“I have always dreamt about making products which would change or help people for good."
I am Gaurav Chordia, a 26 year old entrepreneur. I love working with nature, environment and innovative concepts have always attracted me. I love farming and nature photography. I truly believe that Nature is the best inspiration and I am always amazed at how everything is so well connected to each other. I studied Product Designing from MIT Institute of Design (Pune), after pursuing Science as a Major till 12th Grade. At MIT ID, We were always taught to sharpen our skills and technical knowledge along with aesthetic and ergonomic knowledge. The college projects and hand work done in the early years of design studies helped me a lot personally in developing my products and getting new concepts in virtual forms. Studying Design has helped me understand my users and what they expect, which gives you a direction and helps you move forward following the design process which was the core of every project at MIT ID.
How did it all start?
During my time at MITID itself I started working on different concepts which I thought were innovative and would help the society. I think all of us have had this thought at least once.
“I have always dreamed about making products which would change or help people for good.”
One of such problem area was a farm where watering the plant was the biggest hurdle which resulted in only 15% survival rate of the planted plants.This problem pushed me to do my design thinking. As usual the biggest constraint from the client side was having an economical solution.
“Working with constraints actually makes you think harder so I always thank the constraints.”
With lot of thinking and doing, I came up with a raw prototype made from scrap. I tested this prototype and it resulted in 90% of undamaged crop. Being a designer, taking the solution to an aesthetically pleasing product was my next step. Having improvised enough, I decided to look at the product as my 1st business opportunity.
“I decided to set-up a business around my product instead of the usual way of getting a job first for experience and stability. At the time I wanted to see how it feels to take your own idea to the next level instead of working for another designer. I was unsure if it was the right step then but now I can say for sure that there is no bigger teacher than experience itself.”
My prototype went through various makeovers and with a lot of research my first market ready product was a self-watering pot, the „Water Smart Pot‟ in which the user had to only water their plants very rarely. The whole idea was to get better yield with lower maintenance. As and when I received feedback from the users, I would work on it make the required changes. Designing the product was comparatively easy but designing the business model was a task in itself. Various challenges and obstacles taught me lessons I'll remember in all my endeavors.
Some of them are:
1. Give the best service possible as a product cannot be perfect but good service can make it perfect.
2. Never get scared of problems, they will always be round the corner just be calm and be ready to face them.
3. Don’t be lazy and wait for an opportunity keep moving and try to find and create one.
4. Be honest to yourself and the customers.
5. Always keep your word, ethics and integrity.
While this was a good start, expanding was necessary. Similar problem solving for home use initiated the thought for my next venture. Moving forward, one step at a time.
My father Dr. Pravin Chordia is a surgeon and he had started working on alternate natural remedies for curing degenerative diseases. I have always been inclined towards health, nature and environmental issues so as I progressed we came across a device which was a Water Ionizer.It was only used for fighting cancer and was quite expensive for any person to afford. So I made a prototype of he water ionizer and supplied ionized alkaline water to some patients who were suffering from severe Hyper Acidity, Migraine, Psoriasis, Cancer, Etc. and the results were amazing. It was unbelievable to see people recover and heal so easily only by changing the water they drank.
“People started wishing me good faith. This motivated me to take the prototype to a market ready product to reach out to a bigger audience.”
People had difficulty coming down every day to collect the water treated by the prototype so they requested me to design a homemade water ionizer which I had made for our own use by assembling some parts. This was the beginning of me actually designing and creating a product for the customers who requested for the water ionizer. While studying Product Designing we got good knowledge about materials, and processes. This helped me select the right materials, process, and even the engineering of the product. The initial product was like a basic one where people bought it purely for the output of the product. Eventually I designed a product that could be taken to the market and built a brand ALKWA which is derived from Alkaline Water. Having generated some income in one year‟s time, I decided to tweak the aesthetics of the product.
“I remember those days now and smile as day and night I kept thinking about improving the product. It’s funny but almost all solutions to my major problems have come to me in my dreams as when you think about in throughout the day you keep thinking about it at night.”
I have woken up at night and quickly noted down the answers to some problems. Finally after some trials I came up with a design which suited most of the requirements I was looking for. After a lot of work and lots of agencies working simultaneously we were able to finish the final product which is Alkwa 1.0. During this time I had a small team in place. I had a servicing and installation person, one person to assemble the product and a small space to do all these things as earlier I had to work from home as it was expensive to hire a place.
“Earlier when I started I was doing everything from purchasing, assembling, cleaning, drilling, repairing, doing trials now and then, trying new materials to suit the product, managing finance and also doing all laborious jobs as I had to go through all the process to thoroughly know it and get work done.”
After all the efforts and hard work we had a very good year. After a good response pan India we continuously kept improvising based on the user feedback. The tough part comes when you don't have constant dream run. There were moments when things did not go according to expectations. At such moments, I gathered myself and got back to problem solving, working on building a network so it would be more sustainable, progressive and more importantly it would mean direct contact with every customer.
“The tough part comes when you don’t have the dream run continuously. It’s hard to sustain and cope up as you have to step up to every problem professionally and solve it. It gets tricky to keep the team motivated, maintain the staff, cutting down overheads and most importantly keep yourself motivated to keep doing the things which you believed in and got to where you are today. Most of the Startups die during this low phase.”
I gathered myself every time I thought of quitting and kept myself motivated towards the good health the people have and can have if I continue. Slowly and steadily I built a good base of users through online and offline channels. The Team also grew slowly and learning from the past mistakes I added a member to the team only when the business really needed one and could sustain its overheads.
“I think the most important aspect of setting up a business is the passion behind reaching out to people with your concept and keep on improving. The role of the entrepreneur in all of this is to keep himself and his team motivated and to manage all aspects related to the business.”
My latest work!
I have been closely watching patients suffering from Cancer, Infertility, Diabetes, High BP, etc. The pain they and their loved ones go through can‟t be understood by just anyone. In order to reach out to as many as possible, I designed a compact and economic Portable Water Ionizer 'Alkwa Mini'which has been made keeping in mind people who need this product but can‟t afford an Ionizer. With lot of research and development, this latest product has a selling price of just INR 5999.
“I still keep learning new things every day about running a startup as efficiently as possible and have only one mantra which is to taking small and steady steps and calculated risk. I started with zero money and with every product I sold; I could make 3 more out of those.”
I have seen people having brilliant ideas; amazing products or even great service skills who have failed as entrepreneurs because they begin with an exit strategy of earning millions over a short period of effort. Its different in reality. You need to keep pushing and working hard to even get and maintain your customers. The real happiness I feel at the end of the day is that I have survived through all this and am still standing strong and going ahead with my initial aim of "spreading health and happiness which in itself is a big satisfaction for me.
"People leave the product idea mid-way because they did not get the results they expected. I say if you truly believe in yourself and in your concept you can overcome any hurdle and achieve your dream. To see someone use your product and thanking you for making it is the most satisfying feeling in the world.”
I only hope that I have contributed fairly for the people and I have actually motivated or inspired others to choose the entrepreneurship path after reading through my journey.