Charmi Vichhivora, a young entrepreneur, and a photographer by passion started “Curly Charmy” in 2020. Curly Charmy is a small-scale business that deals with hair care accessories especially with products that take care of curly hair. In an interview with News Aur Chai, Charmi shares her journey of starting a small business.
On asking about the idea of starting a small business, Charmi said, “It was the lockdown period and the photography business was shut. So I decided I should at least take care of my hair since I faced a lot of challenges with maintaining my hair, like excessive hair fall, frizzy and dry hair, and was unable to maintain my curls. As I didn’t know how to take care of it, I looked it up on the internet to find products that would help me. Eventually, I came across the curly girl method but the hair care accessories were expensive and I couldn’t afford them. So I decided to make it on my own. I purchased the fabric and made the product at home. I was so proud of what I had made. I was determined to help every person who struggled with maintaining curly hair. I put up a story on my private account asking my followers if they would be interested in buying the hair care product and the response was crazy. I was not serious about it initially. As I started receiving orders even on my private account, I decided to make use of this opportunity and open a business. My main goal was that it should be affordable, as I was not able to afford it. Now I’m always working on Curly Charmy. That is all I can think of. It has helped my hair.” said she.
“The curly community is super great, they have always been very supportive,” she added.
When asked if the pandemic affected the business, she said,” The pandemic did affect my business especially during the lockdown period as the courier services were shut. The sales were not great, and I was demotivated as I had invested money into it.”
Charmi’s family helps her with the packaging of products and buying fabrics. She has appointed a tailor whom she could help by giving her work. She is the one who makes the products as there are many orders every day.
The available products are Scrunchies, Bonnet, Headband, Pineapple Protector, Scarf, Pillowcase, and Detangler all customized, available in different sizes, and most importantly cost-effective! All the products are made of satin, as it helps to keep your hair intact.
“In India, curly hair care is underrated and I would like to reach as many people as I can to promote that curly hair is beautiful too. Curly hair is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle!” she added.
Amcha Ghar: Providing A Home For Orphaned Girls
1. Please tell us your journey so far, and what challenges did you face?
Amcha Ghar has been a brainchild of Ms Agatha Susheela. Since she was young as she was on a mission to serve society, she was young and full of zeal to serve the society hence, While working she registered the organization with committed social workers and well-wishers on dated 14th of April, 1996, in a village named Uttan in the city of Bhayander (W), a committed team of social workers, attorneys, doctors, and well-wishers joined Mr and Mrs Dias to give birth to Amcha Ghar. Initially, providing a home to three girls has grown to a place that caters up to 25 girls and is still growing. They have rehabilitated many girls back into society by providing them assistance for higher education, and jobs at reputed companies.
As on date, Amcha Ghar has been a catalyst in creating social impact & contributed towards sustainable development goals (SDG-2, SDG-4, SDG-5, SDG-6, SDG-8 and SDG-17) through its flagship programs. In the last five-year Amcha Ghar has transformed lives of 33,689 beneficiaries.
Amcha Ghar has been working since 1996 and impacted more than 12,543 direct beneficiaries under each of the thematic areas:
1. Nutritional Aid-13,400
2. Access to Quality Education and Gender equality-12,489
3. Improved healthcare, WaSH and Sanitation-9,660
4. Sustainable livelihood through Skills -120
We feel that resource scarcity has been a constant challenge to implement the programs in terms of challenges.
2. What loopholes in the existing socio-economic framework of our society are you trying to cure?
In our opinion, education is the most imperative segment out of different segments of a social foundation. Despite government, NGOs and corporate interventions, there are a series of issues that need attention to ensure that every child has access to quality education. This includes following:
1. Lack of access to quality education
2. Absence of proactive, skill-based and practical learning for children
3. Imbalance gender-based ratio of enrolment in education
4. Malnourishment and hunger in society
We at Amcha Ghar have been putting our efforts together with our dedicated team of experts and resources including infrastructure, science lab, computer lab etc. to resolve the listed issues in a more strategic and organized manner through a series of interventions that we implement Amcha Ghar.
