of the week!!
Well, it’s kinda 390 Days now.
Around a year ago, I quit my job in Bangalore and gave up MBA plans to start a new venture. I figured since I eventually wanted to start-up at some point in my life, an expensive MBA degree was something that I needed the least. The same funds could well be used as seed for my start-up & with that thought I finally decided to do something that I always wanted – create something valuable from scratch. KuberBoxwas born.
It was me and my brother-in-law working on this startup. Since he was my brother-in-law, obviously one of us needs to be married to be called each other’s BILs (it’s too cumbersome to keep writing Bro-in-law again & again, so let’s carry on with BIL hereon). And clearly I was/am not married. So, he was married, had a much better paying job but also a family to support. He was stationed in Delhi and therefore we chose Delhi as our base. The idea was that he sticks to the job while I figure out the basics of the business and then once we start getting some traction, he’d join full time.
But oh boy, looks like we took forever to set-up the base infra and having left the job in January 2013, we hadn’t reached any significant point by March 2013. Why so? It’s because we jumped in without adequate research & background work. Price we paid for that? Four months of negligible development without any kind of inflow of funds. Ideally, we should have done this research work while we were employed and had steady salary coming in to the bank account every month. This is one experience that budding entrepreneurs reading this piece can learn from. The industry that we chose to focus was B2C e-commerce & Direct Sales of Diamond Jewelry. We undermined the complexity of diamond business and the technicalities involved. And this is why we spent months without any significant stride forward. Now when I look back, the big plus that I can take from those difficult four months is that I got to learn in and out of this trade. I learnt about diamonds, their grading, prices, jewelry making and a lot of other related stuff. Both of us were new to jewelry and it is one of the few categories that you simply can’t pick up, click photos, and start selling on the web (like how generic e-commerce happens). Here, every piece is a masterpiece (a very expensive one at that) and more importantly, they are not standardized. With the kind of category it is, it’s extremely difficult to have ready inventory because of the costs involved. If at all you decide to sell based on a ready inventory, the next time you make the same piece of jewelry (in the case of repeat orders); there is a very small chance that the gold weight & diamond weight for the new piece will be same as the older piece. There you see – a price irregularity due to gold & diamond weight inconsistency. Since the prices are determined by the gold weight and diamond weights, their inherent fluctuating values combined with the fluctuating daily prices of these commodities pose a big challenge for jewellery e-commerce (more on this later – how this challenge is minimized/solved).
Initially our idea was to aggregate the inventory of various jewellery manufacturers and list them on the website for sale. But once we understood this business better we decided to do end-to-end fulfillment ourselves, from designing to manufacturing to retailing to logistics. With this in mind we started our operations from Jaipur in May. I moved to Jaipur while my BIL would drop in frequently. We started moving forward slowly. Friends and relatives who knew about our venture were kind enough to send in their orders which we would manufacture and deliver. We owe a lot to them because it is through them at the start that the ship was steadied. Luckily for me, my sister’s marriage got fixed and unluckily for her, a newbie (KuberBox) were to make jewelry for the most important day in her life. Fortunately she had enough faith in us to let us do this honour. People could argue that she would have anyways got her jewelry made with us, no matter how good or bad we were. But just ask any girl around and they’ll tell you the significance of wedding jewelry & how they just can’t afford to get it wrong. Though my dad was in our favour, we literally had to do a sales pitch to convince mom & sis. Deciding upon your special day necklace without seeing it in real is something that not everyone has the heart to do. She had that faith when she chose us and selected the design just on the basis of a picture. I applaud her and thank her. It is through her wedding jewelry that we first started the manufacturing and got to do some R&D at almost zero cost.
The website was outsourced to a web-dev company while we kept working on products. I was a one-man team with full support from my BIL. The best thing about him is that he has a fine mind and takes good decisions and keeps a bird’s-eye view. I always look up to him for any kind of advice and that was one of the reasons why we joined hands. So while we were slowly progressing, I undertook a sales trip to my hometown and to my relatives. The response was overwhelming and everyone supported our endeavors. Then September arrived with some bad weather. I and my BIL decided to part ways. It was because he wasn’t able to focus on taking KuberBox forward while keeping his current job. And since we didn’t have steady income, he was helpless and had to choose the job over KuberBox. So now I was all by myself and it was really difficult. Managing each and every job related to the business single handedly could be very daunting, considering I hadn’t hired any staff. Still it’s the same – I am working alone (with specific jobs being outsourced to freelancers of course) but the good thing is that I have kept patience and had understood early on that building a business takes time. Another fact is that things will happen when they are supposed to happen. That obviously doesn’t mean that you can lie idle and expect things to simply happen on their own. Karma is important. The period from October to present has been really good. KuberBox has made significant progress during this period and sales have been growing through word of mouth. The company has also got decent sales while improving its overall margin. When we started, we were underselling ourselves big time and that resulted in losses on most of the transaction. That path has been rectified now and we are on road to recovery.
Challenges? Yes, KuberBox does have significant challenges ahead of it. Though the company was formed in May, I now consider January’14 to be its actual birth since KuberBox entered the public domain very recently. And with that, now is the time to speed up the work and break things. Major challenges we face today are on-boarding a passionate co-founder, mentoring & access to funds, hiring our first employee and innovative & cost-effective marketing.
Co-founder – There is only so much that a person can singly do or manage. With the right partner at work, I believe we can grow at a much better rate. I am looking for someone from tech/marketing domain who is obsessed with e-commerce in general & is open to experimenting with new ways to retail products. It goes without saying that he/she must enter with a long term view & be ready to give up salary & other comforts till KuberBox can afford to bear them. The plan is under way to do much more than plain e-commerce. The journey is surely going to be very exciting.
Mentoring & Funds – When we started, I & my partner both invested into the business. And now that he’s gone, I am liable to return his investment to him which I have already started doing in parts. But this obligation of debt puts the complete growth plan in backfoot as this is a contingency for which I hadn’t planned. I had already invested every penny I can into the business & there was no way I can pay back anything if my investment in KuberBox doesn’t generate revenues which I can use for pay-back. Therefore, I think it’s time to now raise some angel funding which would allow the plans to be executed as planned & allow us to grow. We have been doing fairly well in terms of sales with more than 2 Million in sales as of date.
About me – I am your average 24 year old Indian guy with no IIM/IIT pedigree to boast of & without the experience of a Google/MS/Fb job. I did reject a few of the top notch MBA admits, if that adds anything to my profile :D. What I have is a burning desire to succeed in what I am doing. I eat, drink, sleep, shit and breathe my work. I am 1000% committed to what I am doing and have the patience & confidence to achieve my goals. My biggest assets are the feedbacks my friends/peers/teachers would have for me if a third person were to enquire with them about me. Hopefully, they will have some nice words for me.
Originally posted on my Tumblr