When Kolkata’s Shruthi Reddy needed a challenge, she set up a most unusual firm.
As startups go, Shruthi Reddy’s Anthyesti Funeral Services is an entirely unique business. The Kolkata-based entrepreneur ensures smooth send-offs in this, one of the most sensitive areas of human life.
Reddy began her working life as a software engineer after graduating in electrical engineering, and was driven to entrepreneurship after nine years in other people’s offices by a need to do something out of the box.
This is her story.
As the founder of a startup, what is your role?
In my current role as the MD and CEO of Anthyesti, I’m responsible for the overall services rendered by the company, beginning from customer calls to handling the bills, accounting and so on. At a startup, one has to don many hats and juggle with the various responsibilities of running a company.
I began as the company’s lone ranger, haunting crematoriums and burial grounds for my market research and data gathering. Now, I have four employees. I must say this business has more blessings than bucks.
Why did you choose to be an entrepreneur?
Sometimes when we get all that we desire, life gets a bit boring. Without challenges and puzzles to solve, life gets monotonous. I had a good, paying, satisfying job, an amazing spouse and a wonderful child. So I upped my risk-taking quotient and got into a very challenging industry based on my strong belief that ‘There is no higher service other than service to mankind’.
What’s the concept of Anthyesti Funeral Services?
‘Anthyesti’ is Sanskrit for ‘last rites’. It’s the 16th samskara according to Hindu scriptures. Anthyesti Funeral Services was started with the purpose of assisting families in their loved ones’ last journeys. We want to be the one-stop solution for every family’s funeral-related services.
In India, death is a very sensitive sector and any external intrusion is considered taboo. But Anthyesti wants to ease the processes involved in conducting a funeral, and not intrude into a family’s personal space.
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What are your plans for the future?
We want to spread our services across Bengal before moving to other metro cities. We are also very keen on arranging online pind daans (homage to the ancestors) at Bodh Gaya during the two-week holy period during Pitru Paksha. We will go for our first round of seed funding when we scale up in other cities.
What market gap are you trying to address?
There is very little professionalism among funeral service providers in India. Anthyesti bridges that gap.
What makes you different from your competitors?
Based on our market research, so far we have only competitor in India. However, we were the first to start online booking of funeral services.
How do you manage funding?
Currently, we are boot-strapped.
What challenges do you face?
Being the only woman entrepreneur in a vendor industry that is dominated by men was the first obstacle to tackle. Creating a space for professionalism in an industry that is needed every day was another obstacle. Facing grieving customers to whom we must market funeral services is the biggest challenge yet.
What skills does an entrepreneur need to succeed?
Passion: Without passion a dream is reduced to a mere goal. Perseverance: The ability to go on and on and on a gazillion times irrespective of problems.
Patience: Every business has its pick up point, growth point and saturation point. The wait to strike the pickup point and then grow it to a level and then innovate it beyond the saturation point requires a great deal of patience.
Do you think the digital boom in India is empowering women?
It definitely helped my business get a lot of media attention. Everything goes viral on the web.
What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs?
Feel empowered because you are born as a woman. You can create life, you can nurture life, and give shape to the formless. So why hold yourself back when it comes to business? Rise above your potential.
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