[Year in Review 2019] From actor Sumeet Vyas to Magnolia Bakery opening in Bengaluru, these were the top weekender stories this year

From entrepreneurs who create balcony gardens to interviews with actors, authors, bakers, and YouTube influencers. Here are some of our much-loved articles of the year.

Do you know that some of your favourite startup founders love to play a mean game of football, snorkel in the Pacific Ocean, and skydive in Zambia? Did you know that some of them prefer the thrill of adventure in the heart of the Amazon rainforests while others prefer a cruise down the Nile?

In short, entrepreneurs are not just the bright minds who run their successful businesses year after year, but adventurous folk who work hard and play harder week after week, trading PowerPoint for Power play, whenever they get a free moment.

This year, on YSWeekender, we captured the fun-loving spirit of our entrepreneurs and found out how they unwind, how they launched their businesses, and the ideologies that made them successful. We also featured celebrities who embraced entrepreneurship or forged a path to great fame.

With a smattering of travel, food, movies, books, and culture-rich articles in each edition of YSWeekender, there are many stories that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

As the year draws to a close, here is a list of our top stories of 2019, which have enriched and delighted our readers all year long.

Sukriti Agarwal and Kaushal Modi, Founders, Outbox

From 10 orders a month to 15 orders a day: the extraordinary rise of Outbox, the Kolkata-based surprise planners

Do people really need professional help to turn their special one’s special day, extra special? A few years ago, the concept of planning surprises or getting a professional to make special deliveries on momentous occasions for your beloved would have seemed a little over the top.

But all of this is fast becoming a thing of the past, thanks to a handful of new-age startups ready to think out-of-the-box, literally!

Fresh out of college, Sukriti Agarwal and Kaushal Modi started ‘Outbox’ with an investment of just Rs 10,000. Five years since then, the team has been witnessing a steady 25 percent YoY growth, and is even eyeing Bengaluru as its next stop.

Their startup idea was equally out-of-the-ordinary – a venture aimed at making profit out of planning surprises, gift deliveries, and larger-than-life gestures for clients on birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Father’s Day, and a whole range of other special occasions.

Thanks to their early venture in this industry, Sukriti and Kaushal are today reaping huge returns off ‘Outbox’. The story about these young surprise planners who talk about their commitment to offering quality service is truly fascinating.

Young royals launch Belgadia Palace for sustainable tourism in Odisha

If you are looking for an offbeat holiday that allows you to live like royalty in a palace surrounded by art and experience culture, here’s an article about a heritage palace in Odisha, called Belgadia.

Mrinalika and Akshita M Bhanj Deo are the second and third daughters of Praveen Chandra Bhanjdeo. He is the 47th ruler of the Bhanja dynasty, which was formed in the erstwhile princely state of Mayurbhanj, now part of Odisha.

Akshita and Mrinalika

The sisters have now opened the doors of Belgadia Palace, their home, to the public. This is not a hotel but their home that they have opened for people to come and experience the past, and discover Odisha and all its wonderful aspects, which includes its art, culture, heritage, and people.

Established in 1804, the Belgadia Palace is a Victorian double-storeyed brick structure that sits on a raised hill. It has been home to the erstwhile royal family of Mayurbhanj. Almost next to Kolkata, the palace offers easy access to temples, wildlife parks, waterfalls, and colonial heritage tours, as well as an opportunity to interact with the tribals.

There is something for everyone who visits the Belgadia Palace. So don’t miss reading all about this enthralling slice of history set in modern times.

A scene from the movie Upstarts

Meet the IITian-turned-director whose movie on startups was launched on Netflix

You have heard of Uber, but what about ‘Dawaiyon ka Uber’? Find out all about this unusual venture when you watch Upstarts, a movie made on startups by young filmmaker, Udai Singh Pawar, that launched on Netflix recently.

This IIT alumnus began his career by working for Microsoft Research in Bengaluru. But soon, he decided to follow his passion for the movies.

He assisted film director Sudhir Mishra in his films for some years, and later worked with Akshay Kumar in the film, Airlift. Eventually, he launched his first directorial venture on Netflix.

Read all about Udai’s work and his movie, which takes a closer look at the startup space and the aspirations and dreams of the people behind them.

Keshava Guha (Image Credit: Bipin Pradip Aspatwar)

Meet Keshava Guha who brings Harry Potter fans a fun new read with his debut novel, Accidental Magic

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” says Professor Dumbledore to young wizard Harry Potter.

Keshava Guha has done just that by choosing to tell the story of four different socially adrift individuals whose lives are brought together by the JK Rowling series. In his recently-launched book, Accidental Magic, Keshava writes about Kannan, Curtis, Rebecca, and Malathi, who love Harry Potter.

Set in 2001, primarily in the cities of Boston, Chennai, and Bengaluru, the novel encompasses themes such as fandom, identity, aspirations, and relationships.

Keshava was living in Boston in the US when he got the idea of creating characters from very different backgrounds who had a common interest. He decided to create a story of a world where people who would never otherwise meet would meet and whose lives would intersect in the most unique way possible.

Angud Bhalla and Komal Garg

Meet Plant People, the husband-wife duo who charmed Junior Bachchan with their ‘Breathe’ decor

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of a garden? A sprawling patch covered in lush green? Or a beautifully landscaped terrace dotted with potted plants, climbers, and hanging décor?

