8 Indian College Entrepreneurs Share Their Tales Of Success

8 Indian College Entrepreneurs Share Their Tales Of Success

Being your own boss is probably one of the most coveted positions one can hope for — many try, and many fail pursuing that dream. One difficult reality for many aspiring entrepreneurs is that your personal life suddenly merges with your professional, which can be a dream come true or a nightmare from the seventh circle of hell. Often, it’s an awkward combination of both sentiments.

Pretty much every one of them juggles other responsibilities whilst building their business, for some it’s another job, for others it’s parenthood, and for a select few it’s college. Yes, many students spend their time in University balancing a beer on their belly as they binge watch Game of Thrones at 2 PM instead of attending class, but there are others who are working hard to build their careers right out of the gate.

Homegrown reached out to several young Indians who have started their entrepreneurial journey while finishing their studies. The purpose of this feature is not only to expose the talent behind these go-getters, but to dissect their footsteps in an effort to better educate our audience on what it takes to be a young entrepreneur. This is an inspiring lot, to say the least, and we hope they give you the push you need to get over that hump of apprehension, and take that bet on yourselves.

I. Baddha Abhilash | Learner. Creative. Self-Critical

Abhilash’s entrepreneurial journey began in his second year of Engineering college when he started a merchandise designing and illustration brand by the name of ‘high&above’. He began to take orders from colleges in Pune - his work consisting of college fest shirts, posters and so on. These projects planted the seed for his merchandising endeavour as numerous colleges and start-ups began approaching him to design their merchandise, posters and website banners.

This traction drove his friends’ suggestion that he join online merchandising sites which would let him have an online store of his own, such as: cupick.compaintcollar.com.

If Abhilash had to breakdown the highlights his career so far, he says it would be designing merchandise for the Ajay Devgan movie ‘Shivaay’, becoming the bestselling artist of 2016 on paintcollar.com

As far as encouragement goes Abhilash made his own way with a bit of help from family and close friends who have always given him the “liberty and space” to pursue his creative urges. However, Abhilash does muse that college mates were skeptical of his prioritising between art and studies, but that was until his business took off, and he found himself often receiving encouragement after he actually needed it.

The first and obvious obstacle he faced was balancing college and work, but “discipline and commitment” persevered until the process soon became a regular part of his life. The second obstacle, he shares with Homegrown, was learning all the aspects of the creative field on his own, especially when it came to pitching ideas to investors or potential collaboration projects. “People usually have this perception that I am still to gain a lot of experience before being trusted with a project or investment. But I hope my work continues to change that preconceived notion and I can make people realise that age is just a number,” he says.

One piece of advice you’d go back and give yourself at the beginning

“I’d tell myself to be believe in myself a little more and not to depend on others to make my way and to communicate more, as good communication is the key to selling your stuff out there.”

The Future

“I’d like to see high&above turn into a label in the near future and turn it into a more self-dependent and self-growing venture. As it is in the process to become so, I’d like to learn all that I can along the way and hopefully pursue it more vigorously after graduation.”

II. Labonie Roy | Passionate. Curious. Hardworking

As much as Labonie loves her Sociology & Anthropology major, academia just wasn’t cutting it for her. At the beginning of her final semester she started a small business based off of Instagram, where she sells handmade jewellery, dreams catchers, woodcut prints, posters and the occasional commissioned portrait. “So far I’ve sold a bunch of stuff at my college, and in and outside Delhi as well through my profile (sonipat_sellout). I’ve always loved art and working with my hands, and spent a lot of time making gifts for my friends as a kid. I’m also really interested in junk art, recycling and upcycling, and try and feature that in my work as much as possible,” she muses.

Labonie’s aim has been to get her artwork out there, “and also understand the art world, in terms of trends, what people want, holding on to artistic integrity and making popular products and building a sustainable business at the same time.” It seems she’s right on track as her business is profitable and Labonie is revelling in the experience of learning whilst genuinely having a great time. In reference to her business Labonie says, “it gives me a great opportunity to constantly work on my art, come up with new designs and use all possible material I find in and around my dorm room (from rolling tobacco packets to pista shells).”

Nevertheless, she doesn’t forget to give a tip of the hat to her college friends. Thanks to their urging she finally put up a university stall and began to post her artwork online with the usual reluctance of one who may not be the most tech savvy person. “After that, honestly, the work just seemed to propel itself; whenever I have a free minute I’m sitting down at my desk and working on new pieces or new designs.” Labonie also hit the sweet spot where her work has become her largest motivation; “once I start the ideas just keep pouring in and it’s hard to stop”.

