Years after the announcement of the popular 'Make In India' campaign by the government of India, what could change the scenario of the small business industry was none other than the Coronavirus pandemic that hit the country in 2020, leading to a flood of businesses by youngsters that contributed to the surging wave of entrepreneurship.
The roots of the Banaras-based enterprise RESA, led by a young entrepreneur Vindhya Tandon, date back to 1886 in the region of Lahore, when her ancestors laid the foundation of Ushnakmals' that would primarily deal with the raw materials used in the making of sarees. With time, flourished the family business and they managed to gather clientele like Manish Malhotra in the present time. On the other hand, Tandon was inclined towards styling and was working under various celebrity stylists. The business bug hit her in March 2020, during the first lockdown, making her a part of this surging wave of entrepreneurship in India.
Although neither India nor has its people ever been behind in opening their ventures since the ancient era, the last few years have been phenomenal with the increasing number of young entrepreneurs. Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic and the followed lockdown turned out to be the contributors as they left people with plenty of time on hand amid the scary job markets hounding layoffs.
When Tandon returned to her hometown Varanasi in the lockdown — as her ancestors had shifted to the city during the partition — she, for the first time, happened to explore the world of artisans working for her family business. Tandon noticed the artistry that goes into making one saree. Her father told her about the operations of their business and the karigars. All of which tempted Tandon to initiate her own business at 23. It gave birth to RESA as a separate yet an arm of the heritage enterprise, not just dealing with raw materials for clothes but also the finished apparel.
Considering 'showrooms' to be an "old concept," Tandon's business is flourishing only on social media, through which she showcases handwoven sarees of Banarasi designs. She once had noticed a saree going into the making for six months, and even now, she is not just amazed by the fact but intends to save the culture and livelihood of Banarasi weavers and artisans. "It would not have been possible for me to work for my enterprise without the correct knowledge that I possessed from my family," Tandon says.
Like Vindhya Tandon, even Vikramaditya Bairathi got an edge over the market by borrowing the necessary knowledge from his family businesses. According to Bairathi, 'SGS Jewellers & Sons and 'Silver Seal', have established a benchmark in quality gold, diamond, and silver jewellery in Jaipur. The Avior Jewels, founded by Bairathi, carries forward a legacy of over 60 years and stems from the 7th generation of the old business.
However, with the new branch of the old business, Bairathi has tried to capture the fashion nerves of Gen Z with minimalist silver jewellery. He says Gen Z is tired of boring old silver jewellery and recognizing this lacuna of fine modern-day silver jewellery, the idea of Avior was conceived. "Due to our family business in jewellery, I developed the prior experience that worked as a guiding light. It helped me understand the customers' mindset and their requirements about the jewellery market," he says.
While opening a business was always the plan for Bairathi, he had not planned it right after his studies. He wanted to work in the corporate market before beginning the entrepreneurial journey. "The pandemic was one of the major factors that led to me launching Avior. Due to the pandemic, I started with Avior while pursuing my master's degree at University College, London. With the sudden panic and hiring freeze in the job market, I came back to India, and that's how I decided to start my venture," he adds.
Although, as a startup owner, he says he has lived the time where he would solely handle finances, dispatch products, and coordinate with vendors, as it all comes down to one person. Moreover, starting amidst the pandemic in September 2020 invited all other challenges. "The nationwide lockdown and the second wave impacted the business. From the orders getting delayed to the team keeping unwell, I faced various problems," he says, adding that a strong presence on social media platforms helped him reach greater heights, and all of it added to his learning experiences.
Understanding the demand and hitting it right
The most common observation that can be highlighted is how the pandemic, if not anything, made people conscious of their health and environment, thus, opening up ample opportunities for people. And, it would not be wrong to mention that the youth of the country modified their business segments accordingly. Dhwani Mehta, though, was always interested in starting her business and even did various internships to understand the dynamics of running a business. Still, she was waiting for the right time to work on her venture. As it turned out, the pandemic helped her understand she could take the plunge during that time.
With the realization, Mehta also noticed how people were dependent on online deliveries of items and yet could not help but take the harmful packaging materials that came with the purchased goods. Now, the 25-year-old knew what she wanted to do and thus, started Ecovia in January 2021 from Bengaluru along with Pranjul Jain and Parikshit Joon. The business now provides reusable packing materials to various brands and rewards the consumers who return the packing materials simultaneously.
Ecovia makes reusable packing with recycled polyester made from plastic bottles and also with returned materials from the consumers if the bags are no longer usable. Initially, as Mehta highlights, "Brands would, seldom, understand the importance of it and would put an extra layer of plastic over it, that would destroy the purpose of this sustainable concept." However, after a year, the business has managed to make its space in the industry. To understand the business, Mehta does not forget to credit her family background in the iron and steel industry.
Other young entrepreneurs who hit the right spot were Sonal Shukla and Vaibhav Verma, who became friends at NIT Kurukshetra. While Shukla studied M.Tech in Electronics and Communications, Verma pursued the M.Tech in Environmental Engineering and thus, was always inclined towards starting his venture dedicated to the environment. Shukla was also urged to run her own business at one point in her life but not so soon.
In the initial days of the lockdown, Verma proposed the idea of using the plastic waste to make useful products out of it, hearing that Shukla agreed upon the same. Together, they launched the brand, and around September 2020, an enterprise that collects plastic waste from large spaces preventing it from going to landfills. Through their manufacturing unit in Delhi, they also clean, segregate and then recycle those to create the public utility goods to be sold through their website.
The primary reason for working on this business model, states Shukla, is the increased consciousness among people toward eco-friendly products and a sustainable environment. On the other hand, Shukla mentions that she could not have gathered the courage to start a business had it not been for the pandemic-induced lockdown.
Talking about the second lockdown, Shukla says it was a low time when products could not sell. "The business was not doing good, and the products were not getting sold in the second lockdown. However, I managed to keep up the spirit by learning various things online," she says. She has been able to get the clients through LinkedIn and mentions that the platform has been phenomenal in helping them with the business.
Challenges to the young minds amid the surging wave of entrepreneurship
Even though the world of the business industry comes with equal threats and shortcomings to each one entering them, there is extra baggage of challenges for young entrepreneurs in every field. Sonal Shukla has observed that when she goes with Verma to meet the old players in the market for a deal, they are often not taken seriously. "Those people who have been in the industry for a long time neglect us due to our age. Some also think we are working for college projects," Shukla says.
In addition, the challenge increases manifolds for the young entrepreneurs who are also women. As Shukla says, "Many times, people just talk to Vaibah and do not even look at me, making my presence feel purposeless. I question myself if my presence is even necessary," she laments. On asking the reason, she says, "Probably, people think that a man can only be the right person to talk about the things related to manufacturing."
On the contrary, when the situation is reversed, it feels even more uncomfortable for Shukla. "There are kinds of people who would intently only like to talk to me instead of Vaibhav," she says. Nevertheless the challenges, Shukla is determined to work for her enterprise, has also welcomed a new team member Amit Kudiyal and tends to overcome her shortcomings to focus on the right things. "There are very few women in the manufacturing sector except for the labourers and daily wage earners. This needs to change," she says.
Needless to say, multiple young entrepreneurs are working on their entrepreneurial passion in various corners of the country. While the pandemic acted as a force behind kickstarting many such initiatives, undoubtedly, social media has uplifted the game for the youth.