Hobby to profit: how these 5 entrepreneurs turned their passion into a business
The internet is full of business ideas that can turn you into an entrepreneur. However, as cliched as it sounds, sometimes all it takes is recognising what you love doing. More and more people are blending hobby and work together, and turning their passion projects into hugely successful businesses.
We bring you five entrepreneurs who will tell you that any hobby has the potential to become a profitable venture. Use their success stories as inspiration, and find out how to blend your passion with business to succeed.
Husband-wife, and books: Qwerty Thoughts
This is a story of husband and wife who turned their passion for book into a business. Launched early this year, Qwerty Thoughts, founded by Jasleen Khurana and Prateek Gupta is a multilingual social book reading, discovery, and self-publishing online platform, where readers can discuss books while reading them with people having similar reading interests.
At Qwerty Thoughts, every book works like a reading room, where readers can read a book with others as well as connect, discuss, and share their experiences in real-time, on every paragraph of the book.
The idea was conceived four years back when Jasleen started offline groups in Delhi-NCR related to storytelling, book readings, creative writing, and discussions. While doing this, she realised that geography was a challenge and only Delhi-NCR based reading enthusiasts could participate in these meetups.
Being a problem solver, Jasleen decided to bring the community online and roped in husband Prateek Gupta as Co-founder and CTO to start Qwerty Thoughts early this year.
Officially launched in early 2019, Qwerty Thoughts Media Pvt. Ltd onboarded its offline community online and attracted 1,000 registered authors from the US, UK, Germany and India. The startup is catering to a potential 500 million vernacular language internet users in India, and book lovers across the globe.
Qwerty Thoughts is currently bootstrapped with the savings of the couple. The duo has so far invested Rs 8 lakh till date for R&D, technology, product development, content, events, and legal requirements.
In terms of revenue, the startup earns when readers pay for the book, and also from authors who use promotional tools and services provided by Qwerty Thoughts, a major source of revenue for the company. The startup has already clocked about Rs 50,000 in revenue in the past couple of months and the co-founders expect profitability by the end of next year.
Qwerty Thoughts has surpassed 6,000 registered users and has more than 1,500 books available for reading uploaded across categories such as romance, thriller, fiction, non-fiction among others by more than 1,000 registered authors and an overall traffic of around 40,000 per month. They are expecting to cross the one million registered users mark by the end of 2020.
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Two to tango: TrackMyPhones
Bengaluru-based twins Srihari and Shrinidhi Karanth, both computer engineers, have a passion for website and app development.
Even as they worked in different companies, the brothers dabbled in app development in their downtime. The twins were particularly curious about how one's smartphone can be used to ensure the user's safety.
This idea gave birth to their startup, TrackMyPhones.
It had started as a hobby in 2014, when the brothers developed an app called Thief Tracker, which takes a picture from the front camera of a smartphone and mails it to the user when someone tries to unlock the device and fails multiple times.
Soon they noticed that the app had garnered attention globally, seeing 15,000-20,000 installs every day. The success of Thief Tracker spurred the brothers to start up with TrackMyPhones in 2016.
They then launched a new version of the Thief Tracker app, calling it 'Track My Phone', which can track the location of a phone using the website, and send remote commands such as blowing a siren, taking pictures and videos, making a call, enabling or disabling the GPS, data connection, Wi-Fi, etc.
Besides this, the company has about 20 apps focused on anti-theft, remote monitoring, parental control, and women’s safety.
The founders started the business out of their passion for building apps and websites, and did not require any external funding or a large team. Even now, only the twins run the show with the monthly operations cost with not more than Rs 35,000.
The company is profitable and earns revenue from ads in the apps, and all the apps are free for users. Until December, the twins were running TrackMyPhones, and holding on to their respective jobs. Now, however, they devote all their time on developing new apps and on business development.
Speaking to YourStory, Srihari said that they will continue to make innovative apps for end-users, and will also look to move to the B2B space to get a stable revenue.
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Coffee and friends: BiziBean
If you love your cup of coffee, you may be ready to become a coffee entrepreneur similar to founders of Delhi-based Bizibean.
