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This Young Entrepreneur Believes In Making Stories Special

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Everybody has a story to tell, and I help make yours unforgettable. – Ramya Sriram.

While a good measure of the millennials keeps wondering if their life choices are right, one young entrepreneur took charge of her professional journey and found her passion. Meet the 29 year old founder of The Tap, Ramya Sriram. Ms. Sriram enjoys expressing life through comics, using visual vocabulary to break language barriers. This simple and enjoyable hobby led Ramya into starting up her own business.

However, becoming an entrepreneur was not her first career choice. Like every child, Ramya, was very sure about what she wanted to do in her life. The only problem was her career choice seemed to change every few weeks! When she was 15, Ramya started coaching for medical school. Two years later, she dropped that idea altogether and joined the Vellore Institute of Technology, to pursue engineering instead.

Just like the majority of engineers feel in India, after graduating from VIT, Ramya believed a MBA was the next logical step. However, after joining a reputed Business school, Ramya realized Management was not her cup of tea. A few days into her course, she decided to quit and join a publishing house instead. At the new job, Ramya spent her days editing, nights writing and drawing, for the next five straight years.

During our conversation with Ramya Sriram, she shared about her journey from working in a publishing house, to the leap into entrepreneurship and setting up her own company.

1. While you made the move from MBA to publishing, who was your inspiration and why?

I never really wanted to do an MBA. I was quite confused when I started the course itself, though I had voluntarily studied for the entrance exam! What bothered me was that I might be stuck in a field that I might not enjoy. A week into the MBA, I knew that the course wasn’t right for me, and I needed to first find what kind of career I “fit” into. It wasn’t inspiration as much as it was resistance really. The major issue with the MBA was the time. Two entire years seemed an enormous amount of time to spend on something I wasn’t convinced about. When I got a job in a publishing house, my decision was made.

2. What would you tell other potential entrepreneurs who still are unable to make that final jump?

I can only speak from my own experience of running a very tiny outfit as a freelancer/self-employed person.

I would say that if the circumstances are favorable, then just take the plunge. Don’t let fear hold you back. I get so many mails from people who are really unhappy in their jobs. Life is too short to feel trapped. If there are people financially dependent on you, or if your circumstances are such that you can’t quit your job without some planning, then I suggest taking up small steps towards what you want to do. Even a couple of hours a week can make a big difference. I think the great thing about having a 9 to 6 job is that it gives you some leeway to freely experiment outside of it, since your bread and butter isn’t dependent on the experiments.

Before taking the plunge, it helps immensely to expose yourself to a variety of audiences and get feedback/advice from mentors. And when you really want to do something, you will.

Ramya’s path, from making the move from engineering, to MBA, to working in a publishing house, to finally starting her own company, Ramya has written about her journey in a Linkedin post. She states, “You can’t always find your passion within you, you have to get out there and look for it. Make things happen. Unless you try a whole variety of things, you might never know what truly brings you joy or satisfaction. As Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

And so, The Tap was born! The Tap has now become “a storehouse for stories that originate from my wandering mind and pondering pencil.” What started off as a hobby brought in her first customer via Facebook when a friend asked her to run a comic strip for his magazine. Since then, Ramya has worked on a variety of projects that involve ideation and content creation.

3. What was the hardest part about deciding to start The Tap?

I have to admit that it wasn’t very hard, mostly because I knew what I wanted to do, and had a lot of support from my family. I had started The Tap as something on the side, along with a full-time job. By the time I decided to work solely on The Tap, I had a general idea of what kind of time, energy and effort it would involve.

I think I have to emphasize that I never really looked at The Tap as a big commercial venture or something that I wanted to grow into a big company. I wanted to focus on learning and doing good work for good clients. During the initial few months I was a little alarmed whether I could actually make it work. But there was only one way to find out.

4. What were some of the first milestones and major challenges of The Tap?

The first milestone was my first (very unexpected) commission. I was doodling for fun, and putting up my work on Facebook, when I received a request to create a custom comic. I was very surprised and happy, and that was what prompted me to start taking up paid work. Another huge milestone was Comic Con, in Bangalore. I went with some T-shirts, bags, pillow covers and coasters, and was thrilled with the response. Having your audience in flesh and blood in front of you makes such a huge difference, after an online following. The biggest thrills have come in the form of mails from readers online — lots of folks have sent me their own stick drawings — people aged 7 to 70!

The major challenge was being able to understand what the scope of The Tap was — there were so many things I wanted to do — make merchandise, take up commissions, work with social enterprises, create custom products, collaborate with other artists/writers AND continue to write. I finally decided to pick a couple of things every year.