Like most of the young entrepreneurs on this list it wasn’t easy for Labonie to juggle college work and orders, resulting in quite a few all-nighters. She also had her reservations about selling online as she was always accustomed to catering her creations to specific individuals - her artwork would reflect their personal tastes. “The idea of selling online seemed weirdly alienating, because I had no idea who I would be selling to.” Nevertheless, once she overcame her initial inhibitions, she learnt the process of selling online was no longer ‘weirdly alienating’ and that communicating preferences without knowing the person was easier than she thought.

Even though Labonie finds online platforms like Instagram “strangely impersonal,” she does acknowledge and value the feeling of knowing that there are people out there who appreciate your work without even knowing who you are - this she finds rather comforting and a huge source of inspiration.

One piece of advice you’d go back and give yourself at the beginning

“I don’t think I would change the way I’ve done this, except perhaps started off earlier to gain as much experience as possible, and because I had more time in my first and second years of college.”

The Future

“I don’t think I’ll take this exact set up forward, as for me this is more focused on skill development and learning about the art world. However, I want to use the skillset I’ve developed towards working in the art and design field, specifically with craftspeople of the country to develop sustainable, practical and affordable products for a larger and more diverse market. I think the art sphere in general is very quick to categories something as art or craft, and there is a lot of elitism embedded in these judgments, and product consumption these days. I would like to work towards bridging these divides through art.”

III. Manasi Vaidya | Hardworking. Punctual. Understanding

Manasi’s journey starts with a highly-priced purse and a college project. “I had this project as a part of college called ‘Local’ where we had show what local means to us. I went to the local tailor in Bangalore and collected the leftover cloth pieces and stitched a quilt for myself. I selected prints that reminded me of the dresses my Mum wore back in Mumbai, so it was something that reminded me of my local, by the locals in Bangalore!”

This learning experience, plus an excess of old cloth, was the underlying influence for Manasi to start making purses after her mum told her the bag she wanted in an Accessorize showroom was too expensive and that she should wait for the store’s discount period. Until discount season came around Manasi began experimenting with creating her own bags, slowly building the talent that now emanates from her work. “I waited for their discount season and then bought it. I should thank them for keeping their price that high because if it wasn’t for that incident, I wouldn’t have come such a long way. Today, I make my own bags and I have quite a lot of customers considering I’m just 19. I don’t need to buy their bags anymore because I make my own,” she muses.

Yet getting her bag label FLAP together was not a walk in the park. “The evenings in Yelahanka, Bangalore were very dull for me so I wanted to start doing something. As a result I ended up finding a good tailor close by who made my designs and then I photographed them and sold them on my Instagram page,” she says.

Moreover, her parents did not encourage her bag-making at first, thinking, as most parents do, that it would distract her from her studies, even though design college stresses a diverse portfolio - of which bag-making would be a strong asset. Her last hurdle to jump was that of money. “I had to save up a lot because making bags had a lot of investment involved, such as: cloth, buckles, leather, waterproof material, stiff lining, good quality zips and stitching. I remember not going out for a good 3-4 months because every time I thought of going out I always calculated how many bags I could make in that same amount that I would spend on that dinner,” she shares with Homegrown.

One piece of advice you’d go back and give yourself at the beginning

“If I could go back in time, the one thing that I would have done was taken a partner and done this entire thing with someone. Even though I love working, having someone else help me would have saved a lot of time.”

The Future

“I will definitely continue this after my college as I love what I do and it actually feels really good when I see people carry my bags and when they come to my pop-ups and say, “Ohhhhh, this is FLAAP!” , the very fact that they recognize my brand means a lot.”

IV. Noorul Hyatt | Balmy. Artificer. Humble

Although Noorul spent his youth developing his talent as a photographer and filmmaker in Rajasthan, when he came to Bangalore, he came for business - literally. “I felt like there are less educational institutes for good networking and building business skills. I had to decide whether to pursue Fine Arts or BBM. I chose BBM as I wanted to make sure my business skills are apt and wanted to become street smart,” he says.

During his time in college he moved away from the photography business to social media content creation for brands as he felt the need for an affordable solution to fuel his entrepreneurial career path. “Most of the content creation services were offered by big media houses charging a bomb. Revenues kept growing with referrals and I had to join hands with more folks to handle the working coming in. It is profitable and we have in house assets which we can rent out.”

Two recent video projects he was recently involved in were the the filming of Gandiikota, popularly known as the ‘Grand Canyon of India’, a collaboration between Hyatt Films - Noorul’s company/brand - and Studio Barmy, as well as a collaboration with Team Duster on a video featuring Kerekaadu, an amazing camping location near Bangalore.

