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Entrepreneurship

Chinu Kala – How A Lone Girl Became The Owner Of A Multi-Crore Business

History was never made without taking risks and life never gets better without fighting fear.

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Chinu Kala, the founder of Rubans Accessories

Jewels are supposedly a woman’s pride. Those shiny pearls and danglings around the neck, ear and fingers that make a woman gleam in delight.

All are known to be accessories yet, how diverse is their nature.

And this diversity becomes a way of life for many people around us. Many wear it as their pride, but for some, making them is a pride.

Chinu Kala, the founder of Rubans Accessories, is one such person.

As the saying goes, all that shines is not gold. Kala, too, had to face her share of lows and pitfalls to emerge as a polished star. Just like a diamond that goes wear and tear, before it reveals its truest form.

Also Read: A Story of a Genius Girl From Child Prodigy to Aiming to Be the Top CEO in IT Firm

A Small Girl In The Big City

The story started when a young girl left  her home, alone, and stepped into the city of dreams, Mumbai.

She had no support from her family and had dire financial situations.

She started her journey by selling toasters, knife sets, and other appliances door to door.

In an interview with YourStory.com she’s mentioned that those days, as gruesome they were, helped her toughen up.

When life hits you with setbacks, you can either run and cry, or stand and fight
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Alas! When life hits you with setbacks, you can either run and cry, or stand and fight.

Our heroine,Chinu Kala chose the latter. Watch her now!

Her then startup, now an established company, Ruban Accessories, has an annual turnover of Rs. 7.5 crores now.

The Step Further – Rising As A Model

2006 was the year when the young girl took a step further towards her dreams.

She started modelling and participated in the Gladrags Mrs India contest.

The contest worked in her favour, and soon she was overwhelmed with offers.

Chinu Kala, Rising As A Model
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Even though Chinu enjoyed modelling a lot, her dreams didn’t lie in the industry.

She wanted to be her own boss and her aim was to start her own business that she could pass on as a legacy.

Taking A Step Further

Her modelling days told her that no matter what the occasion was, accessories were a big part of women’s fashion.

Making use of the knowledge she learnt during her knife sets selling days, Chinu decided to set up her own accessories business.

Chinu decided to set up her own accessories business
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She wanted to sell jewellery that was affordable yet in sync with the changing trends.

Her first venture was in 2008, a corporate merchandising startup known as Fonte Corporate Solutions.

And her prime clients were:

  • Oracle
  • ITC Limited
  • Sony Pictures
  • TV Today
  • Indian Premier League (IPL)

The Start Of Ruban Accessories

Working with the top brands, Chinu realized the imp of having a brand of her own.

That’s when the entrepreneurial seed in her heart was planted, and her mind wanted it to grow leaps and bound

She was style-conscious and inventive, and consolidated all her skills with her business sense to assemble her own brand – Ruban.

And in 2014, she planted her first seed in Bengaluru with the Ruban Accessories‘ first offline store.

she planted her first seed in Bengaluru with the Ruban Accessories' first offline store
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At that time, the accessories market was slated to grow from $3.4 billion to $10.6 billion in a period of 10 years.

The time saw an increasing acceptance for brand value among the masses. People were becoming willing to pay for branded accessories.

Expanding disposable cash, and developing individual reserve funds were two primer factors behind rapid industry growth.

And Ruban grew along with that.

Chinu mentioned in her interview that her brand showed more growth than the projected numbers in the four years of its start.

Also Read: One of the World’s Youngest Entrepreneurs Who Has Carved a Niche in Internet Industry

“Failures And Setbacks Are Ingredients Of A Great Success Story”

What a great quote mentioned by the iota of Truth.

Alas, the meaning of strength only becomes plausible when someone knows what it means to be weak!

Setbacks in life only make us stronger, and there’s no success without failures.

Chinu’s first setback was when she and her team were thrown out of their office because of her landlord’s mistake.

Chinu Kala
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In just 2 hours, Chinu’s whole team was sitting on the roadside because her landlord had defaulted on EMI’s.

They tried to recover as much as office property as they could, but what’s done was done.

The instance was a period of challenge but in 24 hours, her new office space was finalized, and they started carrying out their operations at a fast pace again.

Along with tending to her offline stores, she also moved her brand to the online platforms, which evidently proved to be a great step.

Moving Ahead

It was clear to Chinu that if she wants to succeed, she needs to get space for her office somewhere with a good customer base.

Hence her next target was the biggest mall in her city.

Although the target was decided, the challenge was that The Forum Mall had a waiting list of 2 years.

