Amala Sengupta's idea to set up a construction and interior design company stems from the entrepreneur’s dream to work for herself, a thought that was planted in her mind when she was just 10 years old.
Stories have a profound impact on us. For many of us, growing up hearing the stories of garage offices turning into billion-dollar enterprises has helped create a whole generation of entrepreneurs. Stories of courage and gumption that speak of employing the mind as much as the heart have inspired many to go on their own journey of discovery and fulfillment.
For Amala Sengupta, founder of a construction and interior design company in Bengaluru, one such story sparked the interest in pursuing her dreams.
“In Class V, my teacher narrated a story to me about a how poor man who started with just selling water on streets went on to become a successful woodshop owner,” she recalls.
She says her dream to become an entrepreneur began that day.
After completing plus two, Amala studied architecture and worked for many architecture firms in Bengaluru as a project architect, coordinator and design manager for various architects and builders. She has a total of 13 years of experience in building construction and interior design.
After putting in several years in the field and accruing sound knowledge and experience, Amala thought it was time to give wings to her childhood dream of becoming her own boss. In 2014, she started her own construction and interior design consultancy firm Acanthus Design and Constructions, with an investment of Rs one lakh.
Amala’s firm specialises in residential construction projects, and interior designing for hotels, offices and homes. Her company now clocks a turnover of Rs 50 lakh-1 crore in a year and employs 10 people directly and around 50 on a contractual basis.
Owing to the fact that the business is asset-light and not capital-intensive, Amala was able to start up right from her home.
With everything in place, Amala started providing consultancy services to some some big architecture firms. She recalls how her first pay cheque was for a mere Rs 500.
As a newcomer, Amala had to work doubly hard to gain the trust of people in order to bag projects. “I overcame those challenges by educating people about the quality of material I planned to use, and also provided my prospective clients a detailed timeline, phase by phase, for completing the project,” she says.
Amala markets her firm’s services via digital platforms. She says,
“I display my completed projects on Facebook. I also place advertisements in local newspapers.”
Amala now plans to develop a dedicated website for her company. This would help her display her growing portfolio of projects undertaken as well as help her score clients from all across the country.She also displays her work in various exhibitions. She says, “I put my model products like a kitchen, bathroom or an office’s prototype at display. People look at our model products, and, if convinced, give orders.”
A challenge people like Amala face is the bank policies on loans. Banks are more inclined to granting loans for conventional businesses, and do not cater to consultancy businesses like hers. But since her business is not capital-intensive, she was able to make do without bank loans initially. “My business does not require loans for heavy machinery to make a start. It can start with just a paper and a pen,” she says.
However, access to funds is important if one wants to expand the business. “I need money for establishing an office where my entire team can sit and work together,” adds Amala'.
She says she is not looking for loan from the government. "I request the government to create knowledge centres where entrepreneurs get guided about licences and information," she adds.
To all the aspiring entrepreneurs out there, Amala has a word of advice.
“It is important to accept that the path towards entrepreneurship is full of twists and turns. But making a start is the most vital part. Once you hit the path and decide to stay for a while, that scary convoluted path starts untangling on its own,” she says.
Amala has big plans for her business. She wants to take her firm to a global level and become a one-stop solution for construction and interior designing for all kinds of residential and commercial spaces.
Her other interests include animal welfare. Being an avid animal lover, Amala is saddened by the inadequate veterinary medical services in India. She says, “I lost my beloved dog to a preventable disease. I feel India is in dire need of upgrading its medical services for animals.” She one day hopes to develop a multi-speciality hospital for animals and is working towards achieving them dream as well.
As far as giving wings to her many dreams, there is no stopping Amala.
(This story is published in partnership with the MSME Ministry to showcase success stories of SMEs)