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Tuesday , June 9 , 2015
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Start up

- Is the cool new thing to do. t2 tracks some of the city’s young e-preneurs who are thinking out of the box

Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary

So said Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. And so believe the youngsters of today who are saying no to nine-to-five jobs and yes to bungee-jumping — in other words, they are taking the bold step of starting up a ‘start-up’.

So what exactly is a start-up?

A start-up is a business in the form of a company, partnership or temporary organisation designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

That’s a very #boring way to describe it. So let’s try again.

A start-up is like a newborn baby. It’s an idea you want to see grow. Sometimes it’s planned… sometimes it just happens. Either way, you have to passionately take care of it and be on duty 24x7 like new parents. Once it grows exponentially, it ceases to be a start-up. 

Why start a start-up?

All start-ups are (or must be) driven by passion. “Entrepreneurship, to me, is more than self-employment. It has become something I passionately promote. I love to create. I get something new to try every now and then, new people to interact with and new ideas to discuss. Freedom for me is working every day of the week and loving what you do,” said 24-year-old Somrwita Guha of Papercup, a brand that makes customised tees, glass bottle lamps and more. Her first sale was a pop-up at a Jadavpur University fest in 2010 and this year, along with partner Subhajit Panja, she launched the e-commerce website 

Being independent is very important and the founders do not let societal pressure of “How will you survive without a proper job?” affect them. “I remember being very broke and trying to device ways to start earning pocket money. I had a sense of design as a child, and a friend’s birthday would invariably mean a handmade gift from me. A little bit of brainstorming, and we came up with the idea to sell painted chillums,” said Riti Sengupta, 22, who graduated from Lady Brabourne College and co-founded Chillum INK with friend and Xaverian Rahul Chakraborty, 26. Over little more than a year, they have graduated from hand-painting chillums to helmets and cars at their Salt Lake workstation.

The monotony of “going to office” every day did not appeal to Harshita More, a 23-year-old textile design graduate from NIFT Calcutta. “I am somehow not a fan of the stereotype desk job and routine kind of working pattern. As a designer, I felt I was not being able to use my creativity to the optimum level due to company limitations,” said More, who now owns Haute by Hand, a handmade fashion accessories brand that operates through Facebook and city exhibitions.

For 29-year-old Skannd Tyagi, what drove him to a start-up was an intrinsic love for the city he grew up in. “I wanted to create the next big technology company of the world in Calcutta. And put the city and the country on the global map,” explained the e-commerce entrepreneur, who recently spoke at The Edutainment Show 2015, a two-day education festival and exhibition. His company e Info Solutions empowers the digital identities of Bidhannagar City Police, Atletico de Kolkata, Kolkata Marathon, The Neotia University, Hakkasan, Yauatcha and more.

How is a start-up different from a small business?

A start-up is different from a small business just like Metallica is different from a band that plays at weddings. So, a start-up can’t be confused with a small business simply because of the difference in scale. To begin with, that is. A start-up is possible with focus, vision, marketing plan and passion — put to effective use, of course. A small business would need more than that. But down the road, start-up business ideas could lead to the company growing exponentially and becoming public-owned companies or being sold to a substantially bigger company, allowing the indigenous investors to cash out on their investment.

What start-up areas is Calcutta’s GenY eyeing?

Most of the youngsters seem to be going the way of baking products, paper craft items, junk jewellery, fashion and clothing and digital printing products. It usually takes off through word of mouth and social media platforms. Dishari Dutt, 21, an International Relations student of Jadavpur University, started advertising her baking through her Facebook page HungrynSkinny and has quite a few fans already. Her big draws? Jager Bomb Cupcakes (Red Bull + Jager White Chocolate Filling) with jager frosting and Cupcake Burgers!
Others like Roshni Ali and Xerxes Irani are not afraid to experiment. The duo, both 23 years old, gifted Calcutta its first Laser Tag arena in April 2014, a game you may recall Barney Stinson playing in popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother. It was recently relaunched with an adjoining hookah lounge, The Caravan, on the rooftop of Emami Market on Lord Sinha Road. “I travel a lot and love various sporting activities. I noticed there were hardly any places in Calcutta where one could do something more than just going for a movie or to a restaurant. Then it hit me, why not do something myself?” said Xerxes.

What about funding?

Now to the most important F-word to start anything (apart from the very few things that money can’t buy). So, how do these youngsters manage the funding and their funds? “Financing your start-up is a big issue when you are not born with a golden spoon. I started small, with whatever little savings I had. I had to take the risk — at some point in life everyone has to,” said Ankita Banerjee, whose range of funky clothes and quirky accessories from Miss Chaos are often seen on actress Parno Mittra and model Sonika Chauhan. “Also, with plans to take my brand up a notch,

I’m learning to save money instead of going around spending it uselessly,” added the PR manager of Underground, who recently held a trunk show. (Note: A second line of income could be important for small entrepreneurs.)

“I borrowed Rs 2,500 from my mom as extended pocket money to start up. After that, the money kept rolling in and I managed on my own,” said Harshita Parasrampuria, who started her fashion accessories label Blah! in May 2013.
The good news is that these youngsters do not shy away from taking risks. The fear of losing money or a slow start does not hinder their sprit. More power to them!

Is crowd-funding an option?

The Internet has an answer to everything, and that includes financial concerns. Crowd-funding is basically a route you can take, via the Internet, whereby a large number of people can help fund your project/ venture by donating a particular sum of money. A simple formula of many drops filling a pool.