The Forum Mall had a waiting list of 2 years
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Chinu, with the use of her creative collection, shortened this time span to a four month wait, as the mall recognized the customer demand for her products.

After that, their store was ready to go. She invested about 15 lakh for her first store and 30 lakh on her second.

She didn’t have the security deposit, but as the saying goes – “where there’s a will there’s a way”. They were able to raise the amount with just the first month’s sales.

This even inspired her to open stores out of her base, Bengaluru, and move out in places like Hyderabad and Cochin.

Taking Ruban Accessories To The Bigger Platform

While working in her store, Chinu realized that although her offline stores were doing great, she was able to sell more on online platforms compared to offline.

Ruban Accessories store
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That, and the growing ethnic jewellery demand in Bengaluru, inspired her to fold down her offline stores there and shifted to a larger store.

The Outcome Of Those Difficult Decisions

When Chinu came to Mumbai she didn’t know that she’d succeed in achieving her dreams.

It’s her dedication and hardwork that did it for her.

Presently, compared to a revenue of Rs 20 lakh in  2014-15, Rubans touched a turnover of around Rs 7.5 crore in 2019.

Rubans touched a turnover of around Rs 7.5 crore in 2019
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Their craving for a brand niche, ‘Vasudhaiva Katumbakam’ (the world is one family), has now become a well established name in the fashion industry.

In her interview with YourStory, Chinu also mentioned that their aim is to keep the novelty of the brand.

Hence, they provide a new collection every 15-20 days, so that customers can see something new whenever they visit their site.

Ruban Accessories’ future prospects are a ‘Mission of 150 crore in 2024’.

The brand has already established itself in foreign states of the UK and the

US and keeps on moving ahead.

Ruban Accessories' future prospects are a Mission of 150 crore in
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India is a country so diversified that you never see the same kind of people in every region.

But the treatment towards women in all sections of society is always alike.

Parents treat their daughters that they need a man to protect them, to fulfil them and to make them “feel complete.”

No, the argument here isn’t whether women should be equal to men or not, its just a simple requirement for the female to be strong.

For her to know the dreadful world herself and for her to know how to fight herself.

For her to know the dreadful world herself and for her to know how to fight herself
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Chinu Kala was just a 15 year old girl who moved out of home to build herself.

Her hardwork and the outcome of it prove that women need not to only know deference, but rather offense is just as important.

We at TBM desk respect her courage and hope Ruban Accessories can achieve all their goals.

Also read: From the ‘Inverter Man of India’ to ‘Solar Man of India’, This Entrepreneur’s Journey Truly Uplifts the Spirit of ‘Make in India’

Entrepreneurship

This Entrepreneur is Aiming to Rule the Consumer Durable Sector

Even the promotion couldn’t stop him from leaving the comfortable corporate life.

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Bharat Kalia, co-founder, and CEO at Lifelong Online

A lot of industries in India operate traditionally.

They develop the products based on the customer needs, market them through various means, and make the revenue.

But, there is an entrepreneur who didn’t want to follow this old-school path. Instead, he innovated an alternative method to run the business.

What is this method about?

It is communicating with the customers, understanding their requirements which are not fulfilled by the existing brands, and then designing the solutions to meet their needs.

How could he get this idea?

Any guesses?

It is because he could realize these 3 facts about the customers:

  • Their needs are evolving
  • They search for modern functional solutions for the age-old challenges, and
  • Look for great value for money

After thorough research, he delivered innovative products, crafted with care, at the best prices, to ease his customers’ everyday living; through his venture known as Lifelong Online.

Now you may be eagerly waiting to know the identity of this mastermind.

He is none other than Bharat Kalia, co-founder, and CEO at Lifelong Online.

He co-founded this venture in November 2015 with Varun Grover and Atul Raheja.

From Cushy Corporate Life to Unpredictable Journey

Lifelong Online

Bharat followed the same journey as any engineer-MBA graduate would do.

Prepare day and night for the interviews, clear it, get the job, work, and, umm… keep working (what else can an employee do in the corporate space, right?).

After getting into corporate life, Bharat worked really hard to make his identity. He reached a team manager position from an associate within 5 years of working at the management consultancy firm.

After this promotion, he could have continued his job and could have climbed the corporate ladder even higher… But, the year 2015, which saw the rise of e-commerce in India, brought a twist to his life journey.

While working  at Bain & Company, a thought got stuck in his mind: No development or innovation has taken place in the home appliances and consumer durables sector .

Wait! There is a reason behind his thought – he had been using the same type of home appliances (and of course, with the same issues) that his parents used for nearly 20 to 30 years!

Even you might have faced this situation, right?

