February 2016 Step 1: I had to find out if my registered company set up as a Marketing firm allowed me to conduct product sale and purchase business. This led to dealing with endless legalities from how it works in Karnataka to the fact that we live in Bangalore on rent so what address to give if we wish to operate from Bangalore. We also had to figure out the taxation and with GST around the corner we were wondering about what to do. This was a tough time because it really is not easy to set up a business in India. There is no clear information and no one to hold your hand through this. After stumbling around for a while we figured it out and moved on with our business to face the actual business challenges ;)
February Mid, Step 2: The 1st major challenge - I had to find people who would now make these designs. This proved a much much bigger challenge than what we thought. People just refused to make these designs as they looked nothing like what they had seen before. The fact that they were still on paper made them nervous whether they could even be made. That is where my jewellery knowledge helped me (small triumph).
Finding a manufacturer who would agree to take up our order took us months from exploring options across cities - Bangalore, Delhi and Jaipur. It was really hard for me because I had to stay away from my husband for months and I missed him terribly. I would feel really low wondering if it would ever happen. The consolation was that I had my Mom by my side which truly was a blessing for me as it calmed my nerves when they acted up. After a lot of struggle we finally found someone and thus began the next step.
April end, Step 3: It was time to get samples started, this took a while but it came easily to me. I had dealt with karigars and gotten really intricate stuff made so my confidence helped me get exactly what I wanted from these karigars - 2nd triumph. Seeing my designs come to life and looking beautiful was a major motivation booster.
May to July, Step 4: Now began the wait for all the pieces to be completed, re-produced and shipped to me so that I could launch Aliame.
During this time a lot of things are happening simultaneously. While the vendor was working on these I began to work on the following things:-
- Setting up my website - choosing the right e-commerce platform. We chose Shopify and I started developing my website by choosing which Apps to install. The ones which were essential and free. Began writing the content and building the pages. This project taught me the importance of focusing on your primary objectives. I burned my fingers when I set the Beyondinary website up on my own and since it had a lot of features, moving parts and even traffic, we started experiencing crazy run time issues. The site would get attacked, blocked, or simply stop working. That is why with Aliame we decided to go with a more comprehensive solution where both the website and hosting were managed by Shopify.
- Figuring out Shipping - We decided to start with Shiprocket as a shipping partner because it was easy to set up and understand without the hassle of dealing with courier companies directly.
- Finding a payment gateway - Finalized with PayU money as a payment gateway and set it up. It was one of the popular ones so decided to start with it.
Packaging - For me good packaging is really important. I again roamed the streets of Bangalore, Jaipur and Delhi in search of my perfect box. As a start-up I was hoping to find something really nice which was ready made so I could place an immediate order. But to my dismay a lot of vendors didn't really have samples to show me so finding one that I would like was out of the question. I was left with no option but to get my own design made.
The challenge started again to find someone who would take a customised box order for small quantities. I wasted a lot of time before I found someone who agreed. Now the challenge continues because the ride isn’t smooth. It’s been over 2 months since I have paid advance but still no boxes. The vendor has been taking forever and as my luck would have it I couldn’t find anyone else either who will undertake small order quantity so I am stuck with this guy. Talk about tough challenges you face when you start!
- Display - One of the channels of Marketing we are considering is Exhibitions for which I need display material. I wanted my stall to stand out so want to do something really creative and different which means there is an uphill battle yet again. Figuring out the kind of props to use, who will make them, the cost implications, etc also occupied my thoughts. For now I decided to buy some simpler good quality stands and park my radical ideas for now till we actually decide to zero in on and take part in an exhibition.
- Photography - Good pictures are what can make or break a brand. Jewellery is definitely one of those so we began thinking of our options. I reached out to photographers through our contacts and also through this website called Canvera. To keep the costs low my husband tried his hand at it himself. He learnt some and we tried to take pictures on our own. They did turn out good but not good enough. That is when we decided to bite the bullet because there are somethings you just can’t compromise on while you build your business. In our case really great pictures are essential.
The constant through all of this has been crazy incessant follow up for my jewellery which I received twice, checked and returned and have ever since been waiting for the complete set of earrings.
August Step 6: The wait for the jewellery and the boxes has been excruciating. Every time someone asks me what’s going on...my standard dialogue has become ‘my patience is being tested’. A major challenge while doing any business is dealing with 3rd party vendors who lie through their teeth so learn never to trust them. And god forbid you are time bound. In my case I just have to wait till my jewellery pieces and boxes come before I can officially launch Aliame.
An important lesson I learnt while following up with these vendors is to leave your ego aside. Don’t work like you would in the corporate world, where, when you contact a person, leave them a message it’s their job/responsibility to get back to you.This was how I always functioned and would consider constant reminders a botheration to others. But here you have to be a little shameless and keep calling and messaging every day even if they decide not to return your calls or even respond to your messages. It’s important to let them know that you won’t back off till your work is done.
Note: Some of this time I have spent simply brooding and wondering whether things will ever take off. I have had bad days where I felt like giving up and many many times just wondering whether it will even work. I was plagued with questions like What if nobody likes my designs, Even if they like what if they don’t buy the pieces? What if people don’t see the effort behind all this and think the price is too high? There were many such what ifs and I am guessing there might me more on the way in the future but the realization dawns on you that these are meaningless. You just keep forging your way ahead and deal with things as they come.
Until next time folks :) this is me signing off….