idea got incubated at IIM Nagpur.
But even after perfecting her concept, on-boarding the chefs and hiring a food consultant, Leena was struggling to reach out to more people. Word of mouth in the business was not enough to garner the needed attention.
That was when the unique idea of organising a food competition came to her mind.
“The competition was probably our first attempt at marketing our startup. Until then, we were only relying on word of mouth of those who had tried our dishes. But, at this event, hundreds of people joined the competition, and the event was a huge success. The number of chefs rose from 16 to 24!” she says happily.
With an unflinching attitude, Leena has now onboarded 75 home chefs at Nativ Chef, and they cater to over 900 new customers, 650 of which have ordered more than once. The next step, she says, is to reach over 1 lakh home chefs on the platform, giving a gastronomic voice to all.
4. Foodprint—Srivatsa Sreenivasarao and Anil Nadig
Born in 2018 out of the pressing need to create an efficient ecosystem in the food industry, FOODPRINT by Srivatsa Sreenivasarao and Anil Nadig strives to ensure the authenticity of organic products available in the market.
FOODPRINT, with its pro-consumer outlook, uses blockchain technology to focus on creating complete transparency and traceability in the supply chain of food and agriculture products, and verify their quality for the consumers.
In other words, when producers or sellers make claims regarding the quality of their food products in a supply chain, FOODPRINT steps in to verify them. This is done by creating a digital space of transparency and traceability.
But, in this journey, one of the major hurdles was that of funds. Elaborating, Srivatsa says, “We were bootstrapped when we started, but we knew that we had to spend more money to take our idea to the next level. However, we could not have done so by diluting our equity. So the next best thing was crowdfunding, and we readily received help in small amounts from friends and family. The word of reliability and utility of the service soon spread from them, and the pool of funds began to pour in. We even received a grant from the Government of Karnataka to scale up. And, slowly, we were strong enough to cover our costs with the help of the revenues earned from consumers.”
The struggles faced by these entrepreneurs do not exist in isolation; they all overlap, at one point. And, at those junctures, it is essential to understand and applaud their approach to overcoming those challenges. From establishing a startup with just a few thousand bucks to changing production policy and design, these individuals believe in growing constantly.
And they have done a lot of this with the help of sustained financial planning. Like many successful people, they planned in a way where they always had an eye out for upcoming challenges and difficulties, which gave them the runway to be prepared. HDFC Life is one such tool that helps individuals and businesses prepare for success in the long run. You can find more details here.
After all, the journeys to success, for these startups, have indeed just begun!