“In our first official participation in America’s biggest printing exhibition Graph Expo 2012, I was standing at our booth and a young man approached me and asked who the CEO of the company is. I said enthusiastically, ‘It’s me!’ He stared at me for a few seconds and went away without speaking a word. That was the instance I realized I am in a business I am not expected to be,” says Nidhi Agarwal, CEO of Design ‘N’ Buy, a company which develops software for printers.
The Printing business is largely dominated by men and that was Nidhi’s singular motivation to enter this field. The 33- year-old says,
I have always tried to carve my own identity and never done the expected.
Born and brought up in a small town in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh, Nidhi was the youngest among five sisters. She has a younger brother. It was her businessman father who encouraged all six siblings to do their own thing and pursue their passion. Nidhi went to a Hindi medium school till Std 10 and then decided to do things differently.
“Growing up in a joint family was fun. My father was one among 11 siblings and all cousins grew up together,” says Nidhi. When she was completing her 10th, her eldest sister was getting married and when Nidhi approached her father for money to go study outside Mandsaur, he expressed his inability to stand by his daughter’s side as the expenses were already huge with the marriage. Nidhi took the unusual path, she approached a nearby nationalized bank branch and asked for a loan. Because her academic record was brilliant right through her school days, her loan got sanctioned.
From vernacular to an English medium: the journey
Thus began Nidhi’s journey outside Mandsaur. She took admission in an English medium school from Std 11 onwards and moved base to Indore for higher studies.
“It was quite challenging to compete in the first place as the English medium of instruction was quite difficult for me to follow. But I made up my mind to do well and managed to top in all subjects from the very first year,” says Nidhi modestly. Nidhi later went on to complete her graduation and post graduation in Computer Science.
Then it was time to get into a professional life. She got into a firm and was to try her hands at coding, designing etc. She started taking part in technical meetings and seeing from very close quarters the functioning of a company. There were 150 people in her first organization and soon she was sent to the US in 2006 for a three month work assignment.
“The company was launching an automatic tool for number portability and I was given charge of the project. It was a great learning experience and exposure for a small town girl like me and it certainly changed my perspective,” says Nidhi.
Nidhi’s entrepreneurial journey
Soon after returning from USA in early 2007, Nidhi got married and moved to Ahmedabad where her husband Abhishek along with two of his friends was running his own IT company Rightway Solution (I) Pvt. Ltd (RWS). Slowly she started getting involved in the company and picked up skills in HR, administration, sales and marketing to development and delivery. This 360 degree exposure helped her in realizing the true entrepreneurial spirit that she had and motivated her to try her hands at entrepreneurship. Constant encouragement from both the families helped her take on the new role for Director of Engineering at RWS.
As RWS was mainly developing projects based on open source technologies, their fascination towards open source platforms led them to explore cutting edge open source technologies on constant basis. Rather than getting more involved in what was already being done by her husband, Nidhi decided to start something on her own and thus was born Design ‘N’ Buy.
“Sensing a huge demand, I set an in-house technical team and started developing our first product. Our first web to print solution was released for t-shirt printers and printer dealing with personalized merchandize by end of year 2009. We got huge response and encouragement from our customers and within first year of launch we deployed almost 100+ licenses of our solution. We named our product as Design’N’Buy, and there has been no looking back from there,” says Nidhi.
The growth story
At the time her business was just beginning to grow, Nidhi found out she was pregnant with her first child. “I was at my wits end and didn’t think I would be able to do justice to both the demands of a new born and a growing business. That is when I saw a counselor who asked me to get my priorities right and said that every working woman is faced with this challenge, so the need is to balance my roles well.
I still remember myself sitting long hours with the interior designer with a hot bag during the final trimester of my pregnancy and looking after every single detail of office decoration. We moved to our new office just 15 days before our daughter Aananya was born on 1st January 2011,
says Nidhi. Soon Nidhi got back to work and started taking her daughter with her too. That way, she could take care of both her daughter as well as attend to the work in office.
Nidhi says that was the time she realized the power of a woman. She understood that women can multi-task with ease, and therefore she built up a women-centric team.
Nidhi models herself on Indira Gandhi for the latter’s strength of character and standing strong in the face of adversity. When Nidhi is not reading books, she loves to play with her daughter and learn from her. “There are so many things to learn from her, she has a fresh perspective on all things around us,” says this mompreneur.