Manveen Kaur’s Hobby in a Box is the quintessential story of how a powerful idea can change one’s life. She studied engineering, pursued her MBA from Jamshedpur and worked as a digital marketing manager before taking the final plunge.
Hobby in a Box is a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) e-store that provides and presents all hobby supplies in the required quantity and with easy pictorial instructions as a hobby kit. She spoke to SheThePeople.TV about her venture. Excerpts from the interview:
What was the idea behind starting your venture “Hobby in a Box”?
When I was doing my MBA, I came across a candle on Pinterest that I really liked. I wanted to replicate it but since Jamshedpur is a tier-3 city, I had to go to Kolkata to get all the ingredients. After a four-hour long trip to Kolkata, I was forced to buy everything — candle wax, colours, essential oils — in bulk and make a return trip of another four hours. This tedious journey got me thinking, but it was my co-founder Nishant who gave me the push to draw the business plan. I’d complain to him regarding the inaccessibility of craft material, but he asked me to stop whining and do something about it.
I took that seriously and came up with a business plan for ‘Hobby in a Box’. And it went on to be the runner-up at the Nasscom Product Conclave – Kolkata Edition 2015, and that became the seed investment. It took time to streamline our supply chain partners and logistics. Many of the materials are unavailable in India, and so we source them from outside along with capital and inventory management.
What is your target audience?
That is the beauty of crafting — it is not limited by age or gender. We have had customers ranging from children to old people. For starters, we are looking at metro cities and we plan to expand more by 2019.
What role does technology play in boosting entrepreneurship?
Hobby in a Box is inherently a tech-based company as we use technology every single moment. This is the era where you can literally connect with anyone by the click of a button. We had customers who were relatively comfortable with crafting and loved the idea and also those who were novices and needed more guidance. Many people wrote to us, saying that they weren’t sure whether they could do it, so we started a YouTube channel to interact with them. We show them tips and tricks and guide them with how-to videos.
Technology has made it so easy to understand consumers and reach out to them. Anybody can talk to us through our live chat option on the website. Technology is making online business personal and putting a face to the name which is really important for any entrepreneur. When I made my first YouTube video, friends mocked my accent and called me names. But, it doesn’t matter because our customers loved it and welcomed it no matter what. We have 2,500 subscribers now.
Did you face any challenges because of your gender? Or was it smooth sailing?
My parents reacted the way any Indian parents would have when they heard about Hobby in a box. They were baffled as to why I was throwing away my corporate career for doing arts and craft. But I know, secretly they are proud of me.
But there are suppliers who think I am doing home-business and don’t take me seriously. Then, there are people I interview who think 28 is an age to start a family and not a business. Some also hold the view that just because I am an MBA, I can’t be creative or just because I am into crafts and hobbies, I might not have a good educational background
Why does India need more women entrepreneurs?
I feel women are more mature and resilient than their male counterparts. My own journey has been an enriching one. As an entrepreneur, I have stood outside shops in a mall to take surveys, navigated narrow roads with 5-10 kg of craft supplies, worked without personal laptop for over a year… the list of challenges is endless. But the rewards are great. India needs more and more of women out of their safety nets and into the shark-infested waters.
What are your future plans?
Our plan for the next 3 years is to continue our offline expansion of workshops to all the metros and tier 2/3 cities. We already have our trainers in Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
Also, we are focusing on Indian crafts and textiles with our new DIY kits. We will be introducing Batik Kit and Block Printing Kit soon. Indian crafts are so varied and beautiful, yet there is not much awareness about them and we want to change that. I want Hobby in a Box to become synonymous with DIY and creativity.