About promising entrepreneur: Sharanya Aiyahna Haridas :I am currently a student at IIT Madras and have started India’s first ever web e-zine and online community for teen girls. High distribution costs and financial dependency of the target segment led to the failure of the print model for the same and our digital model aims to revolutionize the media blueprint. It has already won several awards/honours including: Stanford Summit 2012, Ryerson University DMZ International Fellowship 2012, 123Go! at MOP Vaishnav 2012, IIM-A PGPX X-Biz 2011.
Company: That’s So Gloss!
She is sharing her entrepreneurial experience with Techaloo for the successful and the budding entrepreneurs.
Techaloo: How the entrepreneurship journey started? Or who inspired you to start business?
Sharanya: The initial idea was for Young Folks Media as I realized that a lot of small businesses were yet to leverage on social media to increase user engagement, especially with regard to the younger generation. The idea for That’s So Gloss! (a subsidiary of YFM) came just a bit later.
I grew up in the 90s, reading my mother’s [Indian] women’s magazines and American teen girl e-zines – neither of which I could relate to. Almost 10 years hence, there is still no magazine in India catering exclusively to the Indian teen girl demographic.
Internationally, teen girl magazines are extremely popular, relevant and have been lucrative source revenue for media and publishing houses. This is a far cry from the Indian scenario. Early print magazines were begun in the late ‘90s/early 2000s and found themselves out of circulation pretty quickly, given the general cultural stigma attached to them (they are considered frivolous and/or immoral) and the lack of financial independence of a demographic who, wanting to read them, cannot. Hence, the idea for a free, online platform.
Techaloo: Share some info about your products and services here.
Sharanya: India currently has ~4.3 million (and growing!) active internet-based social media users from the teenage girl demographic. They currently lack
- A magazine to call their own
- A platform for peer-to-peer interaction on issues of importance to them.
That’s so Gloss! aims to fill this gap. It is India’s first webzine and online community exclusively for Indian teenage girls with a three-fold objective:
(1) To develop national as well local content (tagged to be browsed by Author, Category and City) on Syle, Beauty, Love, Self, Life, Academics, etc. as well as news and developments- written by and for teen girls and integrated with social media.
(2) To provide an online community for teenage girls to interact on a peer-to-peer basis, discuss ideas, get advice
(3) To function as a PR platform for companies- both in India and internationally- seeking to reach out to and connect with this segment while monetizing our business.
Techaloo: What was the vision mission of the company? What exactly you wanted to do when you started your business?
Sharanya: We hoped to revolutionize the media blueprint targeting youngsters in India (and later, other developing countries) by being India’s first and most definitive web magazine for teenage girls and young women, and provide an online community- a space for dialogue and growth to flourish- so as to empower through speech and expression, the women leaders of tomorrow.
Techaloo: What kind of difficulties you had faced while starting/doing business?
Sharanya: My lack of experience was a mental block held me back from starting up for months: I had previously been part of the co-founding team of The Fifth Estate- IITM’s official campus news body where I also served as an Executive Editor but entrepreneurship was a different responsibility altogether.
Also, once I started up, there was a bit of criticism as to whether this was the best use of my time, given the heavy workload as an Economics dual degree student. It’s very different from an extra-curricular activity, balancing being a full time collegiate and an entrepreneur; it is an ongoing challenge!
Techaloo:Share with our readers about discovery period when you were facing difficulties in your business?
Sharanya: As of August 2011, both YFM and Gloss! were still in ideation stage. I knew my concept, but I didn’t have a plan.
Then I came across X-Biz: the IIM Ahmedabad PGPX BPlan Contest and thought I’d enter, just to get inputs into my idea. One thing led to another and Gloss! beat out 60+ teams world-wide to make it to the finals as a winner. The process of actually writing down the Business Plan and Financials really helped me think of the contingencies.
In December 2011, I finally started up- Figuring out legal, software issues, devising a marketing strategy, etc. Finding a committed, reliable team of people took some time but was completely worth it.
Techaloo: Share with our readers about your experiment period after discovery period?
Sharanya: January and February was when the execution began. I had to literally “throw away the rule book” when I jumped into the pool. Speculations and projections fall flat in the face of reality. I had to revamp several aspects of my idea entirely. For instance, while Gloss! was conceived as a magazine for teen girls, once the landing page was up, we were also contacted by tweens and early 20 year olds who wanted to know if there was anything in it for them and so had to retailor the content to fit this expanding demand, as a magazine for young women as such.
I learnt a lot in terms of managing time, resources and people. To an extent, for an entrepreneur, the “experimentation period” is ongoing!
Techaloo: What are your future plans? Or now what is your vision for next five years?
Sharanya: The next six months look like this: We are launching this March and will evolve according to the feedback we receive. We will also be having a LOT more people on board. In April, I will be attending the Stanford Summit in USA to meet other young entrepreneurs and see how Silicon Valley works it. I’ve also been chosen as an RUDMZ International Fellow and between May and August, Gloss! will be incubated with start-ups from around the world in Ryerson University’s collaborative Digital Media Zone in Toronto. I am super excited about the opportunity to bring Gloss! up to a truly global standard. I am also grateful for being a virtual start-up as we can work from absolutely anywhere in the world!
While Gloss! essentially aims to be a fun place for desi girls to hang out and share ideas on fun and serious issues, in the long term, I really do hope that it brings about a distinctive youth culture, provides a platform for showcasing talent, honoring enterprising teen girls from around India and also as a platform for philanthropic ventures to help less advantaged young women.
Techaloo: What will be your advice/suggestion for new entrepreneurs for starting new business?
- In the ideation stage, attend BPlan competitions- they’ll help you clarify your idea and earn you a bit of start-up money if you’re lucky!
- Stay self-funded for as long as possible- relying on resources other than money will teach you to keep overheads low and bring out your creative best.
- Read online magazines like Inc.com and TechAloo, network with other entrepreneurs to discover best practices and stay inspired.
- Expose yourself to a range of situations and experiences to widen your perspective; Push your comfort zone-you are young and your ego can take it.
- Believe in yourself.