Happily Unmarried, the gift chain, was born when two Bombay-based guys with time on their hands went for a jog one day at 3 pm.
Life was a breeze — a job in advertising allowed people to clock hours from home. Doing just that, college friends Rajat Tuli and Rahul Anand (35) jogged straight to a cyber café in Lokhandwala to have the name registered.
Explaining the tearing hurry, Rajat says, "Back then you're thinking what if somebody chooses the name before you." "We didn't have another name. This was it," says co-founder Rahul, sipping his fresh lime.
We're at a coffee shop in Connaught Place close to where the new Happily Unmarried store will open. Work is still going on but Rajat says it'll be ready before the Commonwealth Games.
When they started, Rajat and Rahul had four products, "and we still called it a range," says Rahul. The self-deprecation works. When they were flat broke — as employees of a dot com company that went bust — they sold their TV to a taxiwallah. The hard times were still funny times. A year before the company took off, Rajat and Rahul had the distinction of being property brokers in Delhi. Get the irony: their little Khosla Ka Ghosla outing was just enough to pay the rent.
Like Rajat says, "Hand to mouth, hand to mouth, absolutely."
The founding duo's 'we've-known-each-other-forever' bond is apparent, especially when the guffaws take over. "Remember those three girls?" one asks the other. "Ha ha, yeah, they worked for Cosmopolitan magazine," I'm filled in.
"We were taking them to see a flat to rent in S-block GK-1" — and here the laughing chokes the narration. It could be one of those jokes — 'Did you hear the one about three angry girls, two broke brokers, a non-existent address, and a landlord acting dumb?'
The giddy banter eases up when I'm told how things started to look up, and the days of buying Zippos in Karol Bagh and selling them in Greater Kailash seemed to have passed. Marbles was their big break and Britannia gave it to them. The biscuit company wanted an idea for gifts under 50p. So they got hold of two boys in advertising who wanted to 'do something fun'.
The idea they came up with: white marbles with caricatures of cricketers drawn by R K Laxman. Britannia loved it. The order placed — 40 million marbles, a project worth Rs 2 crore — and Rajat Tuli and Rahul Anand had arrived. They could pay back loans, forget brokering property, make trips to Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and open a store in Goa.
Today, six years down the line, design entrepreneur awards and Limca book mentions aside, they're busy opening their third store in Delhi. Family members have come around. Rahul's father, from being conscious of his son's company name, even rung him to say "you've come a long way".
As for the intrusive so-are-you-married questions, Rajat is, and Rahul is only too happy to start his friend's story: "So this girl he met in Goa…"