Successful serial entrepreneur, Poonam Marwah shares her story and know-how.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I started my career as a software engineer. While working at SafeNet in 2006, I took a plunge into entrepreneurship. At the time, I was struggling between managing a job that I loved, travelling 5 hours daily to Noida, a newborn child, the EMI of my newly constructed house and several other responsibilities. I have always been highly ambitious and my work has always been my lifeline. I was faced with the challenge of leaving my job for my newborn child. Which is why I made the most of the situation and converted my house into a women’s paying guest accommodation. I also moved closer to my parents place to get help raising my child.
Could you tell us a little about your various ventures till date?
My first venture was Women Paying Guest in 2007. In 2008, I started prettyhomes – which provided international-styled service apartments for people travelling to India from abroad. In both of these ventures, my husband, Rajesh Marwah was my partner.
In 2011, after leaving IBM, I started Home Décor and a fashion jewelry business; I travelled to various countries in Asia and collected unique artifacts and paintings. In 2012 I started Wedding Bells Asia, a wedding exhibition which was hosted in in Gurgaon with Niharika Khera and it was a huge success.
I have mentored many startups since then and right now apart from advising other startups I am mentoring a few IIT startups. In 2015, I co-founded Vyomo with my classmate Abhinav. We were just 2 people in March and by July it was a team of 30 people in India and we were funded by Yuvraj Singh and Taxi for Sure Founder, Aprameya among others. It was six months of nonstop hard work, dedication and co-ordination between Abhinav and me that led Vyomo to grow exponentially in just 6 months. It was an extremely enriching experience in such a short span.
What are the challenges you have faced when setting up different entities?
As I did not have any formal business education, I learnt everything by trial and error. Taking consistent feedback and adopting my product to meet customer needs, helped me to stay in business till date while most of the competition has vanished. For example, when I started Women Paying Guest, I did not offer food as it was difficult for me to provide at that point of time but when I got the request from repeated customers I quickly found ways to introduce food as one of our services provided.
While setting up Wedding Bells, we faced new challenges almost every day. On one hand, we were managing 100 vendors, mostly top brands. On the other, there were the challenges of making the exhibition successful with driving enough crowd, marketing the product across Gurgaon and Delhi, managing social media, getting a celebrity on board, designing the venue and much more.
At Vyomo, the challenge was to setup the entire operations including hiring sales teams in India in just 2 months as we had a product launch in May. We had a very successful product launch in 3 cities with everything operational in just 2 months.
What professional plans do you have for yourself for the next 5 years?
Having spent 17 years in corporate and startup world, I now would like to move to an investor and advisor role, participating actively in only a few startups in next 5 years. I would also like to write books and travel the world. I see myself traveling a lot in the next 5 years.
What is a typical day at work like for you?
I am a morning person so I get up early and do my yoga and meditation before starting my work. In the last 2 years I have developed a keen interest in yoga and meditation and I believe that if people are happy at their core, they can add more value to their job, career and relationships. Yoga and meditation helps you keep your balance and bring happiness into your life. I in fact will certainly do something in this area in the future.
The greater part of my day goes into execution of the business as I believe that a startup is mostly about execution. Part of my day goes in creating new strategy and revisiting old strategies to make sure they are aligned with business needs, customer needs & competition. I believe that you should never chase competition; you should always try to do something unique which will help you stay ahead of your competition. I believe in completing the work and take firm decisions and not delaying decisions for future. I also make sure I spend few hours daily on acquiring new skills, knowledge etc.
When it comes to entrepreneurship/setting up a new business, what are the core areas that need change, specific to India?
Anything that solves the pain point of a customer is worth considering. Entrepreneurship is all about taking the system to a new level by solving existing problems or creating new unique offerings. India is a developing country so there is scope in every industry; we just need to learn to focus on long-term solutions rather than short-term gains.
Can you leave our readers with a few thoughts?
You are the creator of your own life so create a unique life that not only serves you, your loved ones, your country but also the whole of humanity.