By Suchita S. 

In our first edition of Silver Linings Handbook, we introduced you to the people behind companies we’ve been associated with at some stage of our growth.

This edition’s about all the cool organizations and founders we discovered and met while on the job. Laura, who I was introduced to through a common friend, has the most effervescent aura about her – something that’s propelled her CSR consultancy, Do One Thing, to great heights. While she moved to India from London as a part of her previous job at Wieden+Kennedy, she started her consultancy in 2011 as a medium to make good things happen in arts, culture and social causes. Jaypore.com emerged as a virtual saving grace for handloom and textiles of India. The co-founder & CEO, Puneet Chawla, whom I’ve known to personally respond to consumer queries, even if it’s at 1 am, set the ball rolling on what is becoming the one-stop-shop for beautiful handcrafted products. They’ve tapped into a segment of the market that was barely explored, and have been pivotal in bringing local brands and artisans to the forefront.

Faith Gonsalves, founder extraordinaire of Music Basti, has transformed my understanding of education. With a focus on inculcating a strong knowledge base and skill set in underprivileged children, Music Basti has relentlessly pursued its objectives, without compromising on the quality of music education they provide. They’ve roped in some incredibly talented musicians from Delhi and the United States, and their work is remarkable. And then there’s the brand of the hour – Bhane. These guys could teach everyone a thing or two about marketing and innovation! Anand Ahuja has taken a fairly well established family business of garment exports, and given it an alternative, trendy, new avtaar in the form of Bhane.com. A dear friend and designer once prophesied to me – ‘They’re going to be the GAP of India!’

What have they learnt over the past few years of running their enterprises? From the horses’ mouths, here’s our second edition of Silver Linings Handbook.

 

LAURA QUINN | Founder & CEO, Do One Thing

Laura QuinnMy biggest learning from running Do One Thing is to be brave enough to turn down projects if they are not the right fit for our business or if, for whatever reason, we aren’t able to get behind them 100 percent.

In the early days, it’s tempting to take on every project, just to put some money in the bank, especially when you’re broke and wondering how to pay the rent {every entrepreneur has been there}. But if you’re prepared to turn the wrong projects away, and break your back for the ones you really believe in, then people will see the results of that labor and your reputation will start to make an impact. And ultimately, it’s your reputation that will make you indispensable {and well paid} in the future.

But, an important addition to this: always, always be good to people. Even if you turn a project down, do it humbly and with gratitude. The number of times the same people crop up across different projects always takes me by surprise, so respect every idea fully and make friends as you go.

The silver lining of all this is that when money stops being the end goal, you get to really enjoy the work you do and the people you work with – and all those long hours, late nights, and weekends at the office feel less like doing ‘work’ and more like feeding a passion. Which I suspect is why we all become entrepreneurs in the first place.

PUNEET CHAWLA | Co-Founder & CEO, Jaypore.com

Puneet C

Entrepreneurship is tough.  It’s an irrational choice. You give up too much. The chances of success are one in a hundred. It takes you through the highest highs and the lowest lows. It’s a lot like falling in love. And the only thing that will see you through, is faith.

The most important thing that I have learnt over the past few years of running my own business, is to keep the faith. You have to continue to believe that somehow, it will all fall into place.

Also, don’t do it alone. A business is defined by the people who run it and the values they share. Spend time and energy in building a great team. Never compromise on the quality of people you hire, for any role. Care for your team. Be genuinely interested in their personal and professional growth and make friends with them. Celebrate the achievements; smile through the bad days.

Find a mentor, especially if you are a first time entrepreneur. You will need the guidance. If you can’t find a mentor, assume one, like Eklavya.

Lastly, be true to your customers. No business can last without loyal customers. And loyalty is built by delivering value and being honest. If you made a mistake, admit it. You’ll be surprised how many customers will come back even after a bad experience, just because you owned up.

 

FAITH GONSALVES | Founder & Director, Music Basti 

FaithMusic Basti workshop with Clowns Without Borders, at “Ummeed” Home, Dil Se Campaign, Mehrauli | Photo by Tanushree Singh

It’s been a tremendously wonderful and equally challenging journey these past five years, working with Music Basti. First, I have learnt to always be willing to learn {because the more I know, the more I know I need to learn}. Second, I have understood that organizations and institutions are about the people who lead and support them, they are never faceless or nameless entities, and treating them such makes for some really bad management! Third, I believe it’s impossible to be {even slightly} successful and happy with how you spend your time working unless you truly love what you do. Always have a BIG vision for where you believe your work can go. {It definitely helps to have mentors, well-wishers, people who encourage you because they believe in what you do on days you cry yourself to sleep in frustration}. Fourth, a big personal realization was recognizing that there will always be very difficult phases that make you second guess yourself, question your work, motivation, quality or value, and acknowledging that these too are part of the process really helps in coping, and importantly, in finding solutions. Fifth, because there will always be these extremely challenging times, I have learnt that it takes a lot of wisdom to decide whether continuing ahead is in fact the right thing to do…to stop does not mean to give up. It means perhaps there is a better way to do it.

And last, I am {albeit slowly} learning to celebrate even the little victories and joys, because sometimes, they are truly the mark of our greatest successes.

ANAND AHUJA | Founder & CEO, Bhane.com

Anand Ahuja

The most important thing I have seen while working on establishing a new business is the importance of always remembering why you started. The founding principles/core values make up the foundation of the company, and it is extremely important that every decision we make reinforces this foundation.

The reason I highlight this practice is because when we start, we all acknowledge the fact that building a business takes time. When it comes to actual practice though, we all become impatient, or lets say, eager to grow. What differentiates this eagerness from being productive and from being counter-productive is our ability to consistently make decisions that promote the core values and vision of the company, thereby constantly reinforcing its foundation. Misdirected eagerness facilitates decisions that overlook the values of the company, which leads to isolated teammates that originally joined the company because they believed in the vision, confused customers that no longer know what you are trying to promote, and an unclear path for growth for the company.

Ultimately,  any company, young or old, that doesn’t stand for its values, doesn’t stand for much and it is for this reason that the most important thing I have learnt is to make every decision with the vision of the company in mind.

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