Bharat realized that the primary reason for this lack of development was that this product category contains bulky and inefficient methods of manufacturing and distribution.

This convinced Bharat that the consumer durables sector needed a digital revamp. And he took this opportunity to begin an exciting yet unpredictable journey of entrepreneurship with Lifelong Online.

How Does Lifelong Online Work?

How Does Lifelong Online Work
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“Consumer data will be the biggest differentiator in the next 2 to 3 years. Whoever unlocks the reams of data, and uses it strategically, will win,” – Angela Ahrendts.

And Bharat realized this back in 2015, don’t you think?

Lifelong Online could create its identity in the consumer durable sector within a few years of its launch.

Do you want to know how?

By operating on the customer-centric business model.

Here are the business processes that Lifelong Online follows:

  • Identification of customers’ pain points through product review insights
  • Designing the product and optimizing the packaging and supply chain
  • Conducting the test launch of the newly developed product and collecting the feedback
  • Conducting market attractiveness check
  • Pre-launch quality testing
  • Product launch and distribution through D2C (direct-to-customer) model, and
  • Continuously managing and analyzing the feedback and improving every product

Bharat and his team started their journey by launching their first product – a mixer grinder.

And then there was no looking back for them.

Currently, it has a portfolio of products belonging to these categories:

  • Home appliances
  • Kitchen
  • Fitness
  • Grooming
  • Lifestyle, and
  • Accessories

Lifelong Online sells its products through its platform and e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon, Flipkart, and Udaan. And became a fast-growing, digital-first consumer durable brand of India.

You may have one question in mind, “How is it possible for Lifelong Online to offer the products at competitive prices?”.

This is because Lifelong Online doesn’t own the factories that manufacture their products, but only lease them. Therefore, no capital investments and maintenance cost involved.

This asset-light manufacturing model with no requirement of middlemen in distribution (D2C model) helps Lifelong Online to serve the customers at the best market prices.

Pandemic Couldn’t Shatter Him

Pandemic Couldn't Shatter Him
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When there are no fish, anglers (fishermen) make nets, they say.

Because when again fishing begins, they would have more nets to catch the fishes.

And that’s what Bharat followed during the lockdown.

He destructed the team a little and repurposed them into product development. This made them have a variety of products to offer when the e-commerce market returned to normal.

A smart businessman, don’t you agree?

When the entire world got hit by the pandemic, do you know what Bharat gave the first preference to?

It was his team.

He made sure that every employee was working from home in their hometown during the lockdown. The graphic designers and finance team needed the desktops to continue functioning, and he arranged them too.

Hence, Lifelong Online could manage all the operations smoothly, even when the outer world was in chaos.

Richard Branson once said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.”

And Bharat’s Lifelong Online is the best example. We, at the TBM desk, wish Bharat and his team all the luck and success. And hope they solve many more customers’ pain points and serve them with incredible products.

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Entrepreneurship

A Young Mind Who Dreams of Bringing a Holistic E-mobility Transition

He wants to free India from depending on foreign technologies and resources to manufacture efficient batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage systems.

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Akhil Aryan, founder of ION Energy

There was a boy who applied life hacks early in his teenage life.

Do you know what these life hacks are?

In the Indian context, it is nothing but the ‘Jugaad’ (Now you got it!).

He could pay his rent when he was in San Francisco, he could figure out how to start a business with no funding in hand, all with the help of the life hacks.

Amazing! Isn’t it?

And these life hacks made him realize one thing: If he finds a problem, and he would take the ownership to find the solution for it, he would definitely be successful one day.

And that’s what made him one of the youngest successful entrepreneurs of India.

He is none other than Akhil Aryan.

In 2016, he began his venture, ION Energy, which operates in the space of Battery Management System (BMS), and battery intelligence. Hence, ION energy aims to build the technologies to speed up earth’s transition to an all-electric planet.

The Idea Behind ION Energy

The Idea Behind ION Energy
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Did you know the problem faced by electric mobility inspired the idea behind ION Energy?

Akhil had a keen interest in the physics of energy and software since he was a young boy. Before ION Energy, he worked as CPO at Haptik until 2015.

He started reading about electric vehicles and wanted to find out whether electric mobility would turn into a big thing in the future or not.

At the same time, his father decided to sell his Skoda Superb car.

But Akhil insisted his father not sell, instead, keep it so that he could convert it into an electric vehicle.

In 2016, as Akhil was reading about electric vehicles, he found that these get built upon one fundamental component: the battery.

He read more books to determine the methods that would convert the internal combustion engine into an electric one. He ordered components online to manufacture the electric vehicle battery.

