Print Summit debunks entrepreneur's cheat sheet

Among the last sessions in Print Summit 2024 was the panel discussion titled Lead the Change: Milliennial Entrepreneurs featuring ABI, Arjun Vaidya, Akash Zaveri and Rishubh Satiya as panelists. The session, moderated by Ankul Nanavaty, Director, Unik Printers was a lively discussion between the four young entrepreneurs about the challenges and victories of being an entrepreneur.

18 Jan 2024 | By Divya Subramaniam

The session started with each of them stating what they thought their X Factor was, that factor that enabled them to be a success. For Vaidya, it was the isolating experience of being a child with asthama and being unable to join his friends is the usual games and eating and drinking the usual things. “My family had been involved with Ayurveda for more than 130 years,” he said. More than the urge to join a family business, it was the fact that his grandfather used Ayurveda to finally cure his childhood asthama that got him interested in the business. Finally, when his grandfather passed, he made a promise to himself that he would carry the family legacy forward. That was his purpose as well as his X Factor.  

For Jani, the 45-year-old trading company was a natural step after he finished his graduation. His factor, he said, was The Disappearing Market. His family began the journey from paper providers to paper manufacturers by setting up a recycled tissue machine. Covid-19 struck soon after. Jani says that the drive to prove the naysayers wrong pushed him to innovate. He developed low-GSM paper in the same factory. That was his X Factor. 

For Zaveri and Satiya it was the drive to approach business in a non-traditional manner.
Moving on to the challenges faced by entrepreneurs, for Vaidya, the scary part was to go from a lavish Rs 30 lakh salary to zero income. The second challenge, he said, was the lack of structure within the entrepreneurial community. “I would send email after email and get no response,” Vaidya said. Approaching people personally, being persistent and not only depending on processes like email was a big learning for him. 

“The third challenge that I faced that I was too young and looked younger. So I found it very hard to get people to take me seriously,” he said. 
The positive were equally unexpected for him. “It is the small successes that really gave me motivation to go on,” he said. “The first deal, someone recognising my brand at the airport for the first time, these are the things that mattered.”

For Vaidya, there were two big pivots that changed the business. The business moved from offline to online after the offline format bombed spectacularly. The second was the when Vaidya realised that he didn’t even know who his core customer was. While he was marketing to millennials in Mumbai and Delhi, he found that is market was really smaller towns where his products were selling well. He immediately changed the packaging to include Hindi and made it more suitable for a small town buyer. “One needs the humility to recognise that one can be wrong. And must keep learning from the consumer,” he said. 

Sathiya emphasised the importance of good storytelling and believing in the story. “We pitched to 50 or 60 investors. But we had no idea how to actually spend the money if we really got it. But in the end the path finds itself. The
crucial thing is to believe in the story,” he said. 

Moving on to the top things that an investor would look at, Vaidya was of the opinion that there are a few things that one could keep in mind. “At the end of the day, when an investor gives you money, they want a return for it,”

Vaidya said. “Why do they deserve to win? Will they last through tough times? What is their total accumulated market? What are the numbers looking like? And most importantly, what is the team like. These are some of the things that I consider as a venture capitalist today.”

Satiya was emphatic that hiring and paying an excellent sales team will go a long way in the success of a business. 

What are the habits that make a successful entrepreneur?

Consistency, said Vaidya. He gave the example of his grandfather who maintained an unvarying schedule throughout his life. 

Zaveri was of the opinion that being present was a discipline that is worth cultivating. “You can’t learn and see the nuances of what is happening unless you are right there,” he said. 

“Build a network,” he added, as a final sign off to the session. “You’ll be surprised at how much people are willing to share.“