The sound of “lights, camera, action” is something that puts Nilma Dileepan in her comfort zone. She has worked with celebrities like Chris Gayle, AB De Villiers and Tamil film star Suriya, among others, and is the brains behind the Anu Aunty video that went viral.
Twenty-seven-year-old Nilma was born in Thrissur, Kerala, but has been a ‘Bangalore belle’ all her life. She has graduated in communication studies from Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru. Nilma is the Producer and Owner of Yellow Umbrella Productions, a production house in Bengaluru, and also founded and runs With Love, Nilma, an event-styling company.
Entrepreneurship is in her genes
Nilma’s parents have run an advertising agency for nearly 30 years and her mother is now looking forward to building and running an eco-friendly home stay in Coorg. Nilma’s 21-year-old sister has moved to Kodaikanal to start a cafe there. “It’s in our blood – we are a family of entrepreneurs,” Nilma laughs.
Nilma started her career as a producer in June 2009 when she joined a film production house, but quit in six months because she was given work that she hadn’t signed up for. But she wasn’t about to give up easily because this was what she wanted to do. In 2010, she joined MV Productions, a production house in Bengaluru, and worked there for four years, during which time she got to travel around the world. “I had the most wonderful experiences,” she reminisces. “I barely slept, as we would start work as soon as we
landed despite the jet lag.” While working with people from different countries she learnt to respect other people’s time. “Everybody was always on time. There are no hierarchies in most of the countries I visited – a light boy is treated with the same respect as a director.” She treats everyone equally on her shoots and tries her best to make sure that everyone else does the same.But despite those four wonderful years, Nilma wanted more. She had always wanted to lead and take charge of things and make or create something. Nilma’s management, coordination, and leadership skills nurtured in her at a young age meant she had everything she needed to strike out on her own.
Nilma’s first startup, With Love, Nilma, was founded in August 2014. “When a lot of my friends were getting married and having babies, I volunteered to do the decor for their weddings and baby showers. People started noticing my work and loved it. This gave me the confidence to start a company of my own,” she says.
With Love, Nilma organises events such as children’s birthday parties, weddings, fun bachelorette parties, and even intimate dinners, and not just in Bengaluru. She says, “With Love, Nilma is based on the idea that I do your event with love, as if it were my own.”
People from around the world express their views on how they find decor and details so refreshing and innovative. Nilma believes in using minimalistic decor, working around a palette or a theme, and adding details to spaces at a venue to set the right tone and mood at all her events.
She feels eco-friendly weddings are trendy now. “Many clients have asked and practised ways and means of giving away wedding leftover food to NGOs and also looked at the possibility of having a wedding with minimum usage of plastic and non-recyclable products,” reveals Nilma.
Handling her twin ventures with aplomb
“I always wanted to have a business of my own, something that I can call my baby,” she says. Her parents have always encouraged her to march on. “So instead of having one baby, I ended up with twins,” she
jokes.Even with one young company to grow, Nilma felt she could do a lot more. She turned to her first love – production. While working on her first venture, she received many calls asking her to take on work for shoots. So whenever she found the time in between events, she took on those assignments. Gradually the numbers grew, till one day she thought that she had enough orders to make an enterprise of it. That’s how Yellow Umbrella Productions came into being in December 2014. The ad-film startup makes advertising and promotional films.
Right now, Nilma is juggling her role as producer with finding the right locations, arranging for the cast and crew, not to mention doing the accounting, marketing, and billing!
“My colleagues Jeena, Nagaraj, and Abhineet and my parents have been extremely supportive and cooperative. My parents help out when there’s a shortage of staff for shoots or events. I have no idea how I would have survived and gone this far without them. My mom is my Momager. She helps handle accounts and made me understand TDS, service tax, etc. I studied arts and I know zilch about these things! We thankfully have an accountant now and can leave all the math stuff to him,” Nilma rattles off.
Nilma has had to work with different people – from painters, carpenters, light boys, and tempo drivers to cricketers, movie stars, authors, and musicians. The team has also worked with high-profile cricketers – Virat Kohli, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid – and many international players from various IPL teams, the Kerala Blasters football team, and awarding winning cinematographers like Manoj Lobo.
She has produced many hits, Mime through Bollywood being one.
Challenges she overcomes in Munna Bhai style
Managing two startups by herself is not an easy ride. Hence, as an entrepreneur, getting the right people
on board was also a challenge.“Sometimes you have to be rude or aggressive to get things done, and that’s not my forte. This past year, I’ve learnt to be a little authoritative and aggressive in getting the right products or services from my vendors and not succumbed to their ways, and also badger clients to make payments on time. I resort to Munna Bhai style by sending ‘gentle reminders’ everyday than being all threatening, abusive, and angry when payments are not made,” she shares with a smile.
Finance is another area she struggled with. She says “The ad agencies that she signs a contract with try their best to make sure that producers are paid on time.” But this has not always been the case. Sometimes clients don’t pay for months leaving her to make all payments from her pocket.
Life is like a marathon
When asked why two ventures, she says, “The two just happened. It wasn’t a structured plan. I started doing things that made me happy and that became my daily work. Work kept coming to me from various people (thankfully) and that quickly grew into a fully fledged business.”
She has been on a rollercoaster ride ever since. Her day very often starts at 4.00 a.m. to load their truckwith all the decor and props, but she never knows at what time her day will end. The pace is punishing and exhilarating at the same time. “Initially, I took up everything that came my way. Now I am trying to take up things that interest me and make me happy, and which I see are best for the company’s growth and future. So I’m grabbing every positive opportunity, and hopefully some work-life balance will come into play once we have a rhythm in place.”
Both of Nilma’s startups are presently bootstrapped. She is planning to rent a large office space where she can store all her props and house a bigger team. She also has plans to start her third venture, once things with the other two ventures settle down.