Perseverance is the key for the growth of small scale businesses. Renu Rao, founder, Deckle Edge paper boutique, had faced many difficulties as a women entrepreneur, but her perseverance made her company to achieve around Rs.43 lakh turnover last fiscal.
Talking about the business idea, she says, “I always have passion towards eco-friendly products. I even chose this as part of my thesis, ‘Public art on environment’ during my Masters in Fine Arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art. I returned to India and joined as a designer at Development Alternative, an NGO, which is into eco-friendly initiatives such as manufacturing handmade paper. While I was working there, I decided to start a business on my own of eco-friendly products.
“I returned to Hyderabad in 1996 and started Deckle Edge which manufactures corporate gifts and stationery like folders, letterheads, envelopes, desktop organisers which are made with handmade paper. We started with two employees and an investment of `5 lakh in the modified car garage given by my father,”
Renu knew there would be market for eco-friendly products. “As I understood the market in USA, I knew very well those eco-friendly products would be coming to India. Even, corporates at that time were looking at ISO 14000 certification, for which using eco-friendly stationery is mandatory. The business did not take long time to take off and got a breakeven in the second year and got bulk orders from a major pharmaceutical company which was interested in eco-friendly products.
“However, I could not sustain the business; the purchase manager at the pharmaceutical company was hostile. Generally, these managers get commissions on the orders. I did not know at that time that one has to bribe these people to get orders. He started pestering me with lot of questions and I thought it was a general corporate process. He made sure that somebody quotes lesser than me for orders. I lost all the business from that company because I stood against corruption,” she says.
“I faced lot of difficulties with the sales tax people. They demand money at every stage; otherwise they will not process any request. We entrepreneurs come to business with lot of ambitions, the red-tapism and bureaucracy bogs us down at all stages,” she says.
Renu Rao could successfully manage both personal professional life.
Talking about difficulties of a women entrepreneur, she says, “I have to move to New Delhi in 2000 to take care of my children and husband. We are two people ambitious and passionate about our professions. He has to remain in the Capital to get a job that matches his profile. Even though, he did his best in bringing up children and created an environment for the growth of the business, I used to shuttle between the cities and to tried both family and profession from 2006-2010. My team did their best and managed to sustain the business without my presence for many years but I came back in 2010 to expand the business,”
“There is lot of hard work that is put into the creation and design of these eco-friendly products. Many times customer buys an individual product from us and gets the bulk order from the competitor.
“We customise the product according to the customer but never copied nor compromised on the price to get orders. We have to get paid for the amount of hard work we put in the work,” she says.
The company is aiming for `1 crore revenues in next two to three years and also had a tie-up Abhinav of Hyderabad Goes Green to create public awareness on eco-friendly products and also to launch new range of eco-friendly products.