Article (September-2017)


How I started and nurtured my startup..!

Shikha Puri

Designation : -   Founder & Managing Partner

Organization : -   Teacupsfull, Gurgaon


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When I decided that I wanted to start my own business, I had no idea what the journey will unfold for me. I was clear that I wanted to be my own boss and do something big. For 16 years, I worked with India's top advertising agencies SSC&B, Pickle Lintas and lastly with JWT. I had worked on the iconic brands like, SpiceJet, Nokia, Airtel, UNICEF, World Bank to name a few. Working on such brands gave me the required learning and skill set of brand management.

In 2015, I founded my own brand of tea by the name Teacupsfull. It is one of India's few Tea Boutiques which is run by a Tea Planters Family. To start with, we set up an exclusive Tea Store in Gurgaon in March of 2016, slowly we made the brand available on online market places like Amazon, Big Basket, Flipkart, Place of Origin and our own online store Today we ship teas to over 50 countries.

How it all started? - Putting pen to paper
I am married into a tea family. Every year we spend a part of our summer holidays in Darjeeling where we have our family home. The visit to Darjeeling would be incomplete without a ceremonial visit to one of the tea estates where my father in law worked. My father in law Mr. N.K. Puri is an ex - Goodricke Tea Planter. Every year I learnt something new about tea. However, our summer holiday of 2015 was particularly eventful, it was then the idea of tea business came in.

I left my job in Feb of 2015. Being a working mother and trying to strike a work life balance was difficult. My 5 year old son needed my time and the job was equally demanding. It was then I decided to be an entrepreneur and to utilize my learning and experience in doing something of my own In Feb of 2015, I gave up my job and explored the ideas and options. It was in the summers of 2015 during our trip to Darjeeling that I decided to start the tea business.

We had all the right ingredients. The wait was just to put them together. On returning from Darjeeling in June of 2015, I started working on the business plan. I got my father in law (ex - Goodricke tea planter) and other tea planters on board with us. I worked closely with them in developing the product. We did not compromise at any stage on the quality and developed the brand Teacupsfull.

We dip stick study to evaluate the product and the branding and undertook blind tea tasting sessions. We got fantastic response. People were excited to try the teas coming from a Tea Planter's family. The branding touched the right emotional chords. People loved the young look and the great tasting teas. We wanted to introduce a range of teas that cater to every palate. Today we have over 30 varieties of tea.

Challenges Faced
Coming from a service class family, I had no idea of business. I had no one to turn to for the basics. I got in touch with some consultants; none of them knew the entire process of getting all the approvals. We were very clear, we did not want to start on the wrong foot, and we wanted to be 100% compliant with the law. Also having worked in MNCs I was clear in my vision and always thought big. I wanted to be very professional in our way of working. The first few months were spent on getting approvals. The day we got our final approval, we started the roll out.
I did face many challenges at various stages e.g. in just few months of launch, the competition tried to pull us down, however the issue was resolved soon. Teacupsfull now is a fully registered brand. Challenges do prop up many times, however the key is to stay positive and never give up. There is always a solution to every problem.
Top 5 Tips for Entrepreneurs 
1. Focus is the key. It is very important to stay focused on your goal and not to give up. Remember, Rome was not built in a day.
2. Hard work, hard work hard work. There is no substitute to that.
3. Make sure your company is fully compliant. Leave no stone unturned in getting necessary approvals.
4. Cost Control. Keep an eye on your finances, it is easy to spend money but doubly hard to earn it also.
5. Do not hesitate to look for help. You will be amazed at the power of networking.
Test your product before you launch commercially
As a thumb rule, it is always a good idea to test the product/service before launch. Be it packaging, labeling, compliance, transportation, shipping, logistics. We initially tried our transactions with family, friends and their friends. I took their feedback and improved ourselves where we lacked. This way you also get to know where you may have missed something. Today, I can proudly say that we use the best packaging material in the industry and we receive positive reviews from all our customers on our products as well as the entire buying experience.
Some Do's about startups
1. Business is about being hands on. Be it packing, billing, warehousing and dispatch - set an example to your team, show them how you want your work done.
2. Keep an eye on your costs, document every penny.
3. Identify a mentor within the friends circle. Talk to them, don't be afraid to ask question even if it is a basic.
4. Keep yourself motivated, you will need loads of self motivation as months go by.
5. Learn, Innovate and implement.
6. Never compromise on the quality of your product.
7. Treat each customer with respect be it big or small.
8. Pay attention to details, an error free business means setting high standards.
9. Invest in good branding, protect your brand, it is your future.
Some Don'ts
1. Don't get swayed by companies that promise you the earth or assured return for a paid listing.
2. Don't give 100% advance to vendors for goods and services.
3. Think like a big company and act keeping your pockets in mind. Big companies have deep pockets and enough employees who can do the task.
4. Never run out of patience. Learn from mistakes, rectify and move on. 
5. Never put your team down.
6. Don't try and do everything on your own - delegate responsibility.
7. Don't get disheartened by failure. Failure is the key to success.