As he was going through this process; he realized, there are few concerns associated with these Electric Vehicle (EV), and Energy Storage System (ESS) batteries:

  • These are very expensive (constitute 40-45% of the total cost of the vehicle), and that these are complicated components
  • These don’t last for a longer time if the user doesn’t maintain them carefully

And he also found out the significant factors of an efficient battery, which are:

  • Shelf-life
  • Safety, and
  • Performance

What would make an EV battery last longer and perform better?

Akhil has an answer for you: It is the installation of BMS that improves the performance and shelf-life of lithium-ion batteries that power EVs and ESS.

He soon found out that no players in the Indian market were into BMS and battery intelligence. And the Indian electric vehicle manufacturers depend on either European or American advanced technology.

He wanted to change this scenario.

In 2016, Akhil launched ION Energy in Mumbai, which supplies world-class products and technology to the EV manufacturing companies and ESS for renewable energy.

And guess what? In the following year, Akhil could acquire a France-based company, Freemens SAS, an 8-year-old company operating in BMS space. And currently, ION has offices in India and France.

An exciting and unusual first year for a startup, don’t you think?

What Makes ION Energy Different From the Rest

Startup ION Energy
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How does ION Energy stand out from its competitors?

It is their BMS technology that is easily adaptable to India’s roads and the environment.

In 2019, his team could deploy BMS technology in 30,000 auto and scooters in India and currently export products to 12 countries worldwide.

Akhil revealed that there are many similar technologies and products present in the market, but they do not satisfy the needs of the Indian situation.

These products are usually exported abroad, and their cost is very high, which makes them inaccessible to the local customers.

And this is where ION Energy scores. ION Energy’s BMS technology is available at a comparatively lower price and has already deployed its technology in a larger volume, helping them gain customers’ trust.

This BMS technology is a cloud-connected system that allows them to see how their batteries are being used. The cloud system then analyses this data to improve the performance of their batteries.

Akhil expressed he focuses on building relationships with Indian and international companies that desire to have their battery system.

He does this by approaching the battery components assembling companies to sell his BMS technology, which later gets transferred to the vehicle manufacturing companies.

How Does the Future Look Like?

How Does the Battery Technology Future Look Like
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Akhil has a vision of localizing the Research and Development (R&D) activities in India and manufacturing top-notch products for EVs.

Currently, ION Energy is operational in 12 countries, including India, France, Germany, and the UK. And he is looking forward to expanding it further by raising funds.

In the financial year of 2019-20, he could witness the growth of 400%, which he is expecting to remain the same for the next 2 to 3 years.

Akhil, who got featured in Forbes Asia 30 under 30, shares that one should know the ‘what’ of their life, and then should figure out or experiment with how to achieve them.

He also believes that if you have an idea, share it with others to get their perspective and feedback on your idea.

He advises the aspiring entrepreneurs not to break the head to find a million-dollar idea. Instead, look out for the problems or inefficiencies and then start the venture to solve that problem. We, at TBM, wish and hope that Akhil and the entire team of ION Energy make India proud by launching their incredible products and technologies in the EV and ESS space. And inspire young minds to find and solve problems through their entrepreneurship journey.

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Artificial Intelligence

An ‘Alexa’ for Doctors? Why Not? Said This Techie

He is the mastermind behind the clinical voice assistant tool. And he has a vision of having healthcare professionals with no burnouts.

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Suki, clinical voice assistant tool

Hey Google!

Hey Siri!

Hey Alexa!

Hey Suki!

We’re sure that most of you are aware of the first three voice assistants and are using those in your day-to-day life.

Now, you might be wondering what this fourth one is?!

Well, you will get to know about that in no time but before that; do you know, 

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine states that physicians spend 27% of their time consulting patients?

And do you know where do physicians spend 49.2% of their remaining time?

It is in doing paperwork! And it also includes the use of the EHR (Electric Health Record) system.

The primary reasons behind physicians’ burnout could be:

  • No help available for doctors and physicians to do paperwork
  • Clinics and hospitals are reluctant to invest in clerical and administrative support

Well, it is! It is totally related to our talks.

There is a technology that can assist the doctors in the monotonous documentation work; saves the precious time of the patients’ as well as their own.

And that technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Leveraging this same technology, a US-based startup founded by Punit Soni has developed a clinical voice assistant named Suki.

Suki app on appstore
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It is aiming to help doctors and physicians with documentation work, and create more time for doctors to treat their patients, which is indeed their primary job.

A brilliant move of technology into the healthcare system, don’t you think?

