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From a kid with business plans to Co-Founder of Krya, a sustainable consumer products company – Preethi Sukumaran talks about her journey and what makes her tick.
I’d like to thank Women’s Web for the opportunity to tell my story to the readers here. While this piece is supposed to focus on what a typical day looks like for me, I’d like to instead share my story with you and give you a glimpse of the rewards, challenges and life lessons I am working on in my journey as an entrepreneur.
My first brush with entrepreneurship was when I was about 7 / 8 years old. My friends in the neighbourhood and I used to put up an annual play to which everyone in the colony was invited. We would take a great deal of effort over it, and spend days rehearsing and getting the right costumes in place. After about 2 years of doing this, I was struck one year with the idea of making it a paid event. I reasoned that the ticket fees would help cover the cost of a small drink or snack and if we had any leftover, it could go into buying props for next year’s play. The idea that sounded so good in my head was met with brutal opposition from the grown-ups. Most refused to pay, and the ones that did gave me a sound lecture on not being “swayed by money and do things for the love of art”.
My start-up energy did not stop there. My next idea when I was about 11 was a neighbourhood lending library. I asked all my friends to donate some of the books they were no longer reading, and added a lot of the books I had to the mix. I persuaded my dad to clean out the garage and park his car a little in the front leaving me space at the back for my library. I then painstakingly made a catalogue of books with the help of my friends to announce to my subscribers what they would get in my library and asked everyone for the grand sum of Rs.2 to pay as membership charges.
Once again, my start-up failed. I had started my library just before summer holidays began, so my potential members were simply not interested in joining a new library. My product selection was also poor; not too many children owned books and most of us already swapped and read each other’s books, so no one saw value in paying money and reading the same books. After a month of waiting it out, I took down my hand painted board and gave back the books to the initial lenders.
Nearly 24 years down the line, I had spent close to 9 years working in Sales and Marketing in FMCG companies. I had worked on detergents, cheese, biscuits, bread, hair oils and even a skin care line. I felt worn out and stifled and wanted to explore doing something I loved, in exactly the way I wanted.
My husband was struck with start-up dreams of his own, and we made excited plans to quit on the same day and explore our common interests.
We spent nearly a year, thinking and writing down our ideas as they came along. Deriving lessons from the business ideas of my childhood, I looked for ideas that I would be excited to work on, and that would offer people a chance to participate in a community driven movement. From my previous career, I was determined to only start something that moved me personally and was passionate about.
Krya was born from this period of reflection, a business that exists to help urban Indians make environmentally sustainable choices by providing easy to use, rigorously tested, sustainable product alternatives that actually work made from plant based ingredients.
Nurturing a start-up involves a special set of skills that perhaps all entrepreneurs struggle with initially. And I was no exception.
All of us have 2 types of work that we do: routine, easy to do, unexceptional but urgent work, and creative, exceptional, non-urgent but important work.
To a lot of us, the first kind of work comes far easier than the second so a special effort needs to be taken by entrepreneurs to instil the discipline needed to support creative, important work.
Entrepreneurs also need a high dose of optimism and mental and physical endurance – we are usually faced with a lot of resistance every day, and we need to find the strength to keep calm and continue to focus happily on what we do.
I like to wake up much earlier than I used to: I’m usually up by 6, and I’m trying hard to wake up earlier, around 5.
I’m particular about taking better care of my body so my day starts with oil pulling (you could read more about better oral care on the Krya blog) and then a couple of glasses of copper enhanced water .
I then sit down to write my goals and review my tasks for the day. After that I spend the next couple of hours focussed on the most creative tasks for the day: writing an article like this one, or a blog post or eBook.
I take a break around 8:30 am to eat breakfast. I am extremely particular about our family eating well and at home – overtime I have come to see it as an important investment in our health and good food gives all of us the right attitude and energy to get our best from the day. I eat only organic food at home, and experiment with a lot of wholegrain to try out different kinds of cuisine.
I then spend the next block of 3 – 4 hours with my 2 year old daughter. We have a bath, read books, play with different things around the home, walk across to meet my parents, and cook lunch together, and do all the million other things at home.
After my daughter eats lunch and goes to nap, I get a second block of about 3 hours for my next set of work. In this slot, I try and schedule all the urgent, operational work. I respond to consumer emails or return phone calls, maintain Krya’s social media outposts, plan the next day’s tasks, etc.
Evenings are usually reserved for time with my daughter. We take her to the park, or play with her in our terrace.
We try and eat dinner with her around 7 pm. Once she goes to sleep, I get another block of about 2 hours to read, and plan the next day’s menu.
I try to reserve the late evening block to seek new ideas and inspiration. I read my books and make notes diligently of ideas I would like to try out, or watch an interesting film or have an interesting conversation.
Apart from my daily routine, I also try and meet atleast one new person every week. Even though I have a co-founder at Krya, it is refreshing to meet people unconnected with the business. I mostly take my notebook along for my meetings to jot down interesting thoughts, or references and always find myself coming back with atleast one new idea or direction I should explore for the business.
I subscribe to specific blogs and magazines on entrepreneurship, working better, achieving your dreams and sustainability driven initiatives. Apart from these, I also devour good writing and enjoy reading articles from the New Yorker and Caravan in India.
I continue to struggle to fit in time for regular physical activities: I love doing yoga, but have not been able to do in a structured regular manner for the last year. One of my resolutions going forward is to schedule it in atleast twice a week with my teachers.
I’d like to close this article by dwelling on what makes entrepreneurship and therefore everyday rewarding for me: besides the satisfaction of doing what I believe in, and the creative high of seeing something that you imagined in your head in a store, I feel like being an entrepreneur has really opened up my mind.
One of the constant conversations I would have with my colleagues when I worked for other companies was how our learning curve was slowing down.
In my new role, I am learning new things every single day. And instead of feeling like a jaded middle aged person, I feel like I did when I was in college. Like the whole world is open and is full of opportunities and exciting adventures.
Are you a woman running a business in India? Would you like your story to appear in our Day In The Life Of An Entrepreneur series? Email us at admin AT womensweb DOT in with an interesting account of a day running your business, and we may publish it! (For example, what was the one interesting thing you did that day? Did you meet someone new/had a conversation with a customer? What thrills you at work? What are some business challenges you’re currently grappling with?) Also send us a few pictures of you at work – with your team, at your desk, at the factory, meeting a customer….