A Toymaker’s Story!
Swapna Wagh of Desitoys.in tells us about her knack for retail and what led to her decision to make toys and games professionally!
Tell us about yourself (past work ex, childhood, education, etc)
I am a MBA Graduate with dual specialization in HR and Marketing. I also completed an 'Executive Retail Management' course from IIM Calcutta.I was always inclined towards Retail. I worked for more than 8 years in Organized Retail companies before steeping into Entrepreneurship. While working I researched for almost 3 years, gathering a team of artisans across India who would make my products. My childhood passion for toys/games coupled with in-depth retail work experience helped me to start my venture on a good note.
How did the idea of Desi Toys.in come about?
I realized that the Indian traditional toys and games have taken a backseat with introduction of various modern visual games and toxic toys. Kids today are glued to their PSP/Ipad/Mobile/TV affecting their social skills as there is no one to play with them considering nuclear family & single child staying in surplus society. Rising obesity and health issues are other problems associated with excessive use of gadgets. On the other hand, traditional toys and games were not just games but they were designed in such a way that one could develop skills like logical thinking, strategy, concentration, mathematics, develop sensory skills and lot more. These games acted as great learning aids. Hence the need for 'Desi Toys' which are also ageless toys as they are not just meant for children but also for parents and grandparents who would want to relive their childhood days playing these awesome toys and games.
What was it like to start up on your own? Can you tell us about the initial stages of the journey?
Starting up on your own involves lot of hardwork but gives immense satisfaction when you see customers liking your product. My specialization in my previous companies was merchandising which was just one aspect of my retail venture. When I started off, I was exposed to every minute aspect be it from Operations, Finance, Sourcing, Packaging, IT, Labelling, Taxes,etc. I would not have been exposed to all these aspects had I still been working for someone else.
From initial sleepless nights to taking care of my 6 months baby to balancing things at home and understanding and doing things most of it for the first time made the initial days quite taxing but I am glad the hardwork is paying off today. Having worked in the best of the companies and earning well, one would have felt awkward standing in a small kiosk and selling your products but not for once I felt embarrassed for doing this as this was my venture, passion & dream. My husband, Soham Wagh has been a big inspiration behind my venture. His constant support and motivation right from the inception days till date is worth a mention. My Family too supported me very well for my venture and taking care of my 6 months baby at home.
What were the three top challenge areas when setting up the venture?
The top challenge for setting up any new venture would be Funding. My suggestion here would be to use your own savings or borrow from friends and family instead of taking a loan when you start off. Once the venture is doing good, one can look at external options for funding.
The second and still one of the most critical challenge is getting the right set of employees who would be the face of your company. We want the best employees at the lowest cost as every penny saved is important for a startup. My suggestion here would be do not compromise on the quality of staff even it pinches your pocket slightly.
Third challenge was getting a good ERP for my venture. From my previous companies, I had learnt that technology plays a very critical role in Retail and hence from day 1 I ensured I have a good ERP in place.
Where do you hope to see yourself and the venture professionally in the next 5 years?
'Desi Toys' already has a store presence and Online presence through all popular Indian marketplaces(Flipkart,Amazon.in, ebay.in, Snapdeal, Hopscotch, Firstcry,Paytm,etc) and self e-store(www.desitoys.in) which is currently catering Pan India. In the next 5 years, we plan to go Global as we see lot of NRIs and foreigners showing lot of interest in our products. We also plan to increase our presence in India through distributors, shop-in-shops and tie ups with schools and fun centre. To achieve this we definately plan to increase our workforce and workplace and be a professionaly run company.
If not this venture, what else would you have chosen to do professionally?
If not this venture, I would have still stuck working in Retail companies doing the same monotonous work and would have probably switched to some Ecommerce company now that they are doing well.
When it comes to entrepreneurship / business in India, what existing policies do you wish or feel should be changed?
Entrepreneurship is making lot of waves in India already. I am fortunate to be a part of it at the right time. Easy Government funding options with lesser interest rates and longer repayment tenures along with easy access to investors/incubators for mentoring/funding will help the startups to have a steady start.
What is a typical day at work like for you?
My typical day at work starts at 9am. I am currently working from a co-working space which gives me an office like environment at an economical cost. I start my work with a long 'To-do-list' which I even time it which helps me to plan my day effectively. I ensure I respond to every mail especially if it is from a customer. Being a one lady army currently with just 2 staff, my work revolves around marketing, new product development, looking after payments, packaging, new vendors, new platforms for increasing business,etc. I aim to work in such a way that it will lead to increase in my income each day which further helps my venture to grow. Being an entrepreneur gives one lot of flexibility at work but one has to work 365 days for it too. Passion gives drive and hardwork hardly matters when you get to live your dream.