Noorul’s main encouragement was what he found to be a lack of social media video content and the poor quality of existing content. “I wanted to make video content more accessible and more audience engaging by producing quality content,” he shares. The beginning of his foray into creating accessible video content was met with a bit of struggle concerning the lack of confidence some brands have in young artists, however, the young filmmaker believes that the issue has almost become negligible as he now has a good brand backing on social media pages.

One piece of advice you’d go back and give yourself at the beginning

“The key is to keep moving and enjoy whatever you do. You’ll end up finding what works for you.”

The Future

“I do have plans to scale the company. Currently working on audience engagement programs and content for self. Daily videos and shows is where I am headed for this year. Yes, definitely continuing this after finishing college.”

V. Rishi Soni a.k.a rishistoni | Autodidact. Persistent. Assertive

Rishi’s grade school years were highlighted by many drawing and painting awards, however an early scholarship in Springfield High School as a sportsman was the moment he began to see his art as less of a hobby and more of a way to support himself. In Rishi’s words, his transition to sports was a character building moment for him. “I wanted to pay my own education fees and started selling artwork to earn my living as well as to occupy myself.”

With this newfound intention focused on developing his artistic talent Rishi began to create hand painted gifts for birthday presents, which helped him gain a bit recognition as an artist and the confidence to start his business at the age of 16. Once Rishi realised he wanted to pursue art as a career he has had a very calm approach to his passion, “I like doing what I got to do, there is no push. No rush. Everything around me inspires me”. Nevertheless, if Rishi had to pin down the subjects he finds most inspirational, people and identities are what stimulate his talent the best, “be it a young kid or a legend”. The art Rishi sells involves a myriad of mediums, including acrylics, oils and mixed media on canvas, fabric, wood and linen. In addition, he customises instruments, shoes, bags, walls, and recycled tires.

Rishi has always been encouraged by the idea of moving forward, a tendency linked to his love of sports. “I like to learn and implement new sorts of art. I am currently learning melting candle art. It’s fun. Whereas when it comes to sport, I’m learning to kitesurf.” For Rishi his profession as an artist is backed by his hobby of sports. For example, when he travels to kitesurf his perspective is fueled by new experiences, which in turn is expressed in his creations. Rishi refers to this symbiotic relationship and the perspective it yields as ‘‘zooming out.”

This process surely works for the young man as the only obstacles he faced were receiving too many orders for his artwork during his college semesters. Fulfilling orders sole handedly is not easy task, but Rishi powered through stating, “I made it through without it affecting my grades.”

One piece of advice you’d go back and give yourself at the beginning

“If I could go back in time and give myself a piece of advice when I started, it would be I won’t end up where I think I’ll end up. Life is not a series of goals, it is a journey. Stay on the path and move forward. When you come to a fork, go with your gut. When you come to a mountain, climb it.”

The Future

“In a matter of years, I see my company moving at a higher level. I am currently sketching one sketch a day so I complete 365 sketches this year. Showcasing it on a newly bought website www.rishistoni.com.”

VI. Sneha |Passionate. Balanced. Ambitious

During her first year at the Srishti Institute of Art Design and Technology, Bangalore Sneha experienced what she describes as an, “ardent need to create a platform through which I could showcase skills such as screen printing, dyeing and my favourite - branding and packaging”. She both wanted to execute some of the techniques she learnt in college as well as set up system that would help her transition from college graduate to fabric designer. Her first step was to design a product that her, “peers could afford and would love to use”. Given that Sneha was already designing handbags for herself she decided to take it further. “In October 2014, I began Tucksac, that today offers ethnic roll-up stationery pouches, handbags, laptop sleeves and slings.”

Rave reviews and growing orders just in the first few months of launching Tucksac encouraged Sneha to continue to invest her time and energy into her platform, in addition to a great support system of family and friends who were a constant source of motivation. It also helped that Sneha is opposed to working with plastic and leather and offered a diverse selection of designs. “A lot of people from Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore seemed to be happy about the fact that Tucksac avoids the use of plastic and leather and also has a variety of prints to choose from.”

The first obstacle Sneha faced was allotting sufficient time to complete her college projects whilst maintaining a smooth running business. The second was the struggle to have her tailor take her seriously, which according to Sneha took quite some time. She ventures her age was probably the reason he was initially a bit of a stick in the mud.

One piece of advice you’d go back and give yourself at the beginning

“I wish I knew that it is OKAY to have bad times, it’s alright to slow down a little and just breathe and there’s no point beating yourself up over it as long as you persevere. I used to get disheartened if I ran out of stock and was unable to get more stock because I was caught up with college projects. I would also get really disappointed if I didn’t get any order for weeks. But one of the major learnings along the way has been to believe in myself and my work however little it may be.”

