From launching robots to clean solar panels to manufacturing audio devices — top SMBStories of the week
This week, SMBStory covered stories of entrepreneurs who rose to great heights, despite many challenges, and some are determined to survive coronavirus.
Dreaming big is an essential quality required to attain success in life. Coupled with grit and determination and a never-say-die attitude, dreams do translate into reality. Here are stories of some entrepreneurs who made it big despite coming from small beginnings.
Even in times of the coronavirus pandemic which has brought the country and the world to a standstill and crippled the economy, there are businessmen who aim to bounce back in Lockdown 4.0 and raise the declining graph in their businesses.
Here are some stories.
Two engineers, Manish Das and Neeraj Kumar, saw a major gap in the solar industry where a lot of water was getting wasted while cleaning the solar panels.
Neeraj says, “To clean a single solar panel, two litres of water is required. And to clean a one-megawatt plant, 13,000 litres of water is needed.” In fact, the solar panels are cleaned with clean drinking water as normal groundwater can damage the panels by degrading their efficiency.
To solve this, Neeraj developed a robot for cleaning solar panels as a project in his final year at IIT-Jodhpur. Soon after, he met his co-founder Manish, who has four years of experience in working for cleantech companies.
In 2017, Manish and Neeraj started their operations, and in 2018, the duo launched Skilancer Solar Pvt. Ltd. – a company that manufactures robots to clean solar panels. IIM-Lucknow played a major role in incubating the company in the beginning.
Skilancer Solar Pvt. Ltd.’s artificial intelligence-backed robots are safe and reliable, have energy independent operations, and are water-free since the brushes attached below their surface, are used for cleaning.
Ameen Khwaja is one entrepreneur who didn’t shy away from creating a brand from scratch.
Hailing from a decades-old, well-established family business, Ameen is an electrical engineer by profession, who made the best of all opportunities that came his way. In an interaction with SMBStory, he says,
“I completed my graduation from the University of East London and while I was studying there, I freelanced for around 70 bread and breakfast hotels near Buckingham Palace to develop their websites.”
In 2005, Ameen returned to India and in 2015 he built his own ecommerce website latestone.com to sell smartphone accessories.
Initially, Ameen imported products from China and sold on his ecommerce portal. However, soon he saw a huge gap in the smartphone mobile accessories market in India.
Challenges, tough competition, and struggle didn’t hamper Ameen’s vision nor did the unprecedented times of COVID-19.
With the coronavirus pandemic hitting businesses hard, pTron’s sale went to zero for two months. Ameen decided to switch partial manufacturing to India in a move to become self-sustainable. He says,
“We decided to manufacture our fastest selling wireless headsets in India. Though the custom cost has increased from 12 to 15 percent, this is high time to become self-dependent.”
Brought up in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, Suraj Vazirani fell in love with ecommerce at the right time. Just as ecommerce was gaining momentum in India, Suraj, who was working with online marketplaces and ecommerce portals for branded consumer electronics, was learning the ins and outs of the business.
Then 2014 came and brought with it a radical transformation in the way business was done in India, thanks to ecommerce.
The giant strides the industry took and the transformation that happened during that period cemented Suraj’s belief that the future of ecommerce (and money) lay in private labels.
“I launched my own small business and private label – The Beauty Co, in 2018, in Ahmedabad,” Suraj says.
The Beauty Co. started by launching Charcoal Teeth Whitening Powder and Coffee Scrubs on Amazon.
Soon after, the company launched a complete range of skin and hair care products. In its first year, the business earned Rs 2.46 crore in revenue, and last year, it made over Rs 7 crore, claims Suraj.
Other top picks of the week
After becoming a Chartered Accountant (CA), HP Singh began auditing accounts for several clients. What he found in their books gave him a business idea that changed his life forever.
The Delhi-based CA, while auditing the accounts of his enterprise client Shriram Honda, saw there were no channels for financing the purchase of generator sets for the company.
It was the same for other small enterprises and micro-entrepreneurs trying to buy an expensive item. EMIs also worked out to be expensive for these low-income companies and entrepreneurs.