3. Please tell us more about your groundwork (Impact stories)
Since inception, the Organization has directly reached and impacted about 35,669 beneficiaries through different programs and will continue to co-create a larger impact on the ground going forward.
Going forward, Amcha Ghar planning to scale its program offering Children, Youth, Women and Senior Citizen and create impact at scale across India. AG wishes to directly impact about 50,000 beneficiaries through access to education, WaSH, access to sustainable livelihood, rehab interventions of senior citizens and healthcare interventions by March 2025.
Story 1-Empowering Girls to be better citizen and brighter their future
Sristi was only three years old when she came to Amcha Ghar. Her mother was a commercial sex worker, and eventually both her parents lost their lives due to HIV. She was brought to Amcha Ghar for care, protection, and education. She has seen a lot of darkness in her life, losing her mother at such a small age, completely shook her. She is an emotionally sensitive girl and never stopped thinking about her parents.
She grew up with love and care. She was very active in extracurricular activities, such as singing, dancing, card and jewellery making. She always aspired to be a great singing artist. She has completed her IATA course (travel & tourism). Currently, she is finishing her third year of a Bachelor of Arts. , at Mumbai University and is working as a receptionist at a reputed pharmaceutical company. The journey of her life is very remarkable and memorizing.
Story 2 Global pandemic and Amcha Ghar Contribution
A global pandemic has pushed children, women, and adults to go hungry as many of them have lost their employment. As per UNDP’s recent report on hunger, nearly 151 million children under five are still stunted, 1 out of 8 adults are obese, 1 in 3 women in reproductive age is anaemic hence intervention is critical.
A global pandemic has enforced all the world leaders, Government, Civil society organizations and common man to rethink about future and reset instead of just working on short term remedies to address the deeply rooted problems with respects to education, hunger, poverty and unemployment and move towards integrated and inclusive development by adapting mode strategic approach to everything.
As a rehab strategy, Amcha Ghar has provided dry ration to more than 5000 families during lockdown and still continue to support the most affected families in future. Organization also made education accessible for 800+ Children from primary and secondary level supported education of 800 plus children between 1st to 10th Standards.
4. What are your thoughts on the current situation of child labour laws and rights in India, and how do you see the narrative shaping up with the right level of altruism and government interventions
The international community has established a global consensus against child labour through a series of widely-ratified conventions and national laws. The legal framework is in place; however, the magnitude of child labor is huge and hence integrated approach to children’s welfare is critical and need of the hour. According to data from Census 2011, the number of child labourers in India is 10.1 million, of which 5.6 million are boys, and 4.5 million are girls. Hence Government, Civil society’s, corporate and other stakeholders including Destitute homes, CWC and JJB and police system will have to work in collaboration towards, welfare initiatives, advocacy for policy changes and integrate those changes into the program is way forward to build a safe and secure future of these children in India and overseas going forward.
5. Ever since the lockdown, the school dropout rate has increased exponentially, young girls who have stopped their education during this difficult time might never be able to return back to school. How do you think we as a society must mitigate this problem before it snowballs into bigger one?
Well, It’s true, and hence we as civilised society needs to understand the magnitude of the problem and work in collaboration is key to address those problems. While addressing these problems, technology will play a very important role in making the impossible possible for every child to access quality education at his/ her home.
Few companies like MI and others have shown interested under their corporate social responsibility initiative to provide mobile phones to children to access education even during lockdown.
Along with this government, civil society and individual will have to take responsibility and be the catalyst and ensure that every child has access to technology and so as to education.
6. Years of living in destitution can often condition one into a victim mindset, which ironic is still harboured in women despite belonging to the elite class. How can we ensure that girls today have accessibility to all resources and opportunities to become bright leaders of tomorrow
As an organization, we needs to work towards gender balance and educate, empower children Girl child to have access to resource as equal to boys. At school, we do provide them equal opportunities to achieve their dreams and be independent in real sense in the future.
At government-level work around gender budgeting, advocating towards girls’ rights, having specialised schemes to promote girl-child education will be way forward to ensure that Girls are independent in every form.