The Future

“Tucksac is really small. I wouldn’t even call it a start-up just yet. I definitely feel that Tucksac has potential and I wish to give it more time after I graduate. I want to introduce a wider range of products and also be able to hand-dye the fabric myself - using natural dyes instead of buying chemically dyed fabric. In fact this was the initial idea. However, I decided it was better to begin with avoiding leather and plastic and creating a platform first before taking this further.”

VII. Simoul Alva |Not easily satisfied.

As Simoul explains it, her work “isn’t a business. It is more like one girl army who doesn’t like wasting any time”. Her first gig was promotional matter for the National Youth Poetry Slam in 2016. “When someone from the conference sent me images of hordes of people wearing t-shirts that were once an Ai file, I knew I had tasted blood,” says Simoul.

Design school helped Simoul become a jack of all creative trades, whether it be designing radical designs for a Sikkimese tea brand or creating creative t-shirts whilst jamming through a myriad of art series gaining her national traction. She gained a lot from her time at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and excelled throughout her time in college. Simoul took first position in the AISC National Level Art competition, where she represented Maharashtra, won the Ratan Tata Scholarship for being amongst the top ten in the first year of her time at NID, and stood first in three consecutive semesters at the National Institute of Design from 2014 to 2015. Yet even amidst all this achievement Simoul built herself into a brand. “Working independently was an outlet that helped exercise what I had learned in class on real time projects with multiple people and timelines involved.”

Much of Simoul’s encouragement exuded from her not wanting, “to wait for after graduation to start dealing with the financial side of design.” She also salutes her “ridiculously supportive family” that encouraged her to strive for independence.

The primary obstacle Simoul face was the association of age with ability, which is a shame as talent is obviously not fixed to age. “One of the most common arguments I am faced with is the comparison of scale and experience,” says Simoul. Nevertheless the young graphic designer has no time to be a debbie downer continuing, “The only way that goes away is with time and assurance of your own ability”.

Another obstacle which was a common strain we’ve seen amongst all our entrepreneurs was the balance between classroom assignments and work. “There have been days of design projects, assignments and research presentations in the morning and print ready files, invoices and conference calls in the night.” However, this experience taught Simoul how to better manage her time and prioritise her work, a trait many fail to hone.

One piece of advice you’d go back and give yourself at the beginning

“You can survive on five hours of sleep.”

The Future

“I never plan to give up working on my own as it the beauty of working as a freelancer though terribly cliched but true is that you can work from anywhere. Even though I am currently on a student exchange program at the École supérieure d’art et de design de Reims (ESAD), I have been fortunate to work with people across time differences and timelines.

I see myself working with people who have done this for longer than me and continue working independently irrespective of people I work or collaborate with.”

VIII. Simran Khosla |Persistent. Diligent. Achiever

Butt Like An Apricot is an online health and wellness consultancy which provides people with information about clean eating, nutrition, workout routines and leading a healthy lifestyle.

Simran never planned to start a side business in college. Depression was taking a toll on Simran, so she began an Instagram page that focused on fitness related content, from tips on working out to eating right to distract herself with a personal hobby. “The only reason I started with this was to keep myself busy with something that could help me get over the phase of depression.” Armed with just her camera phone she began to post “slowly and steadily”. From one post her numbers have increased to over a thousand now, with a profitable client base of two-hundred plus people to whom Simran provides nutrition consultancy. Now Butt Like An Apricot is funding Simran’s studies as well as her travel. With firm and trademark registrations already applied for and her website in the works, all on the horizon seems to be going in Simran’s way.

However, her journey wasn’t always on the up and up. Simran says none of those around her had faith in her fitness blog, but in her heart of hearts she knew she was offering a service many were in need of. Her two main struggles were exposing people above the youth demographic to fitness techniques as well as showing peers that working on your fitness is an alternative to boozing your way through university. “Of course, many people of my age are into alcohol, smoking and drugs. And I don’t consume any of it,” she continues, “I had to come out and had to tell the world that people needn’t necessarily get involved in such stuff to be socially acceptable. I have got 4000+ followers for following this lifestyle and I am very much socially acceptable.”

One piece of advice you’d go back and give yourself at the beginning


The Future

“I really want to bring fitness and nutritions to all areas of the society. I want to go to corporates and make sure each corporate has a gym, a healthy eating point and regular checkups to take care of the health.Cause many a times my clients tell me that they aren’t able to workout or follow a certain diet because of the long working hours. I also would want to spread this awareness in schools so that children from the very beginning know about the importance of nutritions. Also, I would want to take it internationally and start a charitable fund to feed the poor with good nutritious food.”

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