Anand Prakash is a self-taught paper artist and entrepreneur based in Delhi. He has designed a wide variety of creative objects and stationery using 100% recycled and wood-free handmade paper. His products sell all over India and abroad. He also organizers workshops and plans to start an art school.Anand Prakash was the runner up for the Young Design Entrepreneur Award 2008 – for more details on Young Design Entrepreneur award click here
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How did it start?
I am from a small town called Daltonganj in Jharkhand; my parents put me in a residential school, Wynberg Allen in Mussoorie. The teachers there encouraged art and craft among the students and I am doing what I am doing today because I spent my formative years there. I came to Delhi to do my economics honors. But I was always inclined towards arts and craft but did not do anything about it as I did not get encouragement in the small town I was from. Art was never thought of as a career option.
When I came to Delhi I got the opportunity to do something about it and started doing small things. I made a conscious decision to stick to ecofriendly ways of craftsmanship. Although this limited my work initially looking back on it I think it was a great thing to do as I have always felt passionately about environmental issues. This is also because of my upbringing in Mussoorie.
So I made my first sale in Delhi when I was staying at a PG, I sold a card to my friend and that is how my entrepreneurial journey started.
My aim was to do something different than what was there in the market. I wanted to create a market for myself so as a result even today I am competing only with myself. My uniqueness is my USP, be it my art or the way I do business.
How has the entrepreneurial journey been so far?
Coming from a fairly well to do family I could take risks, but I always made sure I invested whatever money I made. The past two years have seen a tremendous growth in my venture. I found a mentor in Milou Ket who guided me and helped me create my brand.
In 2000 when I started I got anandzcreation registered and started a website. Not many shops were interested to sell my products. Initially I started selling to a shop which had many expats as its customers. After this I took part in a couple of exhibitions and through that got to know many people and I used this network to improve my business.
I work for 14 hours some days but I enjoy every bit of it as I am passionate about what I am doing.
What do you think are your strengths?
I stuck to my brand, initially my products were not selling but I did not give up. I believe perseverance is very important for entrepreneurs. One should not give up when the going gets tough, you never know what the future holds for you.
Also I believe innovation is very important for creative entrepreneurs. I try new concepts and products; I want my products to symbolize something and to have a story behind them. Spice paper which is a niche product in the hospitality industry is an example of this.
One other aspect that helped me was coming from a business family I did everything by the book when I started. I got my brand registered, went through all the necessary office work and went about doing things in a systematic way.
Tell us about your products and your inspiration
I started with Paper and it’s my Forte. I want to make functional products that are good to look at. I also want to encourage art forms that are dying. I used Madhubani paintings from Bihar, Kansa products from Bengal. It brings me joy to revive certain art forms by inculcating those into what I do. This year my new range will use different forms of embroidery from different parts of India. A new range called Silk is inspired from traditional crafts in Bhagalpur. All this is self taught. I have learnt it from books. I like to focus on the details and share it with my customers.
What are the challenges you faced?
It is difficult for creative entrepreneurs to get their first break. A lack of ecosystem in India for creative entrepreneurs makes things difficult. I was lucky that I got a lot of support from organizations like British Council, but we need to have a comprehensive ecosystem and platform for creative entrepreneurs to turn their art into business. I did not have a peer group where I could get help and support.
Last 3 years I have seen 100% growth YOY. The problem is I have to be selective in the work I do. I have a very good team that I have built. One of the biggest challenges I face is to find the right talent. Since I am taking care of the Business aspect of this venture I want people whom I could trust and who will do justice to my brand. I do not want to dilute my brand by selling in stores that do not recognize my identity, it’s my baby and do not want to lose it for profitability.
The real problems start when you are trying to scale up your business. Lack of mentorship in India is a hindrance for creative entrepreneurs. I do not have the time or the people to scale up operations. This is my agenda for this year to get my house in order, last year I focused on advertising and saw some amazing results from it.
The lack of professionalism is another problem. Many corporates I have worked with are not prompt with payments but I make it a point to pay my staff on time. So I stopped working with those companies. I do realize I could get more business if I worked with them, taking this lack of professionalism but somehow I do not want to pay a price for greater profits.
How do you reach out to potential customers?
I sell through stores that sell my products all over India like Amethyst in Chennai, Full Circle Bookstores in Delhi, Either Or in Pune, Templetree in Mumbai and Bangalore. We do lot of corporate work, customized orders, personalized stationery and creative wedding cards. Given the booming wedding market in India it is no surprise that this is an important source of revenue. I export greeting cards and products that are custom made depending on the market. I want to retail in lot many stores and we give very good margins for our retailers.
Did you always imagine you would turn your passion into a profession?
No it was always a hobby for me. I studied economics but believe me I am not a very good businessman. I was bored with studies and wanted to do something different, I was always rebellious in that sense, I was not getting returns but I kept on doing it. My parents did not know for 2 years that I was doing this. I am from a family with a background in Business, so it was always about scale, growth and employing more people, export and get into a “serious business”. For me it was a passion, a hobby that I wanted to indulge in. That was the idea behind my studio and workshop in Delhi.
I wish to start an e-commerce platform for my retail products as our customers are from across the world. I also want to setup a cutting-edge design studio to cater to the corporate world. With ten years of experience in this field, I think it’s the right time to start a consultancy .
I want to start an art and craft school. There are not many schools for art and craft which offer a comprehensive training in an organized way. My aim is to leverage the network I have built and build such a school where students can learn through courses and do it yourself kits.
To test the waters, I will be first starting a summer workshop in 2010.
Some ideas I have about the school:
I also want to mentor young creative entrepreneurs so that some people don’t go through what I went through.
How has your association been with British Council?
I applied for the Indian Young Design Entrepreneur Award - 2008, I was adjudged runner-up, and they gave me a business trip to London. Since I was visiting London on a grant from British Council, it did open-up new avenues, I was featured in the greeting card magazine "progressive greetings", I met with representatives from my industry, I think the British Council name was enough.
They keep inviting me for events held at the British High Commissioners residence, a good avenue to network with people. Last year’s finalists from one of their young design awards in UK were touring India; it was a pleasure interacting with them. Then this year continuing our association, I was asked to develop a souvenir to distribute at their events, and now I am doing business with them.
YourStory and British Council wish him all the very best for his future plans.
Check out his blog and his creations at http://anandprakash.com/
Catch up with him on Facebook here http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anand-Prakash/309815710448