Singh found a solution to the problem by observing the behaviour of regular consumers buying television sets.
“I saw individuals and households purchasing television sets on a ‘rent-to-own’ model. This allowed the buyers to pay a daily rental amount for a period before eventually taking ownership of the item,” he tells SMBStory in an exclusive interview.
It struck him that small enterprises and micro-entrepreneurs could benefit from this model. If he could restructure loan repayments as a daily expense rather than monthly instalments, it would become easier for low-income entrepreneurs to repay the loans.
This simple idea inspired the CA to start Satin Creditcare Network Limited (SCNL) in New Delhi in 1990. Through the bootstrapped company, Singh set out to cater to a large number of underserved sections of society with the hope that the loans provided would create increased income potential, sustained and predictable cash flow, and ensure the wellbeing of the borrowers.
SCNL says it recorded Rs 1,448 crore turnover in 2018-2019 and had Assets Under Management (AUM) worth Rs 7,284 crore in Q3 FY20.
Many believe that gems and gemstones have healing properties. Many cultures attribute gems to specific energies, and in astrology, each planet is associated with a different stone.
According to gemsociety, “Some use gemstones as part of their spiritual practices to restore energy fields, gain peace, and promote love and safety. In some belief systems, gemstones are placed on certain areas of the body, called ‘chakras’, to promote healing.”
Foreseeing India to be one of the biggest markets in the years to come, Pankaj Khanna (56) set his foot in the gems and gemstone industry in 1987 as a sole proprietor, founding the company Gem Selections.
In an interaction with SMBStory, the second-generation entrepreneur, Aaradhya Khanna, son of Pankaj Khanna, says,
“When the business was set up, my father used to buy raw gemstones from the mines through a middleman, get lapidary work done (cutting and polishing) to supply to various jewellers across the Indian subcontinent.”
Along with his wife Anu Khanna, Pankaj set up a wholesale and retail outlet for gemstones in Janakpuri, New Delhi in 1997, and since then, there has been no looking back.
Rahul Bajaj took over his family business in 2010 after finishing his MBA from Amity University. By then, Shree Shakti Enterprises — a bulk trader of steel utensils started by his grandfather in 1956 — was over half a century old.
In 1997, Rahul’s father established the company’s first manufacturing unit in Delhi, and launched their brand PNB Kitchenmate. By the turn of the millennium, Shree Shakti became a manufacturer and seller of essential kitchenware.
Between 2010 and 2019, Rahul opened three new manufacturing units, expanded the company’s workforce to 500, and increased its turnover from Rs 10 crore to Rs 140 crore, growing at an average of 40 percent year on year. “Our business was slow until 2013-14, but then we picked up,” Rahul reveals.
PNB Kitchenmate diversified its portfolio to nearly 3,000 products. They retailed across offline and online channels, including Walmart India Best Price stores, Amazon India, Flipkart, etc. and went on to become a household name.
In 2019, Shree Shakti joined Walmart’s Supplier Development Programme - Vriddhi - in India. Walmart Vriddhi is the US retail giant’s commitment to train, support and prepare 50,000 MSMEs to ‘Make in India’ for global supply chains.
Immunity is going to be the buzzword in the post-COVID-19 era, and it will provide a huge boost to the Ayurveda industry which, as Chintan Gandhi calls it, is a sunrise sector in the country.
Chintan is the Director and CEO of Millennium Herbal Care Limited, and a third-generation entrepreneur. His family has been in the pharmaceutical business since the 1950s. His grandfather, Ishwarlal P Gandhi, founded Lyka Labs Group, which was later taken over by his father, HI Gandhi and his brothers. Chintan entered the API manufacturing domain in 1996.
Chintan shares that between 1998 and 1999, his father realised that the pharma industry did not resonate with him, and wanted to explore the Ayurveda industry, often called the ‘kitchen science’ of India.
With resources collected from merging the group with Sun Pharma, Chintan and his father started Millennium Herbal Care Limited in 2001 in Mumbai.
The company offers products and solutions using plant-based therapies or formulations, including dietary supplements, and skin and hair care products, and others. The company has a range of over 70 products in nine categories.
(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)
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