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RodinStar / Startup

365 Days Of Unemployment

 

Awarded the

“Rodinstar” Post 

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-foundermentoring & 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.

Join me on FacebookLinkedIn & Twitter

Originally posted on my Tumblr

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40 Comments

  1. sourav,

    your first post showed how innovative you are.

    your second post shows your amazing attitude and engaging writing skills!

    let’s wait for 2 weeks or so. if you don’t get adequate responses for a co-founder – you could post it separately in JOBS.

    also, i’d like you to check out alok’s funding pitch template. feel free to use it if need be! 

  2. Thank you Asha for your amazingly encouraging feedback on my writing skills. Hoping & trying to use these skills now on a more regular basis. And yes, Alok’s Funding Pitch is already stored in my sub-conscious. In fact, I have been in this community since I first came to know about him through one of his talks that was posted on Pluggd.in in 2009. Since then, I have read up all his writings/presentation, Quora answers & Fb statuses 😀

  3. Fantastic read Sourav 🙂 Loved the way you explained the challenges in such a casual way. Way to go!!

  4. Hi,

    Great post, best of luck for your business! 🙂

    I wanted to check your site out, but it seems its down! 

  5. Hi Atul, 

    I feel sorry that the site wasn’t available when you tried to access it. Pease do check out the website when you find time: KuberBox

  6. Sourav

    Last to last week I was in Jaipur for a couple of days and I constantly had this idea of meeting you in mind (if you remember the last conversation on your first post). As Asha ji said, post this under ‘jobs’ to get the ball rolling. Best wishes to Kuberbox. If you keep doing this with the same passion that your words reflect, then there is definitely no stopping!

  7. You should have contacted when you were in Jaipur. Next time let’s meet up pukka se. I am also thinking of going for the Open House in March. Let’s see if the plan materializes or not.

  8. Sourav, i checked the website and it looks coool. I dont know much about jewellery business but thought i will add 2 cents or questions

    1) Hows it different then caratlane as a concept

    2) Do you have a provision of giving trials to customers – like physically trying them first before buying?

  9. Hi Amit,

    Thanks for sparing a few minutes to browse through our website KuberBox.com. One simple glance must have given rise to the thought that “How is KuberBox different from Caratlane/Bluestone?” and this is one question that will come to everybody’s mind. The short answer would be – No, it’s not much different. They are selling online & we are too selling online, just like so many more players are/would be selling jewellery online. On deeper levels, this is how we are differentiating:

    • Fully customized jewellery: We will very shortly be offering 100% customization service wherein the customer can simply give us a basic idea of the kind of design they would like, or maybe a picture of the jewellery that they saw somewhere and instantly wanted it but had no idea how to get that made. Customers can tell us about their budget & they can even sketch out a rough design on a paper and we will get that made. There will be one-to-one communication between customer & our staff and we will listen to every customization that the customer wants and implement that. Basic on their design briefs, we will show them 3D design of their concept and give them the quotation for manufacturing the actual piece. Once the customer gives the confirmation, that design will come to life and the same would be delivered to the customer. If customer requires, we would even 3D print the design on a wax model and send that to the customer so that the customer can be fully sure about the design and its size before they invest their hard earned money into it.
    • Distribution: KuberBox is simply not about online buying. We are also creating a Direct Sales distribution channel through which we are encouraging go-getters to become a KuberBox Privileged Partner and act as a franchise of KuberBox. They will be able to show our products to their customers through a tablet app & with all necessary training related to jewellery & diamonds. They will be able to promote & market our products in their circle, make the sales happen and earn a handsome commission on every sale. This can become a serious source of income for self-motivated individuals who can benefit by selling genuine products and expanding their network.
    • Pricing: We are about 20% cheaper than other online players & 30% cheaper than offline players for the same quality of product (Diamond grade & finish). 

    Coming to your second question, we do not have provision to offer trials before purchase since that would beat the whole concept of running on zero-inventory to provide better prices for products. Second, we have 30-days return policy during which the customer can simply return the product as it is. And the money is directly sent to their bank account rather than adding the amount to their online store kitty.

    Do shoot other questions that you may have. I would promptly answer them.

  10. hey sourav,

    i messed the top of your post a bit 🙂

  11. Well, I simply LOVE this kind of messing up.

  12. A great post bro. Best of luck and sure I am writing to one of the future big entrepreneur.

    You had asked for low cost marketing Ideas. I don’t know how applicable it to you model but try to weave some loyalty benefits to those who is referring your website to their family friends. It will surely motivate them for repeat purchase and more references. 

