Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a multi-faceted personality. She’s been a journalist and an NGO activist. She’s also a fiction writer, with a book due for release later this year. And now, she’s also an entrepreneur. We at YourStory caught up with Shweta recently to speak about her startup, First Feather Consultants, which aims to help individuals start their own business ventures. With Women’s Day round the corner, we try to understand Shweta’s plans to turn homemakers into entrepreneurs. Do read on to know more.If someone asked you to tell them about First Feather Consultants in about three sentences, what would you say?
First Feather is an ideation consultancy for individuals. We function as a thinking cap for those who want to start something of their own in the business or creative space. First Feather gives them the ideas and even the action plan to implement those ideas effectively.
How is First Feather Consultants different from other business plan-making services or incubators?
First Feather is exclusively for individuals and we focus mainly on the idea that can be transformed into either a creative or business outlet. First Feather cannot be slotted within the incubator or business plan maker category, as that is simply not what we do.
Our clients are mostly people who are already working in routine ‘9 to 5’ jobs or highly qualified women who have chosen to be homemakers due to various reasons. Our clients know that they want to do something else with their skills. But they aren’t sure about what to do and/or how to go about it. This is the need that we address and no one else seems to be providing this exact service at the moment.
How did the business idea for First Feather Consultants come about?
The service that we provide through First Feather is something that I have been doing unofficially for years. Helping friends and acquaintances at brainstorming sessions and then, going on to help them setup their ventures is something that I enjoy.
Seeing them start to relish their work, all because of an idea that you were able to give them, is a wonderful feeling. Being credited as the thought behind many first feathers in people’s caps, I thought it was high time that there was a team that could offer this service to a wider group of people. And this is how First Feather was born - to serve as a thinking cap for those who are in need.
Tell us about your background.
I am a journalist-turned-NGO activist-turned-fiction writer and travel journalist and now, I’m also an entrepreneur.
Having topped Karnatak University (Dharwad) in Psychology, I graduated with triple majors in Psychology, English Literature and History. I went on to get a Masters degree in Mass Communication from the Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, Pune.
Next, I did a stint in production at the CNN-IBN headquarters in Delhi and then, in the big, bad field of reporting. I moved to Bangalore where I worked as a correspondent for CNN-IBN, covering city and state news. But after two years with a news channel, I felt like I needed to be out there helping to make a change, rather than just reporting about the change. I joined Greenpeace India as a Communications Officer and worked primarily for the climate change campaign, till I moved to the Philippines in 2009.
Since then, I’ve written multiple travel columns for the New Indian Express and also, short fiction that has been published in journals in three continents. My first full-length novel on the broadcast news industry (called ‘Coming Up On The Show… - The Travails of a News Trainee’) hits bookstores in May 2011.
Is there acceptance for your concept? Can you give us an incident to illustrate the same?
There, definitely, is acceptance for the concept of an ‘ideation consultancy for individuals.’ The proof lies in the fact that First Feather has not fallen back on the traditional means of advertising or even social networking to promote itself. Yet, we already have queries coming in from all over the world.
Just last week, we received a query from a homemaker with an engineering degree who is forced to stay at home in USA, as she does not have a work permit. Our ideation consultants will now work with her to create a business or creative outlet plan that will suit her needs.
Where do you see the ideation consulting industry and First Feather Consultants five years from now?
This is the era where a college dropout can become a worldwide phenomenon and make millions of dollars, with the simple idea of creating an online social network. Ours is the generation filled with people who are ready to move out of the traditional campus placement and employment scenario to one where they can call the shots. And from the number of startups coming up, it is clear that the will to leave a mark as an individual is definitely there. This is why I foresee a ‘no-brakes and accelerator pressed down’ sort of ride for the startup consulting industry, in the years to come.
And five years from now, First Feather will be riding the same wave as well. But in brass-tack terms, First Feather plans to branch out to on-ground consultation as opposed to the online services that we provide today. We are also looking at venturing into e-books that will provide snapshots of successful and inspirational entrepreneurs. We have already made an open call for submissions of these success stories on our blog ‘The Thinking Cap’ and this is what we will be using as the foundation for our e-books division.
What is First Feather Consultants' revenue model?
First Feather works on a revenue model that is a combination of fixed pricing for defined deliverables as well as a retainer fee, depending on the service that the client opts for.
As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?
As an entrepreneur, it is a wonderful feeling to see individuals benefiting from my venture’s services. The fact that we are assisting clients in realizing the true extent of their creative and entrepreneurial skills is what gives me the biggest high.
A challenge that I face, however, is the initial confusion that people have when they are presented with the term ‘ideation consultant.’ We are still at a point where we need to explain that we are neither an advertising agency nor a business Incubator. But I’m confident that this is a challenge that we will surmount soon as First Feather becomes more and more well-known.
How big is the First Feather Consultants team? Are you looking at hiring?
There are three of us in the senior ideation team. I am the owner and I also function as Senior Ideation Consultant. Also part of the core team is Sagar Rajgopal. With a day job in Human Resources, he has a passion for problem-solving and creative solutions, combined with an innate desire to help people.
We also have Chitra Nair, a functional communications expert. She is a co-curricular project consultant for education based NGOs. Based in Kerala, she conducts personality development and motivational training programs, for both corporate employees and housewives. These are the qualities that First Feather will tap for its clients.
We also work with a network of freelance consultants with varied interests and backgrounds. These individuals have committed to contribute on a need basis, as and when a project of interest becomes available and revenues will be shared accordingly. For the time being, we are not looking at hiring.
How has the journey been so far?
The most queries that we have received are for our AHA and Action plan service. This is where Ideation consultants work with clients on three workable ideas and the most effective ways to implement it. We are looking forward to being the thought behind the first feather in a lot of successful clients’ caps.
Let us know about your expansion plans.
At the moment, we are focusing on providing the best possible service for our clients. We will be looking at expansion and diversification into an e-books division in April 2012.
We at YourStory wish Shweta and First Feather Consultants all the very best. To know more about this interesting startup, check out http://www.firstfeatherconsultants.com/. Also, do let us know your thoughts about this story. You can write to us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 7th March 2011 | Bangalore