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!
5 Essential Skills Required To Be A Successful Entrepreneur
All the high net worth individuals in the world are where they are because they developed a certain skill set, which in turn helped them to reach their goals. Mere knowledge of your niche area won’t help you become a successful entrepreneur. While you need patience to run a business, you also need to focus on developing some critical skills which not only help you run your business but also can help you solve any problems that might arise in your entrepreneurial journey.
Here is a list of 5 skills you should start developing if you aspire to become a successful entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur, you will face new problems every day and for entrepreneurs, creativity isn’t just about coming up with new ideas, it is about being able to adapt to new situations quickly and finding solutions for problems as and when they arise. You will also have to constantly improve and upgrade your products and services to stay alive in the market. Therefore, creativity is the most essential skill an entrepreneur should possess.
The brand Apple is synonymous with creativity, thanks to the genius Steve Jobs. When the iPhone initially launched, critics came up with a 100 reasons as to why it would fail and it almost did. With his creativity, Steve Jobs kept upgrading the product and today, it is the best selling smartphone in the world. Steve Jobs’ creativity was the driving force behind Apple’s product design and marketing.
Every entrepreneur needs to be an effective communicator. It is essential for entrepreneurs to be able to communicate with employees, customers, investors, peers and mentors. One simply cannot manage a great team or provide a great customer service if one is not an effective communicator. Irrespective of whether a person runs a startup or a Fortune 500 company, communication is the key skill that he must develop.
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson who himself is a student of communication, calls it “an art”.
As an entrepreneur you should be able to sell sand in the desert.
Salesmanship is one such skill without which, it is nearly impossible to succeed as an entrepreneur. The soft skill of sales goes hand- in -hand with communication and is key to run a successful business. An entrepreneur should be able to sell the business idea to investors, their products and services to customers.
Salesmanship plays a key role in building trust between the company and the customer.
Mark Cuban, an American businessman, investor and the owner of National Basketball Association often emphasises that salesmanship is the skill that made him millions. When asked what he would do if he lost it all, he replied saying that he would pick up a sales job and was pretty sure that this could make him a multi-millionaire again.
4) Money Management
If you cannot manage money, you cannot manage a business. Period!
Financial management is the most important responsibility of an entrepreneur, especially in the startup stage. Knowing your cash flow can make planning and budgeting for financial needs easier. This is a key skill to develop if you are aiming to be a successful entrepreneur.
Elon Musk, the 46 year old CEO of SpaceX and Tesla often states that he does not spend his $ 20 billion fortune on lavish vacations or expensive hobbies. Instead, he invests his profits back into his business for its development.
5) Ability to find and manage people
Having great people on your team will make life much easier for you. It gives you access to new strengths while building a company culture of which people would want to be a part. Hiring the right people is key to building a successful company. Along with hiring the right people, an entrepreneur should be able to manage them efficiently. He should be able to assign the right kind of tasks to people considering their strengths and weaknesses.
The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos follows a three question method of hiring people for his company.
- Will you admire this person?
- Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?
- Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?
Only when he is satisfied with these answers, will that person work for him.
Being an entrepreneur is a complicated task and your success as an entrepreneur is the result of the small actions taken over a period of time.
If you notice you are lacking a skill or two, focus on nurturing those skills today so you might be able to enjoy success tomorrow.
Reasons Why Businesses Fail
According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 business fail within the first 18 months of their inception and the sad reality is, almost all the businesses fail because of the entrepreneurs who handle it. While there are a multitude of conditions which could lead to a business failure, most startups which fail, make similar mistakes. Here is a list of the top 5 reasons why businesses fail.
1) Starting a business for the wrong reasons
Most people start a business with a desire to earn a lot of money. While this is a benefit successful entrepreneurs achieve after years of hard work, starting a business for money is not the right entrepreneurial mindset. The driving force for your business should be your passion, not your desire for money. Entrepreneurship requires a lot of dedication, hard work and patience and if you lack passion, you will most likely lose interest in a few years and eventually end up failing.
2) Lack of proper planning
Planning is an important part of running a business. If you do not work according to a proper plan, your business is most likely to fail. A good plan consists of definite short term and long term goals and will also define where your company will be in the next few years. Lack of such proper planning will cause irreparable damage to your business.
3) Lack of funds
The most common reason why startups fail is the lack of proper funds. Budding business owners often do not understand money management and are likely to underestimate the amount of money they require to start a business and might even have unrealistic expectations about profits. As a result, the money spent on the business becomes more than the money earned by the business. This leads to debt and when this debt becomes too much, they are forced to shut it down.
4) Lack of value
The heart of any business is the value it creates. The higher your value, the more will be your customer base and the more you will earn. Your product or service should be more valuable than your competitors’. In other words, your business should be able to offer something new. If your business lacks value, it is bound to fail.
5) Early expansions
It is rightly said that slow and steady wins the race. New entrepreneurs are often in a hurry to expand their business to other markets and this is the leading cause for bankruptcy. Expanding a business is good, but before you enter new markets, make sure you maximise your existing market. If not, you will most likely be forced to close your business due to bankruptcy.
As they say, failures are stepping stones to success and as a business owner, the success of a business mostly lies in your hand. If you ever failed trying to run a business, learn from your mistakes and start over again. Most of the billionaires today are people who once failed.
Character Traits Of Successful Entrepreneurs
To succeed as an entrepreneur, an idea and money won’t suffice, you will need a lot more. Over time, entrepreneurs develop some particular character traits which help them reach where they are. From lifestyle and discipline to confidence, there are a lot of areas on which you need to work to succeed as an entrepreneur. Here is a list of some character traits of successful entrepreneurs which you can incorporate into your life.
1) Discipline is one trait without which it is nearly impossible to succeed in any discipline in life, let alone entrepreneurship. If you observe the work patterns of the world’s richest, you will find they are all extremely disciplined and follow a strict routine. From waking up before the world does, exercising regularly and eating the right kind of food, to finishing up all the required tasks on time, they are disciplined in every aspect of life. Discipline is hard to master, but if done, it can take you to new heights in life. An entrepreneur like Elon Musk starts his day as early as 5:00 A.M., and believes in scheduling the most critical tasks for the initial hours of the day.
2) Successful entrepreneurs are extremely passionate about what they do. They love everything about their product, service or company. Passion is what drives them through the highs and lows of life and helps them stay motivated even in times of trouble. Passion is the key to successful entrepreneurship.
3) Entrepreneurship in itself is an extremely risky venture and therefore, all successful entrepreneurs are risk takers. Playing safe does not always lead to any commendable achievements in life or business. However, entrepreneurs do not take just any risks, they take calculated risks. The most important part of being an entrepreneur is knowing what kind of risks to take and what to avoid. Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, takes risks like promising clients non existent products and then goes back to his team and asks them to work on the same.
4) Successful entrepreneurs know where they are is because of a team who helped them all along the way and hence they are team players. However good you are at your job, you cannot succeed unless you have a team to back you up. Working together as a team towards a goal is the ultimate recipe for a successful business.
5) The world is constantly changing and entrepreneurs know the only way they can succeed in this world is by learning something new everyday. Successful entrepreneurs spend a lot of time learning, from learning new market trends and new technologies, to upgrading their skills from time to time, entrepreneurs do it all. To succeed as an entrepreneur, it is extremely important to be a fervent learner. Warren Buffet is an entrepreneur who keeps learning constantly to keep himself updated. In fact, Buffet read all the books about investment at his local library by the age of 11.
In this world full of competition, it is not easy to succeed as an entrepreneur. However, if you are determined to do it, entrepreneurship is the most rewarding job and these are some of the many traits you should develop to succeed.
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