How I got started as an entrepreneur
Like many producers working in the broadcast media industry in Mumbai, I felt burned out a couple years ago. I previously ran an NGO project called Women Aloud Videoblogging for Empowerment (WAVE) funded by the MacArthur Foundation. And when the fund ran out, I attended a business course at the Indian School of Business courtesy of Goldman Sachs. I was trying to figure out how to turn my NGO project into a sustainable social business. Although I couldn't figure out how to sustain my NGO project, I wanted to try my hand at entrepreneurship as I realised that sustainability is the most essential thing for any organisation, including NGOs.
I was afraid of giving up a reasonably well paid salary that I was getting for my full time production work, but something inside told me I had to make the change. I used my savings to go to Thailand for a holiday by myself to do some soul searching about what kind of business I wanted to start. I am also part of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women so I had some help from my mentor at the time, a Brazilian corporate executive. At the end of my week-long holiday, I decided that I wanted to start an alternative tour company called 'Groupies' in Mumbai because I felt that wholesome entertainment options were very limited in the city. My family had recently shifted from Versova to Madh Island and I had to take a ferry across to get there every day. That got me thinking about whether I could rent the ferry for leisure trips. The Koli folk said they would allow it and they were happy with the extra cash. A local man with political aspirations supported me as well because he wanted to promote tourism in Madh Island. The endeavour was a success and we got a full page article in the Mumbai Mirror. I provided a Koli lunch that was quite unique as well. Another tour I organised was a photo walk around the South Indian neighbourhoods of Matunga. These were well received as well.
Although I decided to shift base to Goa and Groupies turned into Plug, a successful public relations company started with a partner, I wouldn't have got started without the support of the Indian School of Business program for women entrepreneurs and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. So I guess we need more initiatives like these, that are born in India and supported by our own corporates / philanthropists.