5. What’s the next step for The Tap?

I would like to focus on social issues. I did a series with CRY India last year, and I’m hoping to work with more NGOs this year, so that people not only read the comic but there is some follow-up action. I would like to create stories that will drive people into taking positive, effective steps — though I’m not sure that can be achieved easily.

Here’s a comic I did on the International Day of the Girl Child last year.

6. What would your message be to other aspiring and confused entrepreneurs?

Well, I think the confusion is good, because it can be a great motivator. I think my advice would be to just do something which makes you wake up every day feeling excited and energetic (sic.) We are our own demons sometimes, so clearing your path of self doubt would be a good step in figuring out your next steps.

Like Ramya said, the future is all yours to grab with just a little bit of luck, a dose of courage and a whole lot of determination! We wish Ramya Sriram all the very best for her future with more projects, more milestones, more drawings and more stories!

 

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Storage For Rent: This Startup Idea Is Seeing A Huge Demand During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Storage For Rent: This Startup Idea Is Seeing A Huge Demand During COVID-19 Pandemic

If you could travel six months back in time and tell yourself how the world would look now, you might have dismissed it as a hoax.  The world changed suddenly when the COVID-19 virus broke out and started spreading across the world.  The virus which manifests in the form of a flu before attacking the respiratory system currently has no vaccine.  This forced governments across the world and India included, to enforce a strict mandatory nationwide lockdown.  

The lockdown was initially announced in India for just three weeks and many businesses and startups never expected it to go beyond a month.  However, the lockdown is still continuing albeit with a few relaxations, but many industries continue to be badly affected by it as they saw zero revenue in the last three months.  Many organisations and businesses have made the shift to remote work as their offices remain to be closed for fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus.  

As software companies continue to declare work from home for the foreseeable future, many employees are looking to return back home from technology hubs like Bengaluru and Hyderabad so as to save money on huge rents in the metropolitan cities considering their offices are not opening anytime soon.

ALSO READ: How The Events Industry Is Impacted By The COVID-19 Pandemic

This is where a unique concept where companies offering storage spaces for long term rent is seeing a huge spurt in demand.  As software employees in Bengaluru are slowly vacating their accommodations to move back home in order to save on rental expenses, they have no place to store their personal belongings.  Firms like SafeStorage, Storagians, StowNest Storage and MyRaksha, which provide the service (storage for rent,) have seen a spike in clients and quotation requests.  Even some gyms and restaurants, both of which are yet to reopen completely, are offering their facilities for storage in order to reduce their own rental expenses.

ALSO READ: How The COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Startup Investments And  IPOs In 2020

These storage firms offer facilities like pickup services, CCTV monitoring and individual locker facilities apart from providing insurance coverage against theft, natural calamities and fire.  Ramesh Madisetty, co founder of SafeStorage, says “We have 13 warehouses with 1.16 lakh sq ft space in Bengaluru.  We have signed up for another 27,000 sq ft facility near Whitefield.  There is a 10x jump in enquiries due to Covid-19 , from 30 to 300 now (sic.)”

Another company named Storagians, which offers storage for rent in Bengaluru has already run out of storage space and are having to turn away customer requests.  Prasanna Kumar, founder of Storagians says “Unfortunately, we are turning down customers’ requests due to the non availability of slots sic.)”

The average monthly rent is based on the volume of goods.  While goods accommodated in 1BHK are charged a monthly rental of Rs. 2,500-3,500 and it will be Rs. 4,500-5,000 for 2BHK.  As more and more enterprising people are embracing this concept, many others are racing against time to get their own facilities up so they can offer storage space for rent.  This concept will continue to see a huge demand as long as companies keep working remotely.

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4 Things To Know About Instagram Reels

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4 Things To Know About Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels is the latest offering from the photo sharing platform Instagram and was launched as a replacement for the video sharing application TikTok.  Instagram Reels was launched only last year and was being tested in Brazil where it was called Cenas.  TikTok was enjoying an unrivalled popularity in India as it became a means to keep boredom at bay during the nationwide lockdown which was imposed in light of the COVID-19 virus.  TikTok amassed more than 200 million users in India and this is mostly due to the cheap internet plans rolled out by Jio Telecommunications, which made the internet accessible to every person even in the remote corners of India.

