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This Young Entrepreneur Believes In Making Stories Special

Ramya GovindRaj

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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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How To Create An Outstanding Company Culture For Your Startup

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Company culture is the collective behaviour of all the team members. Having a good company culture is quite important to keep up with the momentum of the work. It is all about supporting people who share the same mission and values with regard to the company. Why is it necessary to have a set company culture? Because a work place culture can make or break your company!

Startups often face challenges in building a culture that is in sync with the company’s codes, rules and ethics. A culture should be designed in such a way that it leads the company to its stated end goals. A productive culture should be attained in the very beginning itself. This way when the company grows, it would be easier to follow through with the same culture and values.

The key to a good office culture is to set a firm chain of command and control of tasks. Apart from that, it is important to establish clear, honest and open communication. Knowing how to share opinions, challenges, discussions and mutually agreeing to a solution is essential. If at all there are any differences then you must be able to resolve the issue. As your company grows it becomes even more important to create the right culture as it could directly have an impact on the productivity of the individuals. Lack of employee motivation could also developed due to poor startup culture. So, create a fruitful culture that not only promotes good sportsmanship in business, but also keeps the team motivated to complete their tasks. Also, treating all the employees equally helps in keeping up with the culture of the startup. If you treat your workers right, you’ll figure out how to prevent them from going to other companies. If the employees are happy, they are not looking for other jobs!

Here’s how you can create an outstanding company culture,

  • Define the company’s ethical values and codes
  • Hire smart employees
  • Communicate more clearly
  • Treat employees equally  

At last you should be constantly reviewing your company’s culture. Culture may vary from company to company so, concentrate more toward creating an effective and a healthy culture from the very beginning!

 

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Startup Ecosystem In Developing Countries

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We hear about startups and their emerging stories now and then. Quite often, we observe these startups come to light from a number of developed countries like the US, India and China. In order to be a great startup you need a proper action plan that can be implemented cleverly. As far as the developing countries are concerned, there are loads of challenges that one experiences while establishing a business. Nothing is quite impossible but keeping in mind the challenges one is going to face and acting accordingly, could make it easier to set up a startup. Apart from challenges in terms of technology and infrastructure systems, one major  challenge startups face in developing countries is with funding. Finding investors plays a key role in expanding your business. It has a major impact on your startup as nothing can be taken forward to without funding. Over the years, the investments in developing countries have been made in matured industries such as oil, gas, real estate and finance.

The times have changed now!

Brazil improved its rank over the last few years. The Country faces several challenges to entrepreneurship including economic downturn, investor confidence and high costs. However, of late the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Brazil is on the rise. São Paulo is by far the most mature startup scene in Brazil. It is also referred to as the Financial Capital of Brazil. Majority of the startups commence from this City in Brazil. The Country’s startups are also receiving funding from investors like Tiger Global Management and Kaszek Ventures.

South Africa’s startup ecosystem is also seeing a growth however, challenges still remain. African startups overall, saw $167.7 million in capital being infused in to 201 startups in 2017. With the startup ecosystem changing the whole scenario, South Africa is expected to notice more inceptions in the coming years. To succeed as an entrepreneur in a developing country, you could look for partners to invest in your business and expand your footprint. South Africa also received the funding amount of $ 39.60 million infused into its startups followed by Kenya that attracted an investment of $ 31.4 million and Nigeria which secured $ 24.2 million.  Startups actually make the world a better place. You put your ideas into implementation and make things easier for the people around you, with your brilliance.

With the use of cutting edge technology and innovations, many global startups are changing the face of the developing countries!

 

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Indian Startups To Look For In 2018

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India is the fourth largest country when it comes to innovation and technology. With the startup industry booming in India, listed below are the companies that are definitely worth a look in 2018!

Byju’s

Starting off with the education technology startup Byju’s, this company joined the unicorn club with a valuation of Rs. 6,505 crores, currently. The company was founded in 2011 in Bengaluru. The Byju’s learning app was launched in the year 2015 by Byju Raveendran, the brainchild of the edtech startup. Byju’s offers a variety of learning products for students. The aim of these products is to make education and learning interesting. The learning app is used by 15 million users with 900,000 paid annual subscriptions with an annual renewal rate of 90%. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s investment firm, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) also invested in Byju’s. It was their first investment in the Indian startup ecosystem. Byju’s would soon be entering the global market including the US, the UK and South Africa.

It is currently India’s best funded edutech startup!

BigBasket

Businesses are investing billions of dollars to make shopping experiences faster and easier. From Amazon to Flipkart, everyone is focusing on scaling up the online grocery category. BigBasket is the very first online grocery store that is also headquartered in Bengaluru, India. The country’s largest supermarket was founded by Vipul Parekh, Abhinay Choudhari, Hari Menon, V.S. Sudhakar and V.S. Ramesh in 2011. The company now commands a valuation of around $ 950 million. BigBasket raised $300 million funded by the Chinese e tailer Alibaba and other investors including The Abraaj Group, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Sands Capital Ventures.BigBasket’s brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan has also extended his contract for third year. BigBasket is currently in 30 cities and is looking forward to expand its business across the country.

OYO

The Gurugram based hotel aggregator, Oravel which is now OYO Rooms is currently valued at Rs. 8,000 crores. OYO Rooms was founded by Ritesh Agarwal at the age of 19. Since its launch in 2011, the company has grown tremendously. The startup raised nearly $ 450 million so far. It lets you book affordable hotel rooms, airport hotels and even luxury hotels in just few seconds with over 70,000 rooms in 230+ cities in India, Malaysia and Nepal. Today OYO Rooms has reached five million app downloads. OYO attracted global investors including the Softbank Group, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital and DSG Consumer Partners. China Lodging also, made an investment of $10 million in OYO recently.

In January, the company also launched OYO Bazaar, a marketplace for hotel supplies in Delhi and Gurgaon. The company is only just getting started with its exponential growth!

 

Delhivery

This elogistics startup has grown enormously every year and investors have been queuing up. Delhivery is an e commerce logistics service company based out of Gurgaon. The company was brought to light by a bunch of engineers including Bhavesh Manglani, Kapil Bharati, Mohit Tandon, Sahil Barua and Suraj Saharan in the year 2011. Delhivery offers services such as last mile delivery, third party transit warehousing and more. The company was formerly known as SSN Logistics Private Limited and changed its name to Delhivery Private Limited in December 2015. As of now Delhivery raised $ 100 million from The Carlyle Group and its existing investor Tiger Global Management. The firm is valued at $ 114.5 M currently. Delhivery has operations in 800 cities and also delivers 3.2 lakhs products a day. Delhivery has done exceeding well till date.

 

Each of the successful startups mentioned has a unique story and characteristics that differentiates them from the others!  Do let us know your thoughts about these and other up and coming you think we should consider.

 

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