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These sisters-in-law make a profitable business out of giving lavish gifts

Binjal Shah
9th Feb 2017
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Tickled Pink creates simple to extravagantly personalised gifts and experiences for that special someone in your life, who is worth more than the standard off-the-shelf gift.

It's a pleasant surprise when, by marrying your soulmate, you also discover a soul-sister. It's an even more serendipitous turn of events when the two of you have the same zest for whipping up extravagant dos for your loved ones for the basest of occasions. But what’s truly special in this story is how the two share the exact same wavelength and ambition, and are swiftly able to craft a profitable business out of spreading joy and celebration in the world. Meet Tanvi and Sonakshi Kataruka, sisters-in-law and founding forces behind Tickled Pink, a labour of their love.

Tickled Pink founders Tanvi and Sonakshi Kataruka

Co-sisters

Tanvi Kataruka calls herself a Marwari girl with a Mallu heart. Hailing from Cochin, she belongs to a business family, and did her Masters in Finance and Accounts from Manchester Business School. She came back and even worked with her father for a short while, but a short stint at an ad agency convinced her that she belonged in the creative domain, leading to her doing her second master's in Social Communications Media at Sophia, Bombay. She went through a process of finding herself, first as a copywriter in Cochin, then working as an editorial intern at print magazine Platform, and later as an editor for leading online portal SoDelhi.

When she moved into the Kataruka family after tying the knot with Sonakshi's husband's brother, the two sisters-in-law got along like a house on fire over their love for gifting and surprises. Says Tanvi,

“Both of us loved doing creative things for our loved ones on their special days -- so much so that both our friends and family felt extra pressure on our birthdays to reciprocate and match our expectations.”

Sonakshi was also part of the corporate rat race before starting up. An out and out Delhi girl, her undergrad was from S.S. Bhagat Singh College (DU) and master's from FORE School of Management. After a few short corporate stints in the risk management domain, Sonakshi decided to heed her creative instincts too.

Some pleasant surprises...

While their original plan was to stick to the corporate grind for five years before branching out, they later decided not to wait for the future after all. They concocted Tickled Pink over an innocuous cup of coffee. Tickled Pink is their endeavour to create bespoke gifts and experiences for that special someone in your life who is worth more than the standard off-the-shelf gift. Says Sonakshi,

"Our unique proposition is that we provide customised gifting and experiences on an individual level.”

There are four major categories that they offer – gifts, experiences, party favours and bespoke. There are a number of templates of gifts and experiences on their website, but their bespoke section is where they sit with their clients and create a unique experience from scratch based on their thoughts and interests.

They tested the waters by doing small favours for friends and family, created a small portfolio of personalised products, and then entered the formal market.

Their first order itself served to set the tone – the brief was for 23 unique gifts. So, as an ode to the client's love for London and fairy lights, she was presented a night lamp designed in the shape of a London telephone booth, besides having a star named after her, as her dream was to go stargazing for a date night with her boyfriend. Not long after, they planned a “Valentine’s Week” for a newly engaged couple, with a Rose Photo Bouquet, a quirky proposal full of inside jokes designed by Tickled Pink, and a romantic couple’s heritage walk for the history buffs, with surprises every step of the way.

They can even make a simple drive memorable, with quirky goodies, cake, chocolates, flowers, sky lanterns and a curated playlist. Another highlight was a six-month countdown for a best friend and bride-to-be, with a surprise every month like a bridal planner, a mood box for those bridezilla moments, a Harry Potter-themed re-proposal as she was a fan of the series complete with a ring bearer in the form of a snitch, and so on.

And some unpleasant ones

“Probably the biggest roadblock we faced initially was in trying to develop vendors. As a woman, it becomes a bit more difficult to convince some people of the worth of your ideas; very few people take a couple of 27-year-old girls trying to set up their own business seriously. We were often looked upon as amateurs with a hobby rather than a concrete business plan,” Tanvi notes.

Another deterrent for them was the lack of awareness among people about the availability of a service of this nature. “Initially, it was very difficult to make people understand what we do, and they often mistook it for Trousseau packaging or corporate gifting, which is a common business idea for women working from home,” she says.

The toughest challenge for the co-sisters, however, has been to maintain the delicate balance between their professional and personal lives. “Both of us, being recently married into a joint family, have had our fair share of responsibilities and obligations, as well as adjustments to make. Luckily, our family has been quite supportive of our work and has also been a great source of ideas, guidance and inspiration. But this equation is a two-way street, and we have had to extend our limits to ensure that neither the personal nor professional facet of our lives is neglected,” says Tanvi.

Having said that, being sisters-in-law, they had the advantage of starting a fresh relationship without any baggage. “It has been one of the primary sources of bonding for us. The biggest challenge we face is to not allow our professional lives to effect our personal equation, and vice-versa,” says Sonakshi of their delicately beautiful bond.

Some of their surprises

Bouncing back

From operating out of the basement of their home and conducting their meetings in coffee shops in January 2016, they have now grown big enough to take up a small cabin as an office, and have even made hires in graphic designing and brought onboard a runner.

They recently launched their website too. Currently, their experiences are executable only in Delhi NCR, but they deliver gifts across the length and breadth of the country.

Their most popular experience is a personalised dinner date, which starts at Rs 10,000 and can go up to as much as the clients' budget dictates. Their gifts, meanwhile, start from Rs 500 and go up to Rs 5,000. They have gone from doing two orders a month to two orders a day in the course of a year, and have developed a fair social media following. They swear by their hack of extensive and targeted social media marketing, which they call a boon for all online startups! Word of mouth and referrals too have played their parts in the Tickled Pink story. They also collaborated with a few fests and targeted exhibitions in and around Delhi.

India’s Gift Market is estimated close to $30 Billion dollars.Also in the space is 2007-born ASAP, or Any Surprise Any Place, helmed by Ruchi Chopra and based in Mumbai. Meanwhile, Ticked Pink is working on expanding their production capabilities and support team. “Once we attain scale and curate a suitable portfolio, we shall look to expand these services to other major cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. Our ultimate vision is to see TP as India’s leading bespoke planner on a personal level. ” Tanvi concludes.

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