Thursday, April 17, 2014

What it takes for young people to build successful companies

Last month we received an upbeat e-mail from Kriti Mahajan (Class of 2012), who wrote to inform us that she, along with her fiancé, Vinish Vijay, and fellow Commitscion Hana Iqbal, had started a media company in Bangalore.

Kriti told us that Communique Culture, which is the name of the company, offers "complete communication solutions, be it in the fields of PR, social media, content writing, brand consulting, or media marketing".

That is when it struck us that, over the years, quite a few Commitscions have decided, after gaining a few years' experience working for others, that it was time to work for themselves.

Here we learn about the journey undertaken by not only Kriti and Hana, but also by Barbie Jain (Class of 2012) and Divya Jaising (Class of 2008), as well as Victor Mukherjee (Class of 2007).

Other Commitscions who now manage their own enterprises include the husband-wife team of Kallal Kumar Das and Sanidhi V.J. (both from the Class of 2008), who run a flourishing Bangalore-based event management company, and Nishal Lama (Class of 2009), a well-known wedding photographer. At a later date, we will hear from Gaurav Momaya (Class of 2005), whose private venture is at a nascent stage.

Now it is over to our entrepreneurs:


By Kriti Mahajan

There was a time when, as employees, we used to talk “media planning”, breathe “radio”, and think “advertising”. At that time “entrepreneurship” was the last thing on our minds.

Today, looking back, the only reason why it never dawned on us to strike out on our own was because of the jobs (and job security) our peers and seniors were ensconced in. We too were in a comfort zone and we never felt the need to move out of this zone; after all, we were receiving good appraisals and being offered better positions.


However, since the three of us (Hana Iqbal, Vinish Vijay, and I) were good friends who travelled, ate, hung out, partied, and did practically everything together, I guess it was only a matter of time before we became business partners. 

On a regular working day while we were out meeting the media and pondering over how else we could become better professionals, we realised that the only way we can feel more passionate and be sincere is when we treat this as our own baby — that we do everything in the best possible way but on our own.

Yes! We were thinking “entrepreneurship”. 

When you can reap immediate financial benefits by working extra hard, why should you wait for a year just to get that appraisal?  Who needs it, when you can work for your own appraisal?

Also, this is the right age to take a risk; if we fail we can always rely on our degrees and work experience and go back to our conventional jobs. 

It is with these thoughts at the back of our minds that we decided we were going to take communication to another level. From meeting over 15 clients on a summery day to working on projects like the Farhan Akthar show and the Kapil Sharma show, and managing media functions for a designer in addition to holding on to our regular jobs, we have done it all.

As professionals we have a combined experience of more than five-and-a-half years in PR, internal communications, content management, analyst relations, and social media. We also bring to the table four years of experience in production and in sectors such as information technology, retail, education, art, lifestyle, and hospitality.

So yes, we are entrepreneurs today! All it took was a thought and a little convincing. And now we are raring to go!


By Barbie Jain

When we were scouting around for a name for the marketing solutions company we wanted to launch, we hit upon “Über”, denoting an outstanding or supreme example of a particular kind of person or thing. That was it!

We strive to be “Über” at everything we do
and we knew we wanted our services to be top-notch. So, after a series of brainstorming sessions, we finally agreed upon “Über Marketing Solutions” and here we are now, a fantastic nine months into our energetic start-up!

After I graduated from Commits, I wasn’t too sure about what kind of career I wanted. Which company did I want to join? What kind of growth path did I want to chart out for myself? These were the questions that were uppermost in my mind. And the answers were hard to come by. So, like everyone else, I signed up for a stint in the corporate world.

A 9-to-5 job with big, established companies is not bad at all; for most people it's an easy choice to make, and so it was for me.

However, the zeal to do something I never thought I'd be able to do, and then to finish a complex task in less than an hour
what an adrenaline rush that is! In addition, it is such a confidence-booster and so satisfying that it becomes a source of great happiness.

It was in order to experience that adrenaline rush on a regular basis, and also to fulfil the big dreams we had in terms of marketing, branding, etc., that my friend Nadir Shah and I decided to leave our fancy jobs (at SAP and George P. Johnson, respectively) to start this venture of ours.

