Startup Mantra: Climbing the ladder of startup success as woman entrepreneur
Here is a ‘startup’ from ‘Bharat’ which is neither founded by any IIT-IIM alumni nor it is tech-based with VC backing or angel funding
Here is a ‘startup’ from ‘Bharat’ which is neither founded by any IIT-IIM alumni nor it is tech-based with VC backing or angel funding. It is a story of Amruta Vasant Mangale, a 32-year-old married woman from Pune, who pivoted twice to create a company with turnover of ₹5 crore in just two operational years hit by Covid-19 lockdowns and that too in a sector like manufacturing where women-entrepreneurs are uncommon. Launched under the brand name ‘Beestofix’, Amruta has now set her vision to turn her company into a ‘unicorn’ and create 5,000 direct or indirect employment opportunities.
In the beginning…
Amruta, a native of Indapur tehsil in Pune district, completed her MSc in Organic Chemistry from Pune University (Savitribai Phule Pune University). Her father insisted that she find a job to become financially independent before marriage. Accordingly, Amruta took a job as quality control officer at Sonai Dairy located on Baramati-Indapur road.
Says Amruta, “The job was a turning point for me. It taught me how to handle a team and face challenges upfront. Girls, especially from rural areas, are not used to work with boys and lead an all-male group. I took this job as an opportunity to learn leadership and presentation skills. In turn, it also helped me to be more disciplined which later proved beneficial to me in setting up the business.”
“Post-marriage, I came to Pune city in 2015. Till then I had never stayed in a city. I told my husband that I want to start working again and he too supported me. Since I was new to the city, I decided to travel alone and get to know the city and simultaneously looked for job opportunities. I kept on searching for job till 2016 but could not get one. I consider myself lucky in the sense that if had got a job I would have never thought of becoming an entrepreneur,” Amruta said.
Amruta was becoming restless at home as she knew that going ahead age would not be on her side if she starts late. When Amruta expressed her wish of starting a business, her husband and father-in-law too supported her. “Every woman needs 100 per cent support from her family and in-laws. This is her fundamental right,” asserts Amruta.
“While searching for business opportunities, I noticed that CCTV cameras are being installed everywhere, including rural areas and from small shops to big commercial establishments. Since my husband was working in an electronics-based company in Ranjangaon MIDC, I decided to get into electronics services as I could utilise his domain knowledge. I searched on Google and started calling units in Bhosari MIDC to check if they had requirements of CCTV installation or other services,” said Amruta.
“My first attempt at doing business was a mix of good and bad experiences. Some trusted me for being a woman while others did not for the same reason. Even today the mindset is not right towards women. Some don’t take us women seriously. I was often asked to confirm with ‘sir’ or ‘husband’ about the final rates for the products being sold. With CCTV installation services, I started my entrepreneurial journey. However, soon I realised that it’s not profitable in real terms. I had inventory stock of ₹1.5 lakh, including cameras, wires, DVR, hard disks, etc. It was a liability and setback for me,” added Amruta.
Amruta started looking for options to get rid of her inventory stock. While searching online, she came across ecommerce platforms which offered a chance of becoming online sellers. “I did not know that we needed only VAT and company name to register on these platforms as sellers,” she says.
“We decided to form a company in the name of Hindavi Solution Pvt Ltd and enrolled it on an ecommerce platform. We had to provide inventory stock and estimated delivery period to start selling. I calculated the shipping charges, other costs and profit margins using an Excel sheet and uploaded the product photos on the site. Within a week I got my first order. Tasting success on one platform, Amruta soon enrolled on several other ecommerce platforms and the business took grip,” Amruta said.
“I have this ‘never give up’ attitude which has helped me tide over all difficult situation till date. I joined ecommerce platforms in February 2017 and did a business of ₹1.5 lakh in just a quarter. Next year in 2017-18, it went up to ₹13 lakh. It boosted my confidence but the next year in 2018-19 it went down to ₹4 lakh as things took a different turn,” Amruta said.
Early success in ecommerce space sparked a debate in Amruta’s home. Amruta wanted to expand her existing business, while her in-laws and husband were of the view that she should dream big and setup a manufacturing plant. But Amruta was clueless about everything – right from what to manufacture, how to setup a plant to how to approach new customers.
Says Amruta, “When I visited Bhosari MIDC, I saw several small suppliers providing spare items to big units. I started researching the companies that were functional in industrial areas in and around Pune and opportunities which I could encash. I noticed that packaging industry is big and the tape market is huge within this industry segment. Also, there were not many chemical industries around Pune. There are big companies in Pune who are tape manufacturers but they had to source tape adhesives, etc from out-of-state-located companies. There was no local supplier. Besides this, we made a list of 25 such business opportunities.”
Like many others, Amruta also saw videos on YouTube about setting up companies but soon realised it is not as easy as it is made out to be. Also, some of the businesses they had shortlisted had very less profit margins.
“We decided to make a product which is consumable and required in retail as well as industrial sectors. We started studying about adhesives, how they are made and machinery needed to produce it. We also analysed the tape industry, the payment cycle period, inventory costing, profit margins, etc. Companies manufacturing adhesives were not catering to local markets and were export-oriented completely. I sensed a huge opportunity here. I thought if I could look for local companies whose monthly consumption is 50 to 60 tonnes and tap just one tonne of it, then I can setup and get my business running,” Amruta stated.
“Setting up an adhesive manufacturing plant is not an easy task. So, we looked for consultants from Pune and Mumbai. Some consultants supported while some sympathised or ridiculed as they thought we could not bear the huge costs involved in the process. One consultant helped me in starting the business on a small scale, but on the condition of complete advance payment. Instead of bulk orders, I paid only for some barrels and supplied those to local companies,” she added.