However, the Indian government announced that it would ban 59 Chinese applications in which TikTok was one, along with WeChat, Helo, Cam Scanner and many others.  This left a sudden void in video making applications, and Instagram realised the need for urgency to capitalize on this void.  Therefore, Instagram immediately pushed their latest feature Instagram Reels which lets its users create 15 second videos with music from Instagram’s database.  These videos look very similar to the ones made on TikTok and therefore Instagram is hoping to entice TikTok users to come onboard their platform.

Instagram users can open the explore tab on their mobile app and can see videos made from Reels.  These videos are displayed on the top of the explore tab and take up half the screen space to ensure more visibility for the feature.

Here are 4 things you need to know about Instagram Reels:

1) Create 15 second videos:

A user can use Reels after updating their Instagram application which is available for both Android and iOS users.  The Reels option is displayed when a user swipes right on their Instagram home screen.  A user can record upto 15 seconds of video and can string multiple 15 second videos to make a Reel.  

2) Reels can only be edited in App:

The Reels can only be edited in the Instagram app where users have a plethora of filters, music and video effects at their disposal.  The Reels can be reviewed to see how they look when they are stitched together (if two 15 second Reels are merged.)  The Reels can be deleted and re-recorded if they are not up to the mark.

3) Reels can be shared as a story or made public:

Unlike the normal Instagram Stories which can only be shared with your followers, Reels can be made public so they can be displayed on the explore tab for everyone on the platform to view it.  If you share your Reels to your Stories or in Direct, they will disappear after 24 hours. You can also save Reels to your drafts for posting later.

4) Featured Reels:

According to Instagram, Reels which may be watched by a lot of people depending on the cultural relevance and relativity to the audience will get a featured tag to them.  These featured reels will only be chosen from public accounts.

The chances are high that Instagram Reels feature is rolled out to almost everyone using Instagram in India.  Let us know if you began experimenting with it and created cool videos!

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5 Books For Every Entrepreneur In 2020

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5 Books For Every Entrepreneur In 2020

It is easy to talk about entrepreneurs and look at them with envy for pursuing their passion but what no one knows is the amount of sweat, blood and tears which go into making an entrepreneurial dream come true.  Entrepreneurs are expected to be highly competitive in the cutthroat market and at the same time continually strive to set an example for others to follow.  The sad truth however is that not all entrepreneurs succeed in their mission because some may give up midway through their entrepreneurial journey, or some might run out of cash while some are just not able to scale up their business.

Many successful entrepreneurs have documented their journey and their thoughts in autobiographies or novels for aspiring entrepreneurs seeking inspiration.  These books would manage to scale up your game, improve your business strategy, potential to connect with new people and most importantly would give you courage to persist on your journey.

Here are five books in 2020 which every entrepreneur should read

1) The Lean Startup by Eric Reiss

Published in 2011, this book is still relevant even in 2020 as Eric Reiss outlines a guide to help entrepreneurs to develop methods to manage their startups/businesses.  Entrepreneurs can set their strategies according to their needs and runway cash to optimise their business opportunities.  The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs, in companies of all sizes, a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it is too late.

2) Zero To One: Notes On Startups Or How To Build The Future by Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel is the co founder of PayPal and an entrepreneur as well as a venture capitalist.  Zero To One tries to teach entrepreneurs about how Peter Thiel thinks , his approach towards business and how one can shape the future of their startup.  WhilePeter Thiel was teaching a class at Stanford University, a student named Blake Masters took notes which led to the book Zero To One released by both Thiel and Masters.

3) The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Bob Dorf and Steve Blank

This book is touted to be the perfect guide for any entrepreneur to scale their business.  This book has detailed step by step instructions on building successful, scalable, profitable startups.  The Startup Owner’s Manual is so popular that it is taught in university courses at Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia and many other universities.  The Startup Owner’s Manual follows the theory of customer development, agile, and lean engineering.

ALSO READ: Five Steps Entrepreneurs Can Follow To Identify New Business Opportunities

4) The Greatest Salesman In The World by Og Mandino

Although first published in 1968, this book is still a bestseller and widely read by entrepreneurs.  The book aims to serve as a guide to philosophy of salesmanship, and success through the story of Hafid, a poor camel boy who achieves a life of abundance. The Greatest Salesman In The World is written in the form of ten scrolls.

5) Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston

This book is a collection of some really unique interviews done by Jessica Livingston with some of the greatest startup founders in Silicon Valley like Apple, PayPal, TiVo, Yahoo, and TripAdvisor.  This book aims to offer wisdom and insights straight from the mouths of some of the most influential entrepreneurs.

Let us know if there are any other books which deserve to be read in 2020.

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