This 23-year-old did not let anyone, even her family, stop her from following her dreams and become an entrepreneur
Surbhi Gupta hails from a small town Alwar where entrepreneurship was not an option for young women like her. After two attempts at CAT, she decided to follow her dreams and start Kalakar Gift Studio rather than chase a ‘safer’ option of a job.
In small towns, entrepreneurship is still not seen as a viable or ‘safe’ option for many, especially for parents of children who express a desire in starting up. Surbhi Gupta who hails from Alwar, Rajasthan was also caught in this web. Her parents didn’t think her passion for design and entrepreneurship was her calling because it wouldn’t “suit a girl”.
From a young age, Surbhi would upcycle things and was creative and crafty. She wanted to pursue design and creativity. However, for her parents, design symbolised a ‘tainted fashion industry’ and she was discouraged to follow her passion.
She focused her attention on studies, did well in grade XII and got into Delhi University to study commerce. Her parents wanted her to get into teaching, look for a government job or pursue an MBA. She began preparing for CAT (Common Admission Test). No matter how hard she tried, she wasn’t able to crack the exam on two occasions.
Her failure led to her parents doubting her capabilities and taunting her about learning household work to get married.
“They started to doubt me, which pushed me into a depressed state. It was a period where no one understood my capabilities or what I really wanted to do. They always kept pointing out that this person’s son is a doctor or an engineer. They did not understand I'm a different person with my talents,” Surbhi tells HerStory.
To lift herself out of this state, Surbhi began to craft and build gift boxes and hampers. She renewed her love of presentation and posted her work on her Instagram page. Soon enough, people were asking her for prices and Surbhi didn’t mind turning it into a business.
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More than materialistic worth
Surbhi, 23, got orders through her circle of friends, slowly expanded her client list and Kalakar Gift Studio was born. A self-run business, Surbhi’s venture helps people present the perfect gift to their loved ones. Her gift boxes and hampers are created based on the likes of the person or a theme like ‘party in a box’ that houses all party supplies. The price of each gift box depends on the demands of the client. The highest she has received for one gift box is Rs 4000.
“My most popular gift hamper is the snack bouquet, which is an edible gift. If a person likes a particular chips brand, it will be filled with that. This way the gifts have a meaning to those who receive it,” says Surbhi.
Using creative ideas and supplies like Gota fabric, paints, and calligraphy, Surbhi has handcrafted around 200 gifts since starting up in 2018. She even held a pop-up store in Alwar last year, at a popular coffee shop for a week preceding Valentine’s Day.
She was worried that the owner would ask for money but seeing her work independently working towards her dream, he happily offered her the space for free. In just a week, Surbhi was able to sell all 50 Valentine’s theme gift boxes that she had made.
After successful deliveries in Alwar and nearby areas, Surbhi was more confident of her venture and decided to turn scale it to the next level. Though her parents are resistant to her choices, they are accepting of her joining Srishti Institute of Arts and Design’s Impact Entrepreneurship course. Keen to move out of small town Alwar and the judgemental attitudes of people, she applied for the course and was accepted. In 2019, she moved to Bengaluru and the course is helping her make her grow her venture further.
Surbhi is working on creating gifts that combine “materialistic pleasure and have emotional value”.
Taking cues from her experience with depression, finding self-love and following her passion, she is building new themed gift boxes. These will have encouraging messages to motivate people to overcome dark phases in life, accept themselves and not give up on their dreams.
"I just want to inspire people to listen to themselves and not get influenced by others,” says Surbhi.
An introvert who escapes people and conversations, she says she is sometimes awe-struck by her own strength and confidence.
She says, “My family resisted at every stage, but I don't know where I got thestrength and confidence from but I just fought for myself and came to Bengaluru. Because this is for myself, I can't spoil my life and I don't want others to spoil it too.”
Surbhi began the venture from her personal savings of Rs 4,000, collected over years, and received as gifts from her grandfather on birthdays and festivals. She claims to have made Rs 1.2 lakh from sales, a major chunk of which she has reinvested in the business.
In Alwar, she employed her grandfather’s house help to help her with deliveries. She hopes to employ more women and help them gain financial independence.
Since shifting to Bengaluru, she has lost her local clients in Alwar, but is receiving orders through Instagram. Surbhi is also using social media to market and publicise her work and learning tricks of the trade through the course at Srishti.
She hopes to be able to open a gift outlet that will serve as an experience for people rather than just a physical store.
“The focus is on more than selling and making revenue, it is to inspire people and add beautiful experiences to people's lives,” says Surbhi.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)
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