As Amruta focussed on the adhesive business opportunity, she lost focus on the ecommerce sales of electronic products and accessories. Amruta says, “I identified a plot in Chimbali area in Moshi and did an agreement with the owner. It was a 4,000 square feet plot and the owner built a shed structure over it. In October 2018, we did the groundbreaking ceremony. I sourced machinery from Nashik, purchased material and finally in January 2019, setup the plant with the help of a consultant.”
“When I actually started production under our brand name ‘Beestofix’, I had only one employee and we were able to have only two or three batches of production per month. Companies were not ready to part with their existing suppliers. Numerous customer visits, slowly building trust and initially offering our product free for trial are the things which worked in my favour. But now I have completely stopped giving any free trials and I am proud to have achieved this in just two years. The first production order was delivered on March 30 and second big order was received within 15 days. Since then, we have never looked back,” said Amruta.
Explaining the reason behind naming her product as Beestofix, Amruta says, “No one works as hard as a honeybee. The hexagon shaped structure of beehive is the best fixed bond – using least material to hold most weight – known to us and hence we derived the name ‘Beestofix’ from the words bees and best fix.”
Getting large-scale companies as customers was the next big challenge for Amruta. “I used to stand near their production line for hours. Once I demonstrated my product’s efficiency to a customer and they were surprised with the good quality outcome as compared to their earlier suppliers. That was the moment when I got the first big order,” Amruta said. Adding further, she says, “I realised that since most competitors were based out-of-state, I should capitalise on my strengths of prompt after-sales services. Soon, all happy customers started recommending us and the networking effect kicked in.”
Says Amruta, “Once our first product of adhesive stabilised, I realised that we can’t stay put in the market with just single product. We were thinking of adding new product offerings and that’s when our customer themselves showed us the direction. Some customers suggested us to provide with colour pigments or tape colours along with adhesives. I had no clue of what it was, but promised them that soon I will deliver it to them. We did our research and trials and customers were happy with it. Soon, that product too became popular with other customers. We are now getting enquiries from Nashik, Goa, Aurangabad, Bengaluru etc.”
Beetofix has also added two new products – printing ink on plastic rolls and adhesives for joining wood – to its range.
When Covid-19 outbreak started in Pune, Amruta had to shut her plant for two months. “It came as a shock for me personally and was also distracting for my employees. By then I had three employees and they were thinking of going back to their village. However, I requested them to stay back and promised to look after them and their families. I supported them financially and treated them as family. After the restrictions were relaxed, we followed Covid-appropriate behaviour, all sanitisation norms and checked temperature and oxygen levels daily. This benefited me post-Covid a lot,” she stated.
Raising capital for business was one of the toughest parts of Amruta’s entrepreneurial journey. She says, “I visited almost all banks to raise funds. Bank officials used to see my tax returns of last three years and either reject the proposal or asked for heavy security, collaterals. Finally, I had to sell all my jewellery, break all FDs and we had to sell our farm to raise funds to setup the manufacturing plant. This entire process was very painful and disappointing, but that’s when I decided that one day these bank officials will come to my company and offer me loan.”
While Amruta managed to get the plant ready, she was in need of more funds. That’s when one of their customers asked Amruta to contact Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST), a not-for-profit organisation that primarily assists disadvantaged Indian youth in developing business ideas into viable enterprises under the guidance of a mentor. BYST helped Amruta with mentoring and creating a business plan, which enabled her to get a short-term loan of ₹20 lakh from a bank.
Lakshmi Venkatesan, founding and managing trustee, BYST said, “For majority startups from ‘Bharat’, venture capital or angel funding is not accessible. They really depend on debt financing. Another big challenge for these ‘rural entrepreneurs’ or ‘grampreneurs’ is the ‘mentoring-barrier’. If we lose one entrepreneur like Amruta for lack of mentoring or funds, we are losing our ability to create 10 jobs. Hence, we focus on mentoring the entrepreneurs for two years and helping them with idea validation and further creating a robust business plan. Mentoring helps these same entrepreneurs – rejected earlier by banks – receive debt financing, even without security or collaterals.”
Amruta has also won the ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2020’ award on November 3, 2020 conferred by Youth Business International (YBI), UK. She competed with about a thousand entrepreneurs from 46 countries in this contest. --------------------------------
Sales and revenues
Industrial adhesive - 70 tonnes daily
Printing ink – 1,000 kg per month
Colour pigment – 1.5 kg per month
FY 2020-21 – ₹1.82 Crore
FY 2021- 22 – Crossed ₹5 crore in Q2
Industrial adhesive – 8- 10 per cent
Retail adhesive – 13-15 per cent
“I have set a goal of achieving ₹10 crore turnover this financial year itself. At present I have 25 employees of which eight are in direct employment. My vision is to create employment for 5,000 people and reach all shops, retail market besides the B2B market. Beestofix products should be displayed everywhere where our competitors like Fevicol are present. In near future, I also want to contribute to educating rural youth especially girls who can’t afford school and higher education.” – Amruta Mangale, founder, Beestofix.
•India – 1344 (DPIIT recognised – 647)
•Maharashtra – 303 (156)
•Pune – 108 (65)
Source: Startup India Portal, Government of India
Units operational in MIDC areas in:
•Maharashtra – 49,505 (Attracted investment of ₹1,80,170 crore in FY 2018-19)
•Pune – 12,761 (Attracted investment of ₹69,208 crore in FT 2018-19)
Source: State Economic Survey and Annual Survey of Industries