Rajat Tuli, Rahul Anand; Happily Unmarried

yce_happy_unmarriedAlways thought you were different than the rest and wanted your lifestyle and gifts to reflect the same? Head over to www.happilyunmarried.com to find your match in a fun gift items and lifestyle products e-commerce website. The brainchild of Rajat Tuli and Rahul Anand, both post-graduates from the prestigious Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad, the idea came about with the duo wanting to be in every category that was dull and boring and inject in it a does of irreverence and fun. Rajat Tuli  was chosen Young Design Entrepreneur Award 2009 – for more details on Young Design Entrepreneur award click here

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Be prepared to encounter a doormat that wants to live a life of respect and declares to not be treated like a doormat; a couple of beer glasses conversing with one telling the other ‘aaj mujhe mat roko, mujhe peene do’ amongst several other daily household products albeit with a twist of whacky fun.

Explain the founders “Happily Unmarried is in the business of selling fun, we design products and services which make people happy and have sold more than 1.5 lakh SKUs so that is the amount of happiness we have generated.”

Currently retailing online and stores in all the major cities of the country, Rajat and Rahul firmly believe that their product offering, the product and packaging design and the brand philosophy is what differentiates them from others in the same category if any at all.

With about 120 different product designs as offerings at the moment, they want to add products every month with the initial aim of having 500 pick-off-the-shelf products and then start providing franchising opportunities ‘to young people who hate what they do right now.’

Says Rajat “Established in 2003, the first few years of the business went in understanding how to run one, explaining to people our vision of Happily Unmarried and just managing to stay afloat.”

The two admit that one of their mistakes was in believing that success would be easy and fast. “Its only in the last few years that we looked at business plans, growth paths and the future. We’ve realized that the road often gets lonely and leads you to curse the decision to start on your own, which is why it is really important to be passionate about your business”

They also claim that their biggest challenge has been funding; they raised personal loans, borrowed from friends and decided to sell a bit of equity to believers and not venture capitalists. “We were working for a dotcom company which went bust, which is when we pawned the company laptop and started Happily Unmarried with Rs. 50,000 as seed fund” explains Rahul matter-of-factly adding that at the time the sensible thing to do should have been to look for a job given that they were not given salaries for six months.

The decision however seems to have worked for them. They now have 12 employees, 13 designers who work with them on a project basis, a warehouse and a store in Delhi and one in Goa, although ‘we have no branches, issues or helicopters’ add the two in the same vein of humor as characterizes their products.

What has also worked for them is their event ‘Music in the hills’ which they hold twice a year calling all music lovers and anyone who just wants to take a breather. The four editions that they have already organized, all in the northern parts of the country have seen huge interest and has done much to promote their word around.

So what made them start-up?
“A lot of decisions that entrepreneurs take are purely out of intuition or gut feel. As soon as we thought of Happily Unmarried, we wanted to start it. If there is a business idea in your mind, it does not let you focus on anything else, it wakes you up in the middle of the night and makes you dream all day. In that sense you can’t choose to be an entrepreneur, it just happens.”

Strangely though their advice to other budding entrepreneurs is to not start up “Yes, unless one has the patience to give it 10 years, one shoudn’t think of being an entrepreneur. There are easier ways to make money. Giving up a business model is ok but not giving up on being an entrepreneur is the real challenge. It’s also the fastest way to get interviewed” say the duo.

And what keeps them going? “Love of what we do; there is no other incentive really. Our work gets routinely featured in design magazines; Business today ranked us as one of India’s coolest companies and we were even featured in the Limca book of records and we still don’t know why. Awards are for artists and sportsmen; running a business is its own reward.”

Admitting that they are happy with what they have achieved, Rajat and Rahul claim that acceptance of Happily Unmarried as a fun brand and fan mails – of which they receive one a day are a great motivating factor.

As for future plans “Taking our company public would mean the most to us. It will mean that there are enough people in the world who trust us with their money and would like to share our dream. For now, we are looking for people who would like to take up our kiosk franchise all over the country.”

Please share with us your growth story so far?

we started with nothing about 7 years ago, we are currently working with 23 designers,have over 120 products. we have 3 of our own stores and are selling in around 60 multi brand outlets all over the country. So not bad but we have a long way to go.

What is the future growth plan?

we want to increase our product range to atleast 250. We are also trying to broaden our product range so we are getting into categories which we are calling HU soft, these will be things like cushions, clothes, stationery. we are also looking at forays into hospitality and dining. since we see our selves as a fun company we want to be in all places involving fun.

With so many new e commerce sites coming up, do you see the Indian consumer moving towards online purchase? Or is it still mostly offline driven?

Online purchase will certainly increase we feel that the products which will do well are the ones which the customer is already familiar with . So products like low end digital cameras, phones on discounts, books, airlines tickets will continue to sell well online.

Your view on the Indian consumer and how it is evolving?

There is no one Indian consumer, having said that we are being exposed to a plethora of international brands so the consumer is getting more evolved. Baring a small category of high net worth individuals we still remain conservative buyers.Everything comes with a price barrier to the great Indian middle class. If it is a gift it has to be under one thousand, a mobile phone needs to be under 10k, a meal for 2 should not more 500 etc.To be in the desired price segment but still be extremely attractive is the challenge.

What differentiates your venture?
we are in the business of selling fun, so we have no issues of shifting categories or moving to services if we feel we can provide more joy to our customers. Our entire ethos and thought process is designed for the Indian customer. What we are trying is to create a fun Indian brand.and we don’t take what we do too seriously

Any mistakes that shaped up the entrepreneurial journey?

Yes, i thought success would come fast and easy.

Personal motto in life and business?

life is short,don’t waste it in on things you don’t like doing. This is very relevant to your work because you spent most part of your adult life working.If you don’t like what you do you are going to regret it everyday.

How was your experience with British Council ? (please specify if anything in particular helped etc)

It was a huge,that they decided to recognize entrepreneurs which no one really does deserves an applaud. While on tour we were made to meet some truly amazing people, the interaction with the winners of other countries were all priceless. There was no one particular learning but you pickup so many little things every day. That one trip made up for all the years of hard work. Totally worth it.If you want to people to start liking each other ask them to discuss Apple products. That was the biggest learning ha ha.

Word of advise to young entrepreneurs starting out?

Don’t think too much