I find corporate employees who leave their jobs to start up quite fascinating. When you've got everything going for you, the decision to take everything that you have and turn it upside down, is quite baffling. Is the opportunity you're trying to capitalise on really that big? I asked Saurabh Kocchar this question and his answer was quite interesting -
"You've probably heard this a lot of the times. I'm a first-time entrepreneur, and prior to this I was working with McKinsey and Co as an associate, where I helped billion-dollar companies set their long-term strategies. But honestly, I just had a Keeda of starting up. I just wanted to do something of my own. Yes, there was the opportunity in the printing and ecommerce industry, but on a personal level, it was about doing something on my own."
Now that's an explanation that I buy. The hard work and rigor that he's facing now as an entrepreneur is much more that what it would have been at McKinsey, and the only rationale that could have made him sign up for this journey, is a need for independence. Saurabh now runs PrintVenue, a Rocket Internet startup in the printing space. They have completed a year, I caught up with Saurabh to know how his journey has been so far.
While Saurabh is a first-time entrepreneur, he has worked for a startup in the printing space before this. He says, "Before McKinsey, I used to work for a printing company which my senior from IIM K had started up. I had helped him set up a vertical, but we were constrained by the lack of capital. We didn't do a few things that we wanted to do. But what this did give me, is a very basic, if not very deep, understanding of the printing business."
During his 3-year stint at McKinsey, the idea of starting up a printing business was always in the back of his head. At the same time, Rocket Internet had committed capital for someone who can work on a similar project. He says, "It sounded like the perfect opportunity for me. Making the decision was fairly simple for me."
However, convincing others of his decision, was another story - "I faced quite a challenge in convincing people within the family about my decision. Same with my well-wishers at McKinsey. All of them thought that my starting up would ruin my career. They couldn't see that, even in the worst-case scenario where I would fail (god forbid), I would still have gained so much from this."
Running a printing business online
Saurabh shared that one of the biggest problems that they've faced so far is in getting the right suppliers for their products. He says, "To be a business that is reliable for its clients, we need to have a reliable base of suppliers. Unfortunately, our biggest challenge is in finding the right suppliers. So much so, of the 5 categories of products that we sell, we build four in-house." Saurabh is cognizant of the fact that he's able to make this decision due to the financial backing. But he also shared that the decision to make products in-house was only made when they had enough orders to ensure that the machines are optimally used.
The main revenue source for PrintVenue is from their bulk orders that they do for business clients. They now also have a customer facing offering as well. Saurabh says, "The whole realm of personalized gifting in India is so fragmented. There isn't a single all-encompassing place where people can customise everything that they want - from mugs, t-shirts to cell phone covers. So we recently ventured into B2C ecommerce as well." Saurabh shared that the response so far has been encouraging. PrintVenue offers as many as 160 products today, and they hope to hit a 1,000 products one day. They're also looking to enter other geographies; they're already serving Singapore.
But Saurabh's vision, for PrintVenue's future, is still, in a sense, romantic. He says, "I think the key to our success lies in innovative products. Yes, there's a business end to the product, but we need to be building products that serve both, a B2B as well as a B2C function. But mostly, these should be products that people love."