7. How can we instil the notion of gender equality in young children so that they become more conscious and responsible citizen of the community in future
It’s possible at different levels wherein every stakeholder will have to play a key role in achieving it. Parents will have to ensure equal treatment, resources, and opportunities made available for both siblings without bias at the family level. At the government level, each political party needs to ensure that women will have equal representation in politics. When there is equal and fair representation by women in politics of all forms, there will be more coalition and power while representation the issues around women, issues of girl child for access to school, equal opportunities at the workplace and equal pay.
8. What policy interventions/ amendments or initiatives are required to be set in motion to change the current state of affairs
To identify and address any social problems, all the stakeholders need to integrate their efforts in individual and united capacity to resolve the social issues around us. Following could be key strategies that could be adopted:
1. Strategic collaborations with Government, civil society and society at large, frame policies and programs that ensure the welfare of all children and no bone left behind, Increase government spends on educational reforms and reforms around child labour and destitute children
2. Inclusive education system –One needs to adapt an inclusive education system to ensure every child have access to education
3. Reforms in Policy-As per new education policy; there are provisions of practical and experiential learning needs to be strengthened going forward.
4. More stringent law and its implementation would be key to address major social problems in India
5. Empowerment through Educational investments for all, awareness at different level for stakeholders and advocacy at central, state and district level with government, civil society, corporate and society at large would be key in addressing these social problems more efficiently and effectively for inclusive and sustainable development for all.
Fully Baked: Taste the Professionalism of Baking!
“I started my business during the pandemic. What better time to start a baking venture than during a time when all shops are closed down and people need to alleviate their COVID-19 anxiety?”, says Ananya Ganesh Shandilya, a passionate chef who is also a finance professional. ‘Fully Baked’ was started in February 2020 as a ‘two birds, one material’ way to transform her creative thoughts and build a business that she was passionate about. In an interview with News Aur Chai’s Feba M. Abraham, Ananya shares about her personal venture that reflects her simple, fun and an absolute foodie personality!
Ananya grew up eating decadent desserts and pastries and found immense joy in watching cakes being baked on television. She recollects her hilarious ‘maiden baking experiment turned disaster’ after receiving a baking oven as a gift 5 years ago. However, that did not hold her back. She was determined to learn the chemistry behind baking and improving her skill set.
“A dissatisfied customer is an entrepreneur’s worst nightmare! I know the rage a person can feel when they order a cake and bite into a stale, dense mess that is neither delectable nor alleviates your dessert guilt”, said Ananya. When it comes to planning, she creates her baking workflow the day prior to delivery in order to avoid any mishaps and to account for logistical delays. Being an early bird, all desserts are freshly baked to be delivered on the same day as the order date. She usually puts up the various bake sales along with the dessert choices of the day, on the official Instagram page. The desserts are normally ready to go out by 9 A.M., but on busy days, the desserts will be out latest by noon. Once her baking hustles for the day are over, she then sits down for studying with her CA books. She never fails to take breaks wherein she plays chess.
When asked about the creation of the recipes, Ananya describes her journey as a learning curve of tweaking internet recipes and experimenting with several flavors till she found the ones that met her expectations. She gives importance to her customers’ preferences and be aware of health related issues. She records customer feedback and then improves upon the taste by adding possible new elements. She goes on to add, “This has been the most indispensable tool for improvement and I find myself putting two contrasting ingredients only to hear that they created an exotic burst of flavors in my customers’ mouths!”
So, what exactly makes ‘Fully Baked’ unique and distinct from the others? Here, all the desserts are 100 per cent eggless. She also makes sugarless desserts as she strongly believes everyone should get to taste her delicious treats. Without compromising on the quality, she tries to cut costs and also maintain rigorous accounts for her business. She reinvests all her profits back into the business, like the small businesses.
Out of all the desserts introduced so far, the customers’ all-time favorites have been the chocolate ganache cupcakes and tarts. The coffee and mango cupcakes also started give a strong competition to the chocolate ganache delicacies recently.