And trust me it wasn't easy! Time was of the essence because time is money to the organisations we wanted to work with, and every second counted. Next we had to answer our fair share of difficult questions from prospective clients, mostly focusing on how a start-up like ours could help a large company like theirs. But then again, this was only till we got the opportunity to show our mettle!


Currently we are a team of six people working across Bangalore, Mumbai, and New Delhi, handling clients such as Mindtree, Evangelsoft, and many more.

I believe that what I have learnt over the years has made me what I am today. And with Über Marketing Solutions, I will progress and grow not only personally but also professionally, which I reckon will shape what I will be tomorrow.

As I finish writing this article, it occurs to me that I would not be completely honest if I said this was a one-person effort. None of what I have achieved would have been possible if I had not had the support of the many brilliant teachers at Commits, who have been no less than great leaders and who helped me in crafting my career. I also owe a great deal to my beloved parents who have always guided me. It is from them that I acquired my watchword: Fearlessness.

Wasn’t it Helen Keller who said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”? What an apt quote that is for the story of Über!


By Divya Jaising

I’d like to believe I was always cut out to be an entrepreneur; the truth, however, is that I never really had the courage to take the plunge. A safe job with a fixed salary at the end of each month was too comfortable to pass up.

Ultimately, it was a call from a long-time friend who had a business idea that persuaded me to change my mindset. After a lot of thought and contemplation, and quite a few convince-me sessions later, well, here I am: an entrepreneur!

Having been part of the corporate events industry for close to seven years, I had gotten to a point where work could be said to have become akin to “plug-and-play”; it was difficult to get excited about what I was doing. So when Kirti Samant, who is now my business partner, came to me with a plan to start a wedding and party planning company, I was thrilled.

I was a bit hesitant at first but the more we discussed it, and the more I thought things through, I realised this was the first time in a long while that I had become genuinely enthusiastic about something. After some serious discussions with various people on how to go about starting and sustaining a business, we decided to go ahead.


The journey so far has been great! The day we finalised our company name “Marigold Diaries”, we got our first wedding planning assignment. Because each is a special occasion and involves personal relationships, weddings and private celebrations are very different from corporate events. We have been woken up in the middle of the night for the most inane things, had some crazy client requests, but we have had a blast getting it done. After all, what’s life without a little craziness?

After starting Marigold Diaries, we have gone back to the basics: we are now part-time strategists, designers, executers, drivers, office boys, and anything else the company needs, and PROUD OF IT!

Every step in setting up a business becomes an accomplishment, whether it is getting the registration done, setting up the website, bagging a new project, or even creating a Facebook page; everything is a little celebration. We are still novices, stumbling along the way to get our bearings, but with a hunger to learn.

Setting up and sustaining a business is no easy task; it takes a lot of conviction, hard work, and determination to keep the business going. But when our hard work pays off and we have a happy client at the end of the day, we realise it’s all worth it.


By Victor Mukherjee

The name “Mango People” came to us in July 2009. That was when the film Love Aaj Kal was released and we heard the term for the first time. Actually Neha Anand, the other half of Mango People, insisted that we use this name for whatever entrepreneurial ventures we started. And that is how, three years later, once again in July, Mango People Media Network Pvt. Ltd. came into being.

Why did we launch Mango People? That is a question I have been asked by many people (including, especially, my mother, and other relatives). They were wondering why someone would quit a big brand like Red Chillies, where I was in a position of authority and power, with a paycheck to match, and start again from scratch.

My answer was simple.

I was putting a lot of effort into what I was doing at Red Chillies. I thought it was time to put that same effort into a company of my own creation and concentrate on building it and securing my future.

Why a media company? That’s what both Neha and I specialise in. But, somewhere in the near future, given my interest in cooking and given the fact that I am a foodie, I will obviously open a restaurant to showcase my culinary skills. (I may name it “Mango Pickle”, for all you know.)


The journey so far has been a mixed bag.

Starting something from the ground up is never easy. The competition is ferocious sometimes, but our strengths are our efficiency and effectiveness, our people skills, our familiarity with the music and showbiz industry, our insider knowledge, and also the hardworking nature of the people in our team. That’s why the big names have come to us and continue to stay with us; big names such as the Marriott Group, Bacardi, Coca-Cola, Hard Rock Café, Forevermark Diamonds, Durex, and Group M.

Our motto is “Entertainment for all”. And we are here to keep people entertained in every way possible.

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