Mumbai-based Plant Studio is pushing beyond all these hurdles to breathe life into urban spaces with a dash of green.

A brainchild of Komal Garg and Angud Bhalla, a former TV writer and an adman, the company is what you would call a modern plant studio. They create vertical gardens, install live plants, plant paintings, and so much more.

Don’t miss reading all about their beautifully designed green spaces. Also, no space is too small for them, whether it is a corner, a window, or a shower cubicle. As they say, give them any space and they will turn it into a garden.

Ranveer Allahbadia

How this 26-yr-old serial entrepreneur went from engineering to influencing: the story of BeerBiceps

Starting with a YouTube channel documenting his personal fitness journey in 2014, Ranveer Allahbadia has gone to cover many milestones in his career. Today, he has two brands to his credit – BeerBiceps and Monk Entertainment.

One among the OG influencers in the Indian social media community, Ranveer’s journey started way back in December 2014, when he took to YouTube to document his own journey of fitness and weight loss.

What started as a personal chronicle soon struck a chord with millions of people watching him online and became what is now one of the most popular YouTube fitness channels in the country. His biggest project right now is The Ranveer Show, which is about self-improvement.

BeerBiceps, also the moniker of his YouTube channel, today boasts of more than two million subscribers. Another 625,000 users follow him on Instagram. Sounds like a breeze but ask Ranveer, and he gladly busts the myths surrounding that influencer life. 

There is much to learn and enjoy in our interview with Ranveer on the influencer economy.

'Magnolia Bakery shot to fame with one-minute footage of Carrie Bradshaw in one episode of a TV series': Zonu Reddy, Co-founder, Spago Foods, on their franchise in Bengaluru

If you love cupcakes with beautiful pastel swirls and if you enjoy creamy banana pudding or delicious cheesecakes in seasonal flavours, you can head to NYC’s iconic Magnolia Bakery, which has now opened a branch in Indiranagar, Bengaluru.

The bakery achieved pop-culture fame, thanks to TV shows like Sex and the City where Carrie Bradshaw was filmed chatting with her friend, Miranda, at their first location on Bleecker Street. Magnolia Bakery is known for its fresh bakes, and a range of products that will suit the Indian palette.

Some of the fresh bakes in Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia’s franchise for India was acquired by Zonu Reddy and Nischay Jayeshankar, who are the founders of Spago Foods. Earlier, Zonu worked in the real estate sector in Bengaluru with an extensive array of clients.

Later, she learnt digital marketing and social media, and began to develop strategic marketing solutions. Her husband Nischay Jayeshankar is a graduate in Business Administration from Bond University.

In this article, Zonu talks about her love for food and travel, and how the duo launched the Indian franchise of Magnolia Bakery, which was a hit among those who love good food and great bakes.

Vandita Purohit

On the go: From Amsterdam and Berlin to Ho Chi Minh City, this travel startup will take you on work holidays

There has been a shift in the concept of how the new generation works and travels. For many, travelling is a respite from the everyday grind, an excuse to disconnect from the continuous buzz, and a means to recharge and replenish. But not everyone can afford the luxury of disconnecting completely.

Entrepreneur Vandita Purohit spotted an opportunity immediately and decided to blend both work and travel - an idea that she describes as ‘work on the go’.

In May 2018, she launched TraWork, a travel startup, which facilitated travel and work for professionals who struggle to juggle between travel and hectic working schedules.

Since its inception, TraWork has conducted international trips for its customers, and there are many more in the pipeline.

From arranging trips to local events and giving access to co-working spaces, to bringing in opportunities to network and indulge in local cultural experiences, Vandita and her team ensure these trips are well-worth the time.

Sumeet Vyas

‘It took 14 years for people to know that I exist’: Sumeet Vyas on his struggles and why he chose web over TV

When you think of the Indian web boom, one name that immediately comes to mind is that of Sumeet Vyas. Shows like Permanent Roommates, It’s Not That Simple, Official Chukyagiri, and the most recent TVF Tripling – are piling up on the shiny resume of this poster child of Indian web series’, who is currently enjoying his time in the sun with the arrival of the much-anticipated season 2 of Tripling.

Sumeet started acting in the year 2000, at the age of 17. He was always looking for TV shows and advertisements, and it was quite a struggle till 2014.

“It took a good 14 years for people to know that I exist,” is something Sumeet loves to say.  Don’t miss reading this exclusive interview with the talented actor.

Shalini Singh

After finding love at 40, this serial woman entrepreneur is uncluttering India’s $318M matchmaking industry

It was, what they call, a case of “opposites attract” for Shalini Singh, the founder of ‘andwemet.com’, when she found love at the age of 40. On one hand, her romance was taking flight, and on the other, the seeds of a one-of-its-kind business venture were taking root.

Inspired by her personal journey of finding love by taking the most unexpected route possible, Shalini decided to build a platform to match singles from across the world who were looking for a committed relationship.

Between ideation and the beta launch (in January 2019), it took Shalini nearly five years to go live with andwemet.com. A platform focussed on signing up genuine members and stirring real conversations around practical topics such as health issues, the concerns of relocation to a city/ country, the need to support parents and so on. It’s biggest USP perhaps is the section for relationship deal-breakers questions.

Read all about Shalini’s entrepreneurship journey in this article on her venture andwemet.com, which was also one of the top stories of 2019.

(Edited by Megha Reddy)