Ananya’s parents have greatly supported her in this venture. Her mother has been involved in every step of the process and her father has instilled in her a strong work ethic and a special kinda love for spreadsheets for better organizing. “I certainly would not be where I am today, without their emotional support along the way.”, said Ananya. Right from childhood, Ananya has been huge fan of the reality TV shows, ‘Cupcake Wars’ and ‘Masterchef USA’. “Florian Bellanger and his unparalleled skills as a pastry chef awoke my inner Nigella Lawson. His fortitude to experiment with and create new twists on classic French pastries like macaroons and éclairs inspired me to venture outside my comfort zone as well—becoming a baker.”, said Ananya.
When it comes to the advertising segment, the following are the main means that contribute to the growth of the business:-
- Word of mouth and valuable customer feedbacks;
- The official Instagram page, @ananya_shandz, showcase all the colorful and eye-catching desserts;
- Once sales started taking shape, she listed the entire host of desserts along with the corresponding prices on the website, www.fullybaked.in .
- The customers are also free to contact the business’ number (+91 78670 04000) to place the orders.
She takes precautions, such as the personal protective equipments, to carefully bake the desserts. Both pick-up and home delivery are available, according to the convenience of the customers. Also, her couriers practice social distancing while delivering. Her utmost priority is to ease the customers of their doubts of having to order food during the pandemic. She says, “I try to proactively communicate with them and reassure them that all requisite precautions have been taken.”
In the course of pursuing Ananya’s passion for baking, her patience and ability to improvise have certainly improved. She has personally understood the importance of active listening and paying attention to detail.
When asked about the future of the business, she went on to say, “I want Fully Baked to be inclusive of people with a myriad of health ailments, dietary preferences and restrictions. I am planning to develop an entire host of vegan and gluten free desserts. I am also planning to branch out into savories, particularly the Italian food, especially the preparation of pizza and garlic bread from scratch. Also, I currently deliver only in Chennai. I hope to expand the delivery boundaries soon.”
As mentioned initially, Ananya is a dual professional handling finance on one hand and baking on the other. When questioned whether home baking is a better option than any corporate job, she replied that the answer to this questions depends on what you want from life and who you are as a person. She strongly believes that “if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.” By doing so, she gets to be her own boss, set her own business hours and work hard till she drops doing something she loves. She then concluded saying, “However, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone has the liberty and privilege to pursue their passion. To each their own!”. Let us not forget the main tagline of this blooming business, “Have your cake, and eat it!”
I am pretty sure that after reading the above article, you must be really hungry. What are you waiting for then? Head over to Fully Baked’s official Instagram, @ananya_shandz, and order away!
Introducing Khojdeal : Bringing Visibility to Hyperlocal MSMEs With Affiliate Marketing
In tandem to the Make in India and Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative, Khojdeal offers it’s platform to local vendors to showcase their products offering to the Indian audience. Being Vocal for Local has been a part of the organization’s ethos since it’s conception in 2016. A spectrum of players from the Indian startup ecosystem are offered visibility and a platform to share their story with our audience in addition to cash-deals. A growing brand in the performance/affiliate marketing space, Khojdeal offers cashback to our users for every purchase by customers. They provide product reviews and comparisons which enables them to take informed decisions. Khojdeal focuses on delivering more value to customers through technology innovation in the online shopping space and wanted to offer Indian customers a go-to portal for the best deals and coupons online.
Q1. What inspired you to start this venture? What gap in the existing ecosystem are you trying to bridge?
After shutting down my first startup in 2012 and working in the corporate sector for 3 years, I never imagined I would be back on the startup bandwagon so soon. However, at that point in time, the digital revolution in India had already started. With the internet penetration increasing, people were turning to the online ecosystem for various things including shopping.
People in metros were already comfortable shopping online for almost all major categories and those in tier 2 and 3 cities had also started buying fashion apparels and accessories and home accessories online.
Various studies indicated that this boom in e-commerce was not a temporary thing. In fact, with time it was expected to increase at an even more accelerated pace. We felt that as more and more people start shopping online, they are also going to look for deals and offers to save on their online purchases.
With this sentiment in mind, we started working on Khojdeal in 2015 and took it live in March 2016.