    Also refer 22 immutable laws of Marketing mistakes to avoid general marketing mistakes and planning winning marketing campaign. 

    Best of Luck.

  13. Yes Suhag, referrals are always good in my view too. We have not integrated referral program as of now but yes, it’s important & needs to be included. I hadn’t heard about these “22 mistakes..” till you mentioned here. Now that you have, I will google it up and run through them for some wise guidance. Thanks bro.

  14. I am on the same lane as yours. close to 365 days of unemployment. but so much of learning, a bschool couldn’ have filled the pages! 

    I am glad I am not alone! 

    Well written! 🙂

  15. Excellent post sourav. It is a true inspiration. I am an aspiring entrepreneur and I am working on an idea. Soon I will quit my job and start working full time on my idea, your post will keep me inspired. All the best with Kuberbox. Take Care..:)

  16. An inspiring post Sourav. The website looks great and I hope you will reach the heights soon. All the best. Would love to see kuberbox expanding to all over India and even cross the borders.

  17. Your story is truly inspiring. Its your commitment and conviction in your idea or business that has helped you go ahead and turn it in to a 2 million rupee venture. The changes in the venture, partner leaving and heavy work-load did not stop you from pursuing your vision. This is a good example that others can learn from. I hope you can find a good founder in this large rodinhood community and take this to the next level. Wish you all the best. 

  18. You are certainly not alone. There are numerous of us out, pursuing our passion and chasing out destiny. Good luck to you.

  19. Thanks Abhishek. That’s great to hear. Perhaps you could keep us all updated about your startup when you are start pursuing it. 

  20. Hey Krishna, thank you so much for the feedback on the website. I am trying my best to make that happen. 🙂

  21. Thanks Sridhar for the kind comments. Truly appreciate it. 

  22. Great Post Sourav. Loved the site. Its very clean.

  23. Yes Gaurav, this is how I had imagined a diamond jewelry shopping website & hence designed it this way. Do you think we can make the texts a little darker? Was it difficult to read the matter? Any other feedback? 

  24. Yea you should make test darker & bold

  25. Yupp now I will pukka toy around with that. Couple of other ppl suggested the same.

  26. Hey Sourav, We are already working on similar line of product,

    Recently we released our first Inhouse app

    Diamond Lab Certs

    and now working on new product, we named it Diamond Briefcase.

    Lets connect if we can workout in some way or another, if we could be helpful to each other.

    drop me an email govind@noesis.in

    Thanks

  27. Hi Govind,

    Thanks for taking the time out to read it. I am aware of your app and have been following it. If you remember well, I even got into discussion with you after you posted your article. Would surely write back if I find that we can help each other out/add value.

  28. Oh yea, I remember.

    🙂

  29. Wow. I’m on the verge of starting up and have all kinds of fears, this post just made me note how real those could be! The loneliness is discussed here,  http://bit.ly/NzRllS. I think I’m already lonely.

  30. daksha… everyone is lonely and a whole bunch of other things – read this!

    http://therodinhoods.com/forum/topics/7-dark-secrets-of-entrepreneurs-revealed

    As featured in the September 12 issue of the “Entrepreneur” (India) Magazine.

    Think you know entrepreneurs? Ha! Think again! These are seven dark secrets that entrepreneurs will never reveal about themselves:

    1. Entrepreneurs are insecure.

    For many years, I felt insecure.

    First about not being an engineer, but just a lowly B.Com graduate. Then about not being an MBA while all my friends became one. Next came a sinking feeling of not having worked for a Fortune 500 Company (I worked in my dad’s socks factory for twelve years).

    It was only when I broke out and became an entrepreneur that this feeling started fading. I tasted some success that made me feel somewhat secure and confident of being able to survive in the otherwise ‘formatted for success’ world.

    2. Entrepreneurs are lonely.

    Honestly, entrepreneurs are their own best friends.

    Yes, family comes close and there is almost a reverse dependency on family (I feel I depend on my wife and 2 daughters more than they depend on me), but there is really no one else.

    Maybe I speak for myself, but the gigantic tasks of the day leave no room for hanging out with friends or acquaintances. In most cases, it’s going out with the office crowd.

    Entrepreneurs speak to themselves in their sleep. They sell proposals to themselves in the shower and negotiate term sheets in their mind while they are eating sev puri. There is little time for other friendships.

    3. Entrepreneurs are selfish.

    I can never forgive myself for one incident.

    Neither can my wife. The day my younger daughter was born was also the day I was supposed to sign my final shareholding agreements to close my first round of funding. I chose to sign those documents instead of bringing my wife and new born baby back home from the hospital.

