What is the first word that comes to your mind when you hear ‘luxury’? Glamour, champagne, sophisticated parties bathed in a golden glow…in short another world altogether.
For me, it is a lot of sun, sweat and hard work.
And no, I don’t travel in long, swanky cars like my industry colleagues. It’s only when I manage to borrow one from my successful entrepreneur father that my feet get some relief. Hell! I can’t even wear smart heels - which are absolutely essential when you are in a luxury business - since I have to use public transport.
It all started when I took up a job in a media group which published print luxury magazines. After lot of work, late nights, unwarranted screaming by the top boss and massive pay cuts for stupid reasons, I decided it’s not worth it anymore. “If I can do it for them, then why not for myself?” I thought.
Realising that there is no online luxury magazine in India, the seeds of creating LuxuryFacts (www.luxuryfacts.com) were sown into my mind quickly. The idea enveloped my mind through all waking (and sleeping) hours. And then one fight triggered my resignation from the company and refusal to serve any notice period. I was free! Free to do whatever I wanted…
A two month sabbatical to relax my aching bones (yes, it was a taxing job!) helped me outline my plan and business idea further. I spent a considerable amount of time thinking that is it the right time? I am too young. I don’t have enough capital. I just had savings of Rs 50,000. Will people even take me seriously?
I had a quick chat with my parents. They only asked me, “You think there is a market for an online luxury magazine in India?” When I replied in the affirmative, they said, “Then go ahead with it. Don’t think about money, and who will say what, and your age. All those things can be worked out as you go forward. Just start putting things into motion.”
So without a business plan, a future plan or a goal chart, I jumped into it. And what a heady journey it turned out to be! From looking for an affordable good web designer to writing to my old professional acquaintances to going for press conferences and writing articles, I was the CEO and the peon of my new baby company.
The most complex thing about being in the luxury and online sector is that luxury is exclusive while online is considered mass. A lot of brands initially were apprehensive of including online blogs and websites in their PR/marketing campaigns because they felt their brand will get a ‘mass image’. It took a lot of education from my side to convince people that online is not mass. Audience can be filtered in online medium too!
My current hurdle is that though luxury brands now accept that blogs and online magazines are very important for visibility, they are still apprehensive of including them in their advertising budgets. They feel safer with regular print magazines and hardly want to experiment. So the second level of education includes telling brands that how online is much better for them in terms of larger visibility, multimedia avenues of telling their brand stories and larger shelf life.
Initially, I was extra sensitive. People would come, steal ideas, and try to leverage the popularity of LuxuryFacts to fulfill their own purpose. And I would rage and rant for long. Many would discuss ways of collaborations and advertising and then disappear. Once, a popular mall wanted to do an event with us. Promising us commissions, we started working on it as the contract was getting readied side by side. But the contract was never made because, actually, I figured that they didn’t want to pay any money for our hard work! So, well, I pulled out, and sulked for a week…
I soon learnt that having a thick skin is more beneficial than wasting time and energy on every Tom, Dick & Harry. While every email, every call, and every knock on the door may give a tempting opportunity, it is important to weed out the leeches. I am better at dealing with people now.
Today, 2 years and 9 months later, LuxuryFacts is considered a credible force in the Indian luxury industry. Readers come to our site and gulp down all the content we can give them. Even a single line of appreciation from a reader makes our day! I have co-edited my own book called ‘The Luxury Market in India: Maharajas to Masses’ which was published and released by Palgrave Macmillan in September 2012. We are quoted in quite a few media stories about the luxury industry, and people listen to what we say! I get many resumes, off-the-cuff, from young to experienced people, to work with us.
I am still mostly broke, travel in metros and autos, and I still haven’t come to the stage of carrying a luxury bag bought from my own money. But I have got opportunities and recognition which I might not have got in any job. Being an entrepreneur in the nascent Indian luxury industry and the relatively young online media scenario is tough, but wonderful and challenging all the same! I wouldn’t exchange this life for anything else…