Over the past 5 years, from a coupon and cashback website, we’ve evolved into an online deal discovery platform that’s not only helping customers in finding the best deals and offers but also assisting them in making informed buying decisions through well researched articles.
Q2. Tell us about your journey before starting your entrepreneurial venture?
I am an engineer and a business graduate by education. Before being bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, I have worked with companies like Mindtree and Cognizant as a Digital Marketing Consultant. From consulting Fortune 500 companies on digital transformation to launching a startup, I have seen how digital strategies impact organizations at various stages.
Q3. How does your platform work?
Khojdeal works on an affiliate marketing model which is a performance-based marketing tactic. We have partnered various leading affiliate networks who provide us with the best deals and offers from a plethora of domestic and international stores. Our experts handpick the best ones and curate them on the website. When a user shops online through Khojdeal, we earn a commission from the store in question. A certain percentage of this commission is passed on to the user in the form of cashback.
Q4. How many vendors/partnerships do you have?
We currently have 1500+ domestic and international online stores on our platform. Deals across various categories like fashion, food, travel, electronics, movie and entertainment, hosting and domain, et al are handpicked everyday and curated on Khojdeal.
In tandem with the Make in India and Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative, Khojdeal offers a platform for local vendors to showcase discounts on their products online. Being Vocal for Local has been a part of the organization’s ethos since it’s inception and a spectrum of players from the Indian startup ecosystem are offered a voice and visibility on our platform.
Q5. What are your future plans?
As a company, we focus on providing maximum value to our customers. We provide them with detailed information about products and bargaining the best cashback for them is our growth strategy.
We are also constantly striving to improve the user experience. According to Amazon Web Services study, 88% of online shoppers say they wouldn’t return to a website after having a bad user experience. People not only remember bad online experiences, but they talk about them with their friends. According to Neil Patel’s infographic, 44% of shoppers will tell their friends about a bad online experience. These statistics clearly indicate how important user experience is. A robust and agile customer service team is, therefore, the need of the hour.
We also aim to engage in inbound knowledge monetization and leverage the power of social to build new customer acquisition funnels.
Q6. How has the pandemic affected your business and how have you innovated to overcome the same?
Covid-19 has caused an inflection in e-commerce penetration globally driven by consumers’ need for safety and convenience and even in India, online is gaining prominence. Self-imposed social distancing to avoid contagion, together with the strict confinement measures implemented in India in March, April, May and June encouraged a majority of people to shop online. A Bain and Company-PRICE survey of 3000 households across income groups and geographies, conducted between April and June, revealed approx. 40% of respondents were buying more online.
Initially, as people were trying to process the uncertainty of the pandemic and lockdown, traffic on Khojdeal decreased. Logistics were affected and a majority of e-commerce stores had to pause deliveries. Many affiliate campaigns were paused and this had a direct impact on us.
Gradually, as the government stepped up to streamline e-com deliveries and formulated various SOPs for the safe and timely distributions of the same, things were back on track. We saw an increase in categories like groceries, home improvement products, books and entertainment, artistic supplies, home appliances, large appliances and DIY tools. However, we also saw a devastating crash in categories related to travel like flights and hotel bookings.
Now that things have settled a bit, we are witnessing a slow, yet steady growth.
About Vaibhav Lall
An engineer by education and an entrepreneur by choice, Vaibhav Lall is the founder of India’s largest online deal discovery platform – Khojdeal. Prior to jumping on the entrepreneurial bandwagon, Vaibhav has experience working with corporate giants like Mindtree and Cognizant as a Digital Marketing Consultant. From consulting Fortune 500 companies on digital transformation to launching a startup, he has deployed astute digital strategies that can impact an organization’s growth curve in various stages.
Owing to his sharp business acumen, the majority of his time is invested in navigating creative solutions for problems in his niche. Being a keen follower of the works of Simon Sinek, Subroto Bagchi and Ben Horowitz, he imbibes the learnings both in his professional as well as personal life. Motivated with the zeal and deeply seated desire to change the world, he joined the startup universe as his first job. Soon to become a serial entrepreneur, Vaibhav launched his first startup which develops web apps and helps brands get on to social media.
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