    This just pointedly shows how selfish entrepreneurs are.

    4. Entrepreneurs are about the glory, not about the money.

    I always told my wife that I would be really elated the day I made my crore rupees and that “life would change after that”.

    I made one crore in a sale transaction 6 years ago and I still remember working doubly hard that day. Nothing changed the next day or the week after. And as I see it, nothing will change in the decade to come.

    I realized that entrepreneurs do what they do for the glory of it. The money just happens and gets silently ignored.

    5. Entrepreneurs are those people who walk into dark basements with the lights off.

    Whenever I see a movie where a person who hears a noise slowly starts walking down into a dark basement with no lights (to investigate), I get the jeebie-jeebies.

    It’s just that very often, entrepreneurs love chasing ideas and concepts till the very end. Almost fanatically, like someone obsessed; oblivious to fears and dangers to the point of almost getting killed in the bargain.

    In the beginning of my entrepreneurial career, I would call 500 clients everyday and say, “Hi, I’m calling from contests2win.com, can I meet you?” No one bothered to speak to me, forget meet me. But I just kept on calling, ignoring the dark fear that I may not have been on the right path in the first place.

    6. Entrepreneurs don’t mind their own business. They want to mind yours.

    My wife and kids have given up on me.

    It’s because at a restaurant, I lecture the manager on how to speak on the phone. Or because I spend forty minutes at a premium clothes store explaining to the saleswoman, how she should sell shirts to men. When the person at the toll booth doesn’t have change, I have a problem. When the car showroom sticks a ‘serviced at x garage’ sticker on my car – the manager, his boss and boss’s father get a lecture on how they cannot treat other people’s cars as media properties.

    Entrepreneurs just can’t keep their noses to themselves.

    They have to poke and intrude into other people’s business, and that’s not because they are curious or jealous; it’s because they want to participate in the other person’s business. They want to contribute and they want to inspire that entrepreneur to be the best.

    7. Entrepreneurs love C.S.I

    I love C.S.I (the investigative programme on TV). It’s not because I love to solve crimes, but because I love detail. I love the nitty gritty, the tiny hooks and sinks, the finger printing of attention, the DNA analysis of ‘why’!

    In my father’s factory, I spent years writing an algorithm that calculated the cost of everything that went into making a sock – including the cost of the electricity of the lightbulb in the watchman’s bathroom.

    Details are the ocean in which entrepreneurs swim to find hidden treasures.Sometimes the treasures are found and sometimes not, but the addiction to detail just becomes permanent. 

    Entrepreneurs are dangerous, lonely, crazy people. They are like Vampires. Either you stay away from them, or become them.

     

  31. This post Asha, define entrepreneurship. Each and every word of this article rings a bell. One of those articles of Alok where I agree with every words of his.

  32. hey sourav,

    did you find a co-founder?

  33. Hey Asha,

    Thank you so much for remembering and checking up again. I still haven’t found the perfect partner for my startup. 

  34. have you tried posting in our JOBS section?

  35. I am still working on my startup too! And still looking for right minded people to join hands. I am starting a non-profit for awareness about support to the elderly who have dementia.

    After working in an organisation where roles are segregated, doing the work of ceo, content designer, office boy, admin assistant and chief runner rounder is a challenge.

    The other issue so rightly mentioned is being alone!  Maybe the grass is greener on the other side, but I do feel working together with someone would be a different and more productive experience.

  36. I somehow don’t prefer that route for co-founder dating. That’s the reason I haven’t posted yet.

  37. Congratulations! and keep this up! 🙂

  38. All the best. Some take on your post
    You have done branding well but that’s not enough till it delivers.
    Product category is is premium and expensive ,low volume high price
    Need huge investment to launch this up

    Did you talk to few big jewellers ,what you can offer is your experience to go digital to them

  39. Thank You Kaanchan.

  40. Hey Ashwin,

    Thanks for taking time out to go through the post and then comment your inputs here. The way I see it is, partnering with big jewellers has its share of pros and cons. 

    Pros –

    • Ready access to manufacturing, finance & customers
    • Offline outlet for online store, so more trust and thus more sales
    • Their devoted customers become our customers as well

    Cons – 

    • Possible roadblocks while implementing innovative ideas
    • Conservative mindset
    • Most of the big jewellers outsource manufacturing and thus dependency on real manufacturers to deliver the items on time
    • Issues with sharing of equity – How much should the jeweller get and how much should KuberBox get
    • Future VC investments – Not entirely sure if a VC would be interested in putting money into a patriarchal business (which most of big jewellers are)
    • Big jewellers that follow corporate structure already have an online presence through markeplaces

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