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.”