Aditya Jhujhunwala is a mechanical engineer who has an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. So, what's he doing at an organization specializing in ceramics and studio pottery? We at YourStory spoke to him to find out about his entrepreneurial journey with Adipa, a startup that he co-founded and his experience at the British Council's Young Design Entrepreneur Awards where he was one of the finalists. To know more about the Young Design Entrepreneur Awards, visit this page - http://www.britishcouncil.org/india-arts-design.htm. To follow the Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards on Facebook, click here - http://www.facebook.com/YCEAwardsAditya, can you tell us how Adipa started?
Well, Adipa is in the domain of mass-produced ceramic modular elements, which allow to people create their own nameplates or murals and rediscover their artistic side. We're also into studio pottery. It all started with my mother, Ruby Jhunjhunwala. She's a trained ceramic artist and also, one of India's leading potters. Her works have been displayed at various exhibitions and she also has her own studio in Pune. She used to create her own murals and she would put them up for sale. But the thing is, it's humanly possibly only to do a certain number of murals every year. So, when I passed out of engineering college in 1998, I was thinking of ways and means to scale this passion of hers as a business. I wanted to 'product-ize' it. And that's how I came up with the concept of modular hand-made tiles that people could put together, according to their tastes.
Was your modular hand-made tiles business idea an instant success?
I wouldn't call it an instant success. After engineering, I spent about a year and a half arriving at this concept. We tried a number of things. It took off quite slowly. There would be a customer from time to time. Which wasn't all that bad, considering that we did no marketing. So, I decided to move on for a while and got admitted at IIM Ahmedabad for my MBA in 2000. I passed out of the institute in 2002 and ended up with a job in the marketing division of IBM. Meanwhile, the dyes that were made for our modular tiles concept were put to use and some products were made. From 2000 to 2005, we used to keep trying something new every time I came down to Pune.
But the real turning point was when we took part in a consumer exhibition in Mumbai with our our modular tile-based nameplate product. It was a four day long event and we brought stocks in on the first day expecting it to last us through the entire duration of the exhibition. But we ended up sending our people back to bring in fresh stocks every single day. So, in 2005, when the business started picking up, I quit my job and moved back to Pune for good. It took me six months to get into Adipa's scheme of things fully. But it's been great since then.
So what's next for Adipa?
Our most popular product is the do-it-yourself modular ceramic nameplate. In the last few years, the challenge has been to take it to the next level. Also, in 2005, we had only six points of sale. Today, we have 50 and the goal is to double this number by the end of the year. It's difficult to scale in our domain because you're constantly trying to balance the various aspects of adding freshness to the product, keeping it customizable and allowing it to be mass-produced. Currently, we export to the US, the UK and Australia under the Adipa brand name through a franchising model. Canada is where we are going next. in addition, we're looking at expanding our homemade tiles business. We're trying to position it as 'jewelery for your walls'. The idea is to make it possible to use these handmade tiles as wall hangings, instead of having to cement them in.
How was your experience at the YCE Awards?
I heard about YCE from a British Council representative and sent in my application. I went to Delhi for the interviews and was adjudged as one of the finalists. As an entrepreneur, it was a fabulous opportunity as it forced me to take a step back and determine what Adipa really stood for. We get caught up in day-to-day operations and end up forgetting the big picture. YCE compelled me to sort out those issues and our recently-acquired corporate logo is a result of that process. We've become more driven and serious about our endeavor, i.e., to be one of the torchbearers of the Indian contemporary design movement.
In addition, we got the chance to meet some fantastic people. We don't have a funding need yet. But taking part in YCE has put us on the radar of a number of angel investors and we've been lucky to receive some very sound advice and mentoring from them, in terms of structuring our business. We also got to know about the stellar work that others are doing in the design space. In fact, we've started collaborating with one of the other YCE contestants already. It's experiences like these that make our product mix, rich and varied and our business, truly geared for growth.
We at YourStory wish the entire team at Adipa (http://www.adipa.com/) all the very best in all their endeavors. Please do share with us your thoughts and comments about this story. You can also email the author at email@example.com
Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 25th January 2011 | Bangalore