At LAFFAZ, it is always a state of joy for us to conversate with entrepreneurs and bring the same to our audience. And when it is with the young minds of the startup ecosystem, it gets even more valuable and admirable.
The 23-year-old entrepreneur Akanksha Nirbhavane is the founder of WrapCart, a mobile skins manufacturer from Mumbai that leverages its online portal and other digital avenues like social media for brand awareness and generating business.
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Nirbhavane is a B.Com graduate from RA Podar College of Commerce & Economics, Mumbai and currently pursuing PGDM MBA from IBS Mumbai. Before starting WrapCart, the young entrepreneur did a summer internship in Future Generali and secured Front Runners certificate in client acquisition.
So without further ado, let’s hear it from Akanksha about her entrepreneurial journey…
LAFFAZ: How did you come to the idea of starting an e-commerce platform; while most of the students and graduates these days are all about studying, finding jobs and struggling with distractions?
I have always been an average student at the school and the university but that didn’t intercede into a random thought that triggered my mind back in the days i.e. starting a business that could help me generate income to meet my daily expenses without depending on my parents. This thought of self-independence came early to me. I had a friend who was also planning to start his own business and pushed me by asking me ‘If I can, why can’t you?’. The question kept me busy thinking and I eventually decided to get started.
Very soon I invested whatever money I had in a food stall which turned out to be a complete failure. But instead of getting demotivated I got even more determined. Though I was open for employment opportunities, I was always zealous about entrepreneurship. Starting single-handedly and later accumulating a team to grow big.
As far as distractions are concerned, I never had any, I enjoyed my college life to the fullest and WrapCart is the very result of the motivation and support from my family and friends.
LAFFAZ: How does it feel like being an entrepreneur at such a young age? How did your parents and family react to your startup idea before you actually brought it live?
Akanksha: Initially none of them was confident that the business will work out. Their attitude was very casual towards it. But the best thing was, my parents didn’t poke or stop me from starting. They extended their full support which created a great sense of freedom for me to experiment and learn without worrying about anything. It feels really great to be an entrepreneur at such a young age.
LAFFAZ: The mobile accessories market is pretty bloated, what competitive advantages have you set for WrapCart to address challenges in the long run?
Akanksha: The market is highly competitive. There are more than 150 recognized brands out there selling mobile accessories online plus thousands of individual retailers selling via social media handles. Speaking of the e-commerce startups in general, as the big fishes like Amazon are growing, the more the smaller startups are being affected and shutting down. Why? Because of the lack of brand awareness, price competitiveness and trust among the users.
WrapCart’s advantage lies in its products. We sell vinyl skins for devices which are really different from the commonly available plastic covers. Moreover, WrapCart is the only brand that has 120+ varieties of skins available for more than 500+ Phone Models – none of the other brands in India offers such a range.
Another competitive advantage that we have is strategic tie-ups with vinyl suppliers in China and Korea. We are even planning to bring up additional different vinyls from China crafted especially for Indian users.
LAFFAZ: Since WrapCart is a bootstrapped startup, how did you manage to have a manufacturing plant and machinery without raising any capital?
Akanksha: The idea was very clear that WrapCart has to have its own machinery and manufacturing facility that could help us cut costs and manufacture without outsourcing.
Though I started pretty small, it was without borrowing money from friends or family and it went perfect. Most of the people I discussed my thing with, recommended me to raise a seed fund from my family and friends, but I didn’t do it in order to prevent the risks involved with raising capital at the initial stage. I wanted to experiment and test run. So, I bought some skins from small manufacturers in Mumbai and added those to my inventory. It took longer to generate orders since the platform was very new but I managed it. I reinvested the money that I made in advertising and kept repeating the same. The constant support from my developer and team members made all the hardships pass easily. Within a year, we were able to develop a good customer base and fulfilling a huge number of orders; we invested all the money that we made in a manufacturing unit in Kandivali that helped us cut costs, expand our inventory and took us way further.
LAFFAZ: Did you make any mistakes while setting up or running WrapCart until now? If yes, then what were those and how did you address them?
Akanksha: Absolutely, in my opinion, mistakes beautify one’s entrepreneurship journey and knock the door as opportunities unexpectedly. My first and the silliest one was in the initial phase of starting WrapCart. We were setting up the online store and randomly picked a few images from another social handle and after a few days, we received a warning from the owner of the images saying that he’ll file copyright infringement claim on us. And to fix that we had to take our online store down for a week to replace the images. Meanwhile, we collaborated with a few photographers and brought our store back live. And sooner, I realised that the mistake was actually a much-required lesson that pushed us to lay an effort and ultimately helped us increase brand awareness and retain user attention by incorporating original product images.
I was still taking things lightly. For logistics, we collaborated with a cheap courier service for cost-saving. Initially, it was going good, but as orders increased the rate of successful deliveries started diminishing. We were being regularly bloated with complaints from customers for delayed deliveries too. We had to maintain our brand value and retain customers anyhow. And for that, we partnered with premium courier services. WrapCart now also has fulltime executives to look into logistics and a dedicated customer service team for solving customer Queries. Moreover, 20 percent of the orders we now receive are from the returning customers.
LAFFAZ: Please accentuate over the biggest problems that you have faced until now in your entrepreneurial journey and how did you manage to address those?
Akanksha: Well, I must say that it requires great impulse and determination to be successful. Failures with learning create opportunities which hit you time and again unexpectedly. You just need to have a good eye to spot them. There were days when I felt that nothing is happening, and thought of shutting down and concentrate one something else or just stick to education. My research on the internet took me to negative facts and numbers that were making me lose determination, such as “90% of startups fail within 5 years of inception”. Apart from this, as a young female entrepreneur, I faced a lot of negative feedback and ignorance from many suppliers. Eventually, I got used to it and started ignoring anything uninspiring that came along. I never had to answer anyone, neither my parents, nor friends, I could simply shut down the business and walk away with it. But I had this feeling of making a constructive choice. I mean why would I punish myself for the stereotypical mindset of others?
I continued on my path and improvised daily. My business IQ got lifted each day and within a short span, WrapCart became the most worthy asset that I ever had. And more importantly, I’m now able to manage my business and studies altogether.
I believe that the best examples of one’s self form great advice and learning. Thus, I advise the same thing to everyone. There is no secret formula to success, nobody gets successful overnight, it requires zeal and consistency; as Brian Chesky says “Our ‘overnight’ success took 1,000 days”.
Being recognised by LAFFAZ for sharing my entrepreneurial journey with the audience is not only motivating to me but signifies an incredible opportunity for other youths as well.
– Akanksha Nirbhavane
Back in February, we had the opportunity of knowing about WrapCart and decided to come up with this conversation to inspire the subset of our audience that inculcates young and aspiring entrepreneurs, especially women.
For most people, renowned and young entrepreneurs are the only role models, but I believe, all entrepreneurs regardless of the stage or size of their businesses are paving towards boosting the Indian startup arena and possess the complete potential to be the future role models.
P.S.- If you’ve found this interview worthwhile, don’t just keep it to yourself, and make sagacious use of it by sharing with family and friends.