“Embrace what you don’t know, especially in the beginning, because what you don’t know can become your greatest asset. It ensures that you will be doing things different from everybody else.”
– Sara Blakely
An entrepreneur is someone that would never call himself an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is someone that is happy to work, while all others are out partying. The entrepreneur’s drug is success. He is addicted to success. And finally, the entrepreneur knows one simple fact: “I will make it, maybe not immediately but absolutely and definitely”
Building upon this essence and supporting the new culture of pioneerdom in NITK, The Entrepreneurship Cell presents – ‘Starting Up in NITK’, where we talk with some young entrepreneurs from NITK and delve into their journey through the years.
For the first issue, we have with us, Vishnu Narayanan (PG batch of 2018), who co-founded Spotted Frog along with his brother Arjun Narayanan.
– If a stranger were to stumble upon your startup, how would you pitch your product to him/her?
At Spotted Frog, we are promoting a sustainable lifestyle. We currently launched as a fashion store with just 5 product varieties. Organic cotton T-shirts are our flagship, but a whole new array of over 65 variety products which includes home and living products are in the line. The lifestyle we promote is visible right from the first template on our website to the product packaging. The products our consumers receive will be in a compostable cover instead of plastic which will be inside an eco-friendly courier bag and a seed paper hangtag from which they can grow a plant on their own!
– How and when did your startup come into being?
We started the research with the vision to make a designer clothing brand because I’m an artist myself and I was not satisfied with the designs available in the market, so if there is still a gap I felt there should be a market as well. But as the research progressed, I was struck by the irony that conventional cotton we wear is the dirtiest crop on this planet, which then eventually led to the research for sustainability and organic cotton. I’m an environmental engineering post-graduate from NITK, so I won’t say my way of thinking drove in that path. But I would say it was a hell of a ride. I got to learn a lot of things. And interacted with many people who did small things which made big impacts.
– What gaps would you say are being bridged by your product?
Our idea was to make quality goods available to the middle class at affordable pricing. This is a concept that I can understand because even I come from a middle-class background. If you see an organic cotton t-shirt, for example, it’s usually available as bland solids and with a 1-1.5k price tag. And other sustainable fashion elements like reusing plastic is something nobody cared to work upon. What we did was revamping this pipeline of sourcing and processing. Also, all designs you see on the website, in fact, anything and everything you see there, including product designs to web templates is designed by me. The web design is done by my 20 year old brother. So it’s handmade in every sense.
– How has the experience been till now with the performance and responses?
We got a fair response. We got 19 orders only after 3 days of launch, which was on 1st August. We are in quest for the right audience. We made this website at zero cost. It’s just the manual effort by the two of us, 119 nights with approx 4-5 hours of sleep to be precise. What we did right after the launch was to sleep for a whole day and when we were back online, we had 6 orders lined up.
– Well, that sounds really exciting. What would be the next milestone considering the current situation/scenario?
We need to educate people and make them conscious about the choices they make while choosing a cloth.
– And how has the journey been up until now? Any major roadblocks?
Well, yes, obviously Coronavirus was the best opponent. We took our first stock and had to keep it at the mill for approximately 2 months because of the lockdown. Only our stitching and printing unit is active now so we are currently focusing on selling the unit of materials that have been already acquired.
– What kind of support are you expecting from the startup and student community in NITK?
Awareness about the idea and about the situation. More the people are aware, the more possibility that we move towards sustainability. Nobody knows the story of the cloth they wear. Our aim is to be as transparent as possible so that you get to know where your cotton clothes come from, who spun it, who stitched it and who printed it. Once we are up and running, that’s our aim. For now, as we are new to the market, we can’t disclose much as it might diminish our business, but we are waiting to reach that point where people know us and we can safely disclose it in 100% transparency.
– Finally, how has the entrepreneurship experience been for you and the team behind this operation?
It has been awesome to this point. And it’s not because of the monetary benefits but because of the experience we had, things we learnt and the people we met. The whole experience was truly exceptional.