So what one basically does is put up a petition that could help convince a potential investor, offering them a little gift in return, which depends on the amount that they have donated. Most websites that help you crowd-fund take you through a step-by-step tutorial of how you could make your offer attractive, so log on! A few websites one could use are, and 

Calcutta’s Prateek Kayan, 25, turned to Wishberry for a photoshoot that launched his fashion website for men last year. “Using Wishberry, I crowd-funded an amount of around Rs 46,000 from 13 backers for the photoshoot,” said Prateek. Today, the Calcutta boy has managed to reach out to Bollywood with stars like Arjun Kapoor, Sushant Singh Rajput and Ranveer Singh to wear his Brown Boy brand.
The importance of parental guidance…

“Parental permission is a funny area to comment on. The truth is parents always support you even if they choose to say otherwise,” said Somrwita of Papercup. “I don’t think I still have my mother’s permission to be an entrepreneur! But beneath all the ridicule, there is enough love and pride to bring you home.”

Plus, the youngsters have a point to prove — that their choice is correct in the long run. “Initially, our parents were a little sceptical. They thought we were a couple of college kids looking for new ways to waste time and evade books. However, once we started getting bigger projects and striking a chord with the art lovers in the city, they became more supportive,” said Riti of Chillum INK. 

What is the road ahead?

Start-ups sure are the trend now, but how sure are these youngsters about the future? Is it just a phase or serious business? 

Case in point: Calcutta-based start-up, opened by four IIT Kharagpur graduates, that shut down in little over a year. The start-up promised to deliver Hyderabad’s Paradise Biryani to the Calcuttan’s doorstep.

“It totally depends on your dedication and teamwork. If your team is passionate and your business model is strong, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t succeed. In fact, e-commerce giant Groupon had its roots in Calcutta once upon a time,” said Sukriti Agarwal, 22, former Mass Com student of St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta and now co-founder of personalised delivery service Outbox (see box below). 

“The industry climate continues to change in Calcutta. Angel investors (an investor who provides financial backing for start-ups) are increasing and start-ups are also getting help from NASSCOM,” she added. The Nasscom Startup Warehouse in Sector V has been providing plug-and-play infrastructure and guidance to technology start-ups since the beginning of 2015. 

So, it’s a start that looks like it’s headed just one way — up. 



Super 5 messages via t2


The men behind it: Sachin Bansal, 33, CEO; Binny Bansal, 32, COO.

HQ: Bangalore

Company profile:, which went live in 2007, is a leading destination for online shopping in India across categories. Last year, it snapped up Myntra reportedly for $300 million.

Sachin’s message: “It’s important for all first-time entrepreneurs to keep a few things in mind. Have a clearly charted-out business plan with tangible goals. If you are looking at funding, that will be a basic requirement from investors. Be ready to go beyond the call of duty for your customers –– they are the ones who will build your business. And always try to have a co-founder who can share your responsibilities.”




The man behind it: Ashish Hemrajani, founder and CEO of Bigtree Entertainment Pvt. Ltd that owns the website
Age: 40
HQ: Mumbai
Company profile: One of the most popular go-to websites and apps selling movie, festival, theatre and event tickets.
Ashish’s message: “It’s been 15-16 years since I started my company. I’ve seen the dot-com boom, then bust and boom again. The ecosystem is building again....  Being on FB or Twitter doesn’t mean your business will bloom. What they can do is give you a better footprint about your customer, match people’s preferences.”




The man behind it: Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO

Age: 37

HQ: Delhi

Company profile: A leading mobile marketplace and mobile wallet company –– owned by One97 Communications –– with an 80 million user base. Vijay has come a long way since his first company (Xs! Corporation), which he started while in college. One97 raised $575 million from Ant Financial, a related company of Jack Ma-helmed Alibaba Group in January. Ratan Tata too has tossed his hat into the Paytm ring.

Vijay’s message: “I was working for a US company and it was less satisfying to build something for Americans only. India was starting to have some Internet penetration, so I wanted to build something for Indian consumers using Internet technologies. It was tough and almost unrewarding in the early days. Now it’s reversed, India is at the very top in the mind of every global company, and we have a very good position in the home market.”




The man behind it: Deepinder Goyal, founder

Age: 32

HQ: New Delhi

Company profile: What began as a website that collated menu cards has become an integral part of the eating-out experience, thanks to its collection of frank reviews and detailed listing of restaurants. Besides India, it contains information of restaurants in over 20 countries.

Deepinder’s message: “A good business plan isn’t enough to attract investors on board. Investors look for a product that is scalable and adds long-term value. Investors and merchants alike found value in our product because of its unique offering and the up-to-date content that we provided on an easily accessible platform. Our content base, combined with a scalable revenue model, and a fantastic team that never takes no for an answer, gave our investors the confidence to invest in us.”




The man behind it: Praveen Sinha, co-founder and managing director.

Age: 34

HQ: Gurgaon

Company profile: Jabong’s operations started in January 2012 and today it is one of the fastest growing e-commerce websites for online shopping of fashion products, with more than 1,500 on-trend international high-street brands, sports labels, Indian ethic wear and designer labels.

Praveen’s message: “I always wanted to be a part of a start-up as it allows you a greater space to incubate ideas. My passion to create something from scratch steered my dream to be a part of a start-up like Jabong. After working for big multinationals like McKinsey and Maruti, I decided to shift to an industry which was still at a nascent stage –– e-commerce. India was ready for a radical shift in the online shopping arena and the sector was gaining prominence, it was during this time that I decided to tap the opportunity and start my own venture.”




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