Naaree interviews Indian woman entrepreneur, Rajashree Sundaram, Founder of HastaKaushalam, a handmade jewellery start-up.
Indian women entrepreneurs in various sectors have been immensely successful, dispelling the old myth that they cannot handle businesses as confidently or assertively as men.
Here, we feature a young Indian woman entrepreneur, Rajashree Sundaram, Founder of Hasta Kaushalam. In her own words, Rajashree holds a Master’s Degree in Marketing and has worked in HR for several years.
Spiritually, she is inclined to creativity (she sketches, paints and is into a lot of crafts) and to be her own master! It was with this idea, aided and abetted by her passion for the Arts, that she founded Hasta Kaushalam in 2002.
Hasta Kaushalam is a handmade jewellery start-up, catering to people through online media including social networks. They take orders from across India. Hasta Kaushalam was formed in 2002 with a slow and steady start.
A friend and she tied up with Bimba – The Art Hut in Chennai and conducted an exhibition-cum-sale of our sale of their handmade products (which includes handmade candles, tea coasters, jute products and other knick-knacks).
The Hindu graciously featured their ad on their Metro Plus edition. HK (Short for Hasta Kaushalam) has always been her dream ever since its conception. Then, she took a hiatus to focus on her job, till December the 30th of 2011 when HK was revived.
The range of jewellery includes Earrings, Bracelets, Anklets, Neckwear and Antique sets. One can visit them at Hasta Kaushalam on Facebook.
Each album has been created and sorted out with respect to the Range and has been named in Sanskrit with Meaning, Description and Findings used. They take orders from anywhere in India and are soon planning to go ahead with overseas shipping too!
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Did you always love it or was it something you got into?
Having seen my father in business from the time I was born, becoming an entrepreneur was always my dream though I have a short career history with the corporate world.
When did you know that “HastaKaushalam” was no longer just an idea in your mind and that you can really turn it into a lucrative business?
Right from my childhood, I was always a creative person and people appreciated every little thing that was made by me. HK (Short for Hasta Kaushalam) was a brand that I wanted to build upon since my graduation days.
This was a project I knew I would get into and I was just waiting for the right time. Things fell into place and HK has been in action since 2011. More business plans are on the cards and if all goes well HK will spread its wings very soon.
What learning lessons can you share from your startup experience?
One needs to have clarity and a proper plan prior to starting any brand or business. A design is definitely required like a draft for building a house.
Once that is done, it’s the only action. A lot of homework is to be done before one gets into the thick of things.
What are some challenges that you faced when you started out? Do you have some examples to share and advice to women entrepreneurs on overcoming them?
I’m a self-taught designer and that was a big challenge for me. A lot of research and learning took place with the launch.
I learned it all from scratch – Sourcing, (identifying the markets with best prices) Pricing strategy, (in pace with competition) and every little detail like packing, shipping. It was fun learning everything myself, and it gave me a lot of confidence and pride.
Moving from a corporate job to your business must have come with its share of doubts and scepticism. How easy or difficult was the transition?
This was never a tough call for me. It was very clear to me that I wanted to steer away from corporate life, and start on my own and be content with that.
I was sure that doing something my own way was going to be more relaxing and enjoyable than holding on to my corporate job. It was very easy but before HK I had a long wait but now I know it was worth it.
Another thing I never have to worry about is moving around if my husband’s work requires it because the nature of my business allows me that freedom. Currently, I am based in Hyderabad, but my business is all online.
What are all the things that a woman entrepreneur needs to keep in mind? I.e. apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?
Planning – Especially with finance. Like a start-up project like HK, I had to handle finance very carefully. The Seed capital was from my Husband and from there on it was only re-investing and I had to play very safe.
Coming from an unrelated field of work, did you go through formal training or courses in jewellery design before you took the leap?
Like I mentioned earlier, I am a self-taught designer. My creativity is my only strength and had to do a lot of homework on my project before I took it up.
Is it beneficial to have a mentor when you’re starting out on your own? What does a mentor bring to the table?
Yes, I do. I also believe that too many cooks spoil the broth. I had one mentor with whom I share ideas and the one who helps me in every little thing about HK.
My husband has always been by my side and his constant guidance has helped me reach this place today. Also, my family members are of great support and help.
What are the key things that you have learned as an entrepreneur?
The first thing is that running a business is a cycle of constant learning. You learn each day from every experience, whether it is an aspect of business, or about people. So be open to learning even as you grow.
Finance planning is of cardinal importance, and you need to know the level of risks you can take.
How important is social media in building a business today? How has it played a role in helping you build yours?
Social media is a boon if it is used as a business tool. Other than personal sharing, it helps a lot in building business.
In today’s world where “busy” is the buzzword, people are well connected with social media than in any other way. It is so easy for people to connect and get things done.
It plays a great role for HK as we are an online shop 🙂
Can you share some tips for women entrepreneurs to maintain a balance between work and family life?
Maintaining a balance is simple if one plans and prioritizes. You really need to sort out stuff on the personal front and things don’t always go the way you plan.
Excluding exceptions, it is truly not a difficult task. Moreover, if your business is your passion and it is done with love, things become a lot easier.
Make sure your family supports you wholeheartedly. Involve them in ways you can, and take their opinions, so that they feel connected to you.