Also read: Top Impactful Crypto Projects in 2021

The Beginning of Suki

Suki Co founder, Punit Soni
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The co-founder of Suki, Punit, is a techie guy who has served as lead project manager for 8 years in Google, and chief product officer in Flipkart.

He was mainly into the development of mobile applications and games.

So, how did this nerdy techie get introduced into the healthcare system?

It was when he shadowed the doctors in a clinic.

When he was in the clinic, there was a stressful situation wherein many patients were getting treated, and many intense works were taking place.

In such a situation, the most distracted persons he could find were the doctors!

Why?

Because he found them immersed in the documentation work instead of treating the patients.

This was when he came up with the thought of creating a tool that can assist the healthcare professionals in doing the paperwork. And hence they could focus on their patients with more care and empathy.

And in 2016, Punit started his journey in the healthcare industry by launching Suki.

A Much-Needed Tool for Physicians

A Much-Needed Tool for Physicians

How does Suki work?

This clinical voice assistant records, transcribes, and organizes doctors’ conversations with their patients. And then, it completes the data entry that is required for EHR.

By taking care of this tedious documentation process, Suki has enhanced the relationship between a doctor and a patient.

As per a recent white paper published by Suki, this voice assistant has increased the time spent by the doctors with their patients by 12% by cutting down the note-taking time by 76%.

This is undoubtedly a win-win situation for both patients and doctors.

How?

When a happy and stress-free physician spends more time with the patients, treatment would be more effective. And that would cause faster recovery.

And for the doctors, the application of voice assistant brings a financial benefit of  $30,000 or more a year on average.

And hence, Suki, as a tool, has improved the healthcare system by  :

  • Structuring the format of the healthcare management
  • Happier physicians with no burnout
  • Increase in the profit of healthcare organization, and
  • A better outcome for patients

In one of his interviews, Punit expressed that the feedback from the CIO (Chief Information Officer), CMIO (Chief Medical Informatics Officer), and administrators were critical for Suki.

But what mattered to him the most was how Suki would help physicians work professionally and make their lives easier.

He is undoubtedly the rarest technology professional who realized that physician burnout is the most critical public health crisis that had to be addressed.

The Challenges He Had to Face

The Challenges faced by Suki founders
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The journey of Suki was not a cakewalk.

Punit, and his technology team, had little to no idea about how a day would be like in a physician’s life, or they couldn’t spare time to observe and study their workflow.

So, to get access to the data that would help him develop Suki, he took physicians onboard as his colleagues.

Was it an effortless task for him to recruit and keep physicians in his team?

No, not at all.

It became difficult for Punit to create a workspace that could be ideal for both physicians and techies.

But he knew that to make Suki a success, both technologists and physicians had to work hand in hand. Therefore, even though it was challenging to understand each other’s work culture, ethics, and process, it was all worth it in the end.

The next challenge ahead of him was getting permission from physicians to introduce Suki in clinics and hospitals.

But most of the physicians did not agree to use the tool that was built only for them.

Why?

Before Suki, the technology field had developed many tools for physicians but not keeping them in mind.

These tools, instead of easing their work, added more burden on them. They used these tools only because the system forced them to do so.

When Punit approached them with Suki, most of the physicians were hesitant. But he assured them, saying that, if they used it, from day 1, their time spent on paperwork would reduce by 50 – 70%.

And guess what?

Physicians and the healthcare system agreed to welcome Suki.

And hence, it got its entry into the healthcare industry.

Even after Suki’s successful launch, Punit had to address questions regarding his intention behind this tool.

“Are you going to replace doctors with Suki?”, many curious people couldn’t resist but ask him.

He replied with an explanation that Suki has no intention of replacing doctors. But only to assist them so that they could do their job of treating their patients in the best way possible.

How could anyone think of replacing our super strong-minded professional folks, isn’t it?

What’s New in Suki?

Suki gets constant updates
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“It was a tough job to make Suki a reliable, seamless, perfect and consistent tool for healthcare, where one can not entertain mistakes,” says Punit.

He has plans of scaling up Suki and making it even more reliable and efficient.

In this direction, Suki has come up with a newly updated platform that incorporates data collected by Suki and teaches the AI to respond to the users faster and accurately.

And that is S3 or the Suki Speech Service platform. With this new upgrade, doctors can communicate with Suki casually, without confusing it.

Punit has a vision of making Suki an invisible and assistive tool to the healthcare professionals, and hopes that many technologies would show up to upgrade the healthcare industry.

We, at TBM, wish the team of Suki all the best for future endeavours. And hope that Suki would bring a smile on each physicians’ face because they deserve it.

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