Started in 2014 by coffee fanatics Aharnish, Raj Singh, and Manideep Chhokra, BiziBean is essentially a chain of coffee joints where one can drink coffee brewed from locally sourced coffee beans, roasted and blended in small batches. And if you like the coffee, you can buy BiziBean roasts and take them home as well.
It all started in 2004, when Manideep and Aharnish left their corporate jobs to follow their passion for coffee and started a B2B business in the R&G (roast and ground) coffee segment.
After 10 years, both decided to foray into the retail segment as they felt a gap in the market for a speciality coffee café where customers can have access to freshly roasted coffee, a variety of blends, roasts and origins, and make a choice after sampling the coffee, all at an affordable price.
This led to BiziBean in 2014 along with another friend and a coffee connoisseur Raj, with an initial investment of Rs 5 lakh.
The chain has received angel funding of nearly Rs 2 crore till date, and with this, the company has enjoyed a consistent growth rate of more than 100 percent year on year, right since inception. Starting from a single outlet, one city, and five employees to more than 50 touchpoints in 13 cities and 200-plus staff strength in a short span of five years.
In the last five years, BiziBean has expanded to 11 outlets in Delhi NCR, and three stores, 37 concession stands across India PVR Cinemas, Spencer Retail, and Modern Bazar across 13 cities in India. Apart from the physical stores, the company also sells coffee via its website. The brand has approximately served over one million cups of coffee in the last financial year.
BiziBean is now planning to double its outlet count to 80 by March 2020 and 150 by March 2021. It is also now seeking external funding in the current financial year to support its growth plans.
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Finally Goa: Make It Happen
Travel is sure a very common hobby, but how many turn that into business success? Meet 34-year-old Maria Victor who decided to highlight the rich history and culture of a popular beach and party destination Goa.
Maria started Make It Happen in 2014 while she was based out of Bengaluru. She later moved back to Goa. It is an experiential travel company specialising in curating heritage trails and cultural experiences conducted by presenters who are acutely aware of the essence of real Goa, being locals.
A management accountant by profession, Maria moved out of Goa and to Bengaluru after her graduation in 2005. Then, she went to work in Mumbai and Dubai. When she returned to Bengaluru in 2014, she decided to start up full time.
During her corporate career, Maria started going on treks and short weekend getaways around India, which got her connected to various communities and cultures, and within a year, she knew this is where she belongs.
She started Make It Happen as a travel club out of Bengaluru in 2011 to connect like-minded travellers and curate thematic tours across India such as an immersive trip to the Nilgiris.
But in 2014, she dived into it full time and, a year later, started her Goa project. Since then, her focus has solely been on Goa and on offering great experiences to tourists.
The experiences cost between Rs 700 and Rs 3,500 per person, and typically last for a duration of two to six hours. The tours are presented by locals passionate about sharing their culture, giving way for a raw and real experience of the community. The company has crossed 5,000 bookings so far and is a successful business.
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Books and best friends: Vowelor
Book clubs have existed ever since man could get his hands on literature. Be it a circle of intellectuals in Kolkata discussing Neitzsche, or bunch of college students poring over Marian Keyes novels, book clubs celebrate everything that is great with reading.
But book clubs too have evolved with the times, and what was once only possible in the physical world, is now seeing success in the virtual space too.
Bringing bibliophiles together in a virtual book community is Delhi-based Vowelor. Founded by best friends and book lovers Manik Ghawri (27), and Lalit Sharma (26), the startup lets readers connect and discuss books and authors with each other.
Vowelor also provides a platform for budding authors to showcase and market their publications. The founders’ love for reading and forming a community around the hobby pushed Manik and Lalit to start Vowelor as a Facebook page, and a Facebook community in 2016.
A year later, the two platforms combined had more than 80,000 members from across the world. Overwhelmed by with the numbers, the two of them quit their jobs and founded Vowelor Books & Media in 2017. Currently available as a website and an Android application, Vowelor has more than 5,000 downloads. It plans to launch an iOS application soon.
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(Edited by Dipti Nair)