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Perseverance & challenges are a part of entrepreneurial journey: Palash Agrawal

While the global pandemic has bought economies to a halt and massively disrupted businesses, it has also fuelled start-up dreams and we even saw several Indian start-ups achieve Unicorn status during the pandemic period. The times have never been better for the budding entrepreneurs to give wings to their start-up dreams.

The Government, too, has come up with various schemes to support its ‘Vocal for Local’ drive. A case in point is the recent Rs 1,000 crore Start-up India Seed Fund announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Start-up India International Summit 2021 held earlier this year.

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Adgully is turning the spotlight on the entrepreneurs who fought against all odds to bring their dreams to fruition in our special series – START-UP STARS. We at Adgully wholeheartedly support the ‘Vocal for Local’ movement and over the next few months will be featuring all local/ homegrown businesses, brands and Apps.

Palash Agrawal comes from an entrepreneurial family and business acumen is an integral part of it. Before he launched Vedas, he worked in London for a couple of years. However, Agrawal felt the desire to return home and do something on his own. He explored with things like carpets, paintings, etc., before starting with home décor. He spent a year travelling across India to understand design, art, and handicraft before zeroing in on the idea of reviving ancient art in a contemporary manner.

Vedas Exports started the journey with wooden crafts and paintings and moved on to utility décor, hooks and candlelight décor. Today, Vedas is a name to reckon with in wall décor, mirror, vintage décor, figurines, table décor, showpieces, office décor, vases, wall jaali and wall shelves, etc. Vedas products have received great market response and are well-known for the style, utility and customisation. From just one product sold in the first month, today they are selling over 10,000 pieces a month and are present in over 700 stores in India as well as more than 500 overseas. They have a footprint in more than 300 Indian cities and 15 countries globally. Vedas’ market share is about 8% to 10% and rapidly growing.

In conversation with Adgully, Palash Agrawal, Founder, Director, Vedas Exports, speaks about starting and sustaining a new business in challenging times, leveraging digital technology, especially for a retail brand and much more.

What need gap did you want to fulfil with your start-up? What is the core business proposition?

Indian handicraft has incredible potential and finesse, and my aim is to revive the ancient Indian art and craft. That is the inspiration behind the brand being named as Vedas. We are bringing to the fore the 18th and 19th century Indian metal décor style and merging it with contemporary sensibilities to create unique designs which appeal to all buyers, domestically as well as globally. Our business model has four elements: B2B, B2C, e-commerce retail and customized orders. In B2B, we sell to various stores, whereas in B2C, we sell directly through our own website, e-commerce platforms and social media.

How did you identify your TG? Did you carry out any feasibility study prior to starting your business?

I spent a year travelling across India for product research and market understanding before launching the business. We target organised stores, single brand outlets, e-commerce platforms, architects, buying agencies and international importers. We participate in exhibitions, online promotions, B2B meetings and we have been regularly showcasing our products in events, exhibitions and shows in countries such as Germany, South Korea, China, Dubai and the UK.

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What were the challenges that you faced in your start-up journey and how did you overcome them?

Starting any new business requires a lot of patience; perseverance and challenges are a part of entrepreneurial journey. I had to develop the market understanding and I spent a year looking at different products and travelling across India to understand design and handicraft across India. Understanding the customers is a major challenge and I overcame it through my focus on customer satisfaction and ensuring a smooth, hassle-free and supportive customer care channel. We also faced challenges related to the marketing of the products and adding a contemporary appeal. Once everything was put in place, the logistics and safe delivery of products was another challenge. We barely sold a single piece in the first month of operations, but I didn’t lose heart and steadily the awareness was built and we started witnessing demand. Since then, there has been no looking back.

What were the clearances that you required for your venture from various authorities?

We needed the usual clearances like Company registration, Import and Export License, Factory License, Tax Registration, Brand registration, etc.

Funds/ finance is the prime issue of almost all start-ups. What can the industry and the Government do to address this issue and ease the capital requirements of start-ups?

The Government has been quite supportive of start-ups and the time is ideal to make available easy seed funding for start-ups and overall bank financing has to be made easier for the start-ups. A large number of high potential start-ups fail to survive because they are not able to meet the stringent and time-consuming processes for business loans. There should be easier access for collateral free loans as well.

Prime Minister Modi has announced a Start-up India Seed Fund earlier this year. How do you see start-ups benefiting from it?

The ‘Start-up India Seed Fund’ is a well-meaning endeavour and it is undoubtedly going to help a number of high potential start-ups. However, I believe that the scope and the fund allocation for such a high impact scheme needs to be increased. Every year, thousands of new start-ups are launched and in the absence of seed funding, they fail to survive beyond the initial year of operation. The support in the form of easy seed funding will not only help such companies survive and grow, but will also lead to great contribution towards the Aatmnirbhar Bharat goal. There is also the additional benefit of generating a large number of employment opportunities.

How is digital helping you further your business?

As a retail brand, digital technology is very important for us and it has been helpful in building brand awareness as well as generating sales for our products. We leverage the digital marketing platforms to create brand recognition and have partnered with leading ecommerce portals such as Amazon, Flipkart and Pepperfry for product sales. Apart from that, we also sell products through our own website.

What were your key learnings from 2020? How do you see the start-up ecosystem progressing in 2021?

The year 2020 brought on a pandemic which is not only unprecedented, but, extremely impactful on the social psyche. The recurring waves of the pandemic and the lockdowns are forcing people to spend most of their time indoors. Therefore, while our sales operations got temporarily affected by the lockdowns, the demand for home décor products is on the rise. Once the business operations resume normally, there will be greater market traction. The post-pandemic operational scenarios also mean that people will make most of the purchases online and that’s why we have been focusing on e-commerce channels alongside offline retail wherever stores are open. The time is right to plan, undertake creative work and market research and perform tasks that can be carried out in a contact-less manner. The start-up ecosystem has responded splendidly to the overall situation and there is a lot of growth potential ahead.

What would be your message for the budding entrepreneurs?

Never give up! The world of business is highly competitive and challenging, but persistence is the key to success. A successful business leader also needs to foster teamwork and a healthy work environment within the organisation. I am proud to say that despite the pandemic and the lockdown, we have been able to retain our talent. Another important thing is to see the competition as a source of motivation and not envy. Work harder, get better and grow bigger!

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