My Business: Indian youth brand Happily Unmarried - BBC News My Business: Indian youth brand Happily Unmarried - BBC News

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Business: Indian youth brand Happily Unmarried - BBC News

My Business: Indian youth brand Happily Unmarried - BBC News

Rahul Anand and Rajat Tuli on how they created a youth brand for India

What makes an entrepreneur? The BBC's Saima Iqbal and Tom Santorelli speak to Rahul Anand and Rajat Tuli, about turning an idea about making products tailored specifically for young, upwardly-mobile Indians into a thriving business.

Business partners Rahul Anand and Rajat Tuli first met while pursuing their Masters degrees.

In 2003 the software company they had joined together went bankrupt and they decided it was time to take the plunge and start their own enterprise.

They had the notion that there was a niche in the market for a brand which catered for India's youth - a demographic which they thought up to then was being underserved.

At the time a large number of foreign companies were setting up their outsourcing arms in India.

Rahul and Rajat realised that this would mean there would be more young employees with disposable income, but there was no brand completely dedicated to India's youth.

"The youngsters these days are independent, they have opinions and they like to make a statement with the T-shirts they are wearing or the glass they are sipping their drink from" says Rajat.

The idea for their business hit them while they were both out jogging. They were so excited by the brand name they immediately ran to a cyber cafe and registered it.

My Business

What does it take to build your own business from scratch?

How does a US expat navigate Russian bureaucracy? Or illiterate Moroccan women learn to sell their own wares? Or a Brazilian designer win over Western celebrities?

BBC World Service reporters speak to entrepreneurs around the world about their inspiration, struggles and successes.

Happily Unmarried would be a fun brand which made a vast range of products from household items to clothes and beyond which catered for young Indians. The sort of well-designed yet functional items a young single - or taken - person might like to be seen with.

Seed capital

But their former employers had not paid them for the last six months and they had no capital to get their venture off the ground.

Pawning a laptop given to them by their old company raised 25,000 rupees ($450) - which was not even enough for them to hire office space. "So we said let's give the impression that we're a really cool company! So we got nice visiting cards made, very fancy posters made and put them everywhere. And then we got a website...we were operating out of cyber cafes, out of buses, out of other peoples' offices, and that's how we managed in the first couple of years" says Rajat.

Their efforts at raising their brand awareness paid off. Starting out with a small kiosk inside a mall in Delhi, they now sell in 25 stores across 80 cities in India. "We also have stores in smaller towns in India and the sales are encouraging, it shows that Indian youth in smaller cities also like to spend and they are opening up to products that are in your face and make a statement" says Rahul.

Design ethos

The partners employ four designers to come up with new product concepts: "The basic surmise is very simple. It has to make you smile", says Rahul. Their products are colourful, funny and are often emblazoned with somewhat irreverent text which makes them a hit with the younger generation.

But their goods are also designed while keeping the utility factor in mind, says Rajat. "We have designed some innovative laundry bags, toothpick holders, key holders for walls, door-mats and tea-cups that are not just great design ideas but we need them in our lives too".

They are open to new ideas and one need not be a professional designer to design for them according to Rahul: "People from all walks of life write to us sharing their ideas and if we like the idea and decide to turn it into a product then they get royalties and credit".

E-commerce is also one of the fastest growing platforms for their products and the past year alone has seen the highest online sales of their products. "People have better access to the internet and they are opening up to the idea of shopping on the internet" says Rajat.

Youth connections

They have been able to leverage the ubiquity of social media sites to increase sales and create a sense of community in their customer base. "It just reaffirms your's a feel-good factor!" says Rajat, checking the number of friends Happily Unmarried has on Facebook - 63,00 and counting.

One of the aspects of the business the partners enjoy the most is putting on one of India's biggest independent music festivals - called Music in the Hills - in different venues each year. It helps introduce people young and old to the Happily Unmarried brand. "It's a big party for two days and two nights" says Rajat. "It works as a huge promotion for us and we love doing it".

Operating out of an office in Delhi, most of their 200 or so products are made in smaller towns closer to Delhi like Saharanpur, Roorkee, Moradabad and Panipat which are the traditional industrial hubs of northern India. "These cities have seen huge losses due to a lot of manufacturing industries going to China, but the cost of production is low and fits our needs" says Rajat.

With an annual turnover of 5 crores (roughly $900,000; £570,714; 707,247 euros) Rajat feels the industry is taking them seriously now. "We're not just designing products we are also designing restaurants, organising events and giving them our touch by making it more fun".

Business leaders celebrate county success - This is Gloucestershire

More than 70 business leaders attended a reception last night for the launch of the 2012 Top 100 Businesses in Gloucestershire supplement which will be published in The Citizen and Gloucestershire Echo on June 26.

The event was held at the Cheltenham campus of Gloucestershire College and the supplement is being sponsored by BPE solicitors, Endsleigh Insurance and Hazlewoods accountants who were all represented.

Ian Mean, Editor in Chief of Gloucestershire Media, publisher of The Citizen and Gloucestershire Echo said the Top 100 supplement was first launched seven years ago and had now become “a bible and barometer of business success in Gloucestershire.”

And he announced some exciting developments in Gloucestershire Media’s business coverage. The launch of a new southwestbusiness website dedicated to Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath and a new glossy monthly business magazine for the county called Agenda.

Through the website the latest business updates will be emailed out daily to the county’s opinion formers.

“It is quite a big development and there is a lot of interest from our business partners,” said Ian Mean. “The new Agenda magazine is going to humanise business in Gloucestershire.”

He thanked the county’s businesses for supporting Gloucestershire Media’s business publications - both editorially and commercially.

“Kevan Blackadder, Editor of the Gloucestershire Echo, and I believe business is a very good story,” Ian told the business leaders. “But without your partnership we don’t have anything.”

Chris Pitt, marketing manager of Gloucester-based Ecclesiastical, which took the number four spot in last year’s Top 100, said the insurance group was celebrating its 125 anniversary but looking to the future.

As a protector of some of the nation’s most important historic buildings, Ecclesiastical was the real expert in the field and would stick to its principles confident this was the way forward.

He said The Top 100 was a great way to celebrate the thriving businesses in Gloucestershire.

Chris Pockett, head of communications at engineering group Renishaw, said whilst it was good to see new businesses breaking through there was “a certain reassurance” to see the same company names appearing in the Top 100 list year after year.

Renishaw was in a strong position, performing well and seeking 100 skilled people to help ensure the group’s future success. It is also planning to expand its county sites by 280,000 square feet

The group will donate £90,000 to community organisations this year within a 50 mile radius of its Wotton-under-Edge HQ

“Whilst a list that highlights business achievement can be an excellent barometer of the wealth of Gloucestershire , in many ways it can also be a useful guide to the health of Gloucestershire,” said Chris Pockett.

And John Workman, senior partner at BPE solicitors, said: “Business is what makes Gloucestershire. We have a relationship with the business community that is time honoured and this is our heartland.”

He added that despite the recession businesses had learnt to “live with the new reality” and get on with it.

Ruth Dooley, partner at Hazlewoods accountants and business advisers, said it was good to talk up the county’s good business stories and celebrate success.

It was also good to see the private sector become involved with the public sector through initiatives like the Local Enterprise Partnership and have a voice to Government.

“There is a real will to promote business in Gloucestershire,” said Ruth. “We are delighted to be one of Gloucestershire’s growing businesses.

“We are delighted to be supporting the Top 100 supplement.”

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