The Entrepreneur Spotlight for February, 2012 is on Aditi Babel, the spunky lady behind AB, a unique venture that celebrates her skill and passion as a graphic designer and a book artist. Here is a look at Aditi’s entrepreneurial journey…
NAME OF THE VENTURE: AB (read Hindi) for (ADITI BABEL)-
PERSONAL PROFILE OF FOUNDER:
Ms. Aditi Babel, 28, a graduate in Applied Arts 2005, holds a Master’s In Design, from IIT Bombay 2007 and has completed a course in traditional book binding and printmaking, Firenze, Italy 2009.
Aditi has a professional experience of 5 years and has had some exposure to entrepreneurship having worked in her father’s company, Elastomech India Private Limited.
AB is a sole proprietorship established in April, 2010 and is located in Udaipur.
Office Address:113/114 B-BLOCK, SAHELI NAGAR, UDAIPUR, RAJASTHAN 313001 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How did you get the idea to begin this venture?
I think my training as an entrepreneur started long back, maybe before I even knew I wanted to become one myself. My family is my inspiration. Observing my mom and dad build up a fine business on their own always inspired me to start something where I could train people and create.
Right after my master’s from IIT Bombay I started working as an independent graphic designer i.e. from July 2007 till July 2009 before I went for further studies. During this period I experimented a lot with different styles of designing and projects. I took up design projects in different kinds of fields and that helped me clear the clutter in my mind regarding the kind of work I would want to do and hence the decision to do a specialized course in Book Making.
During these two years I also organized and conducted workshops, which helped me understand my training skills with people.
Failed experiments are the best way to learn and clear confusions.
After completion of my course in Italy I was pretty sure I wanted to come back and start my own enterprise. Now I was challenged with the basic questions of HOW TO, WHAT, WHEN TO etc. It was then that I realized setting up a core engineering industry is much different than setting up a design and art enterprise.
Of course some basic logics work in both (since they are process based industries) but there are more differences than similarities. One key element that stands to be different is that one is a need-based industry and one is an interest based and therefore demand needs to be created.
After many discussions with family and friends and endless lists of how to go about it the basics seem clear and I knew the answers to my questions.
Since I did not want to restrict my enterprise with just creating products I created 4 divisions.
The first where I will take graphic design projects under the company name Ab (read Hindi), the second where I will create ARTIST BOOKS for special occasions and as tools for education under the brand name Babel Books, third where I will take workshops where I train the skill of book making with implementation of visual communication under the name Soch and fourth where I will exhibit my works in art galleries and other conventional places.
I wanted to start my enterprise in Udaipur, my hometown to control the initial investment in business. I wanted to start the work in the coming financial year and that was April 2010.
The two biggest challenges were:
- The range of products
- How to create demand for those products.
Creating a new artwork is like a journey. You IMAGINE, you dream, you go throw all emotions, you search every little corner of your mind space and exercise on past learning’s and most importantly embrace new experiences.
It can be an overwhelming journey sometimes and specially when you are creating something which would be uniquely you. The best way to channelize all this is to be true to your thoughts. It works every time.
So I did that and it helped me create a range of products which defined my experiences and imaginations. During this journey I took more workshops and conducted classes as a visiting faculty in IDC, IIT Bombay, met a lot of people and had discussions on various topics on vast extent.
If the product is true to your art, skill and talent, the demand is created on its own.
What were the supporting/motivating factors in setting up this business?
Family and friends: have been and continue to be the biggest support system. I can’t imagine any of what i have done without my mom, dad and brother.
As for investment, I invest my savings from my graphic design projects.
A love for the Art. Also I wanted to create artist books for contemporary society.
We come from a country rich in its traditions of book making but a very few people are taking this art and craft forward and creating books which can be both an art object and an educational tool.
What Is Your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?
I create contemporary products with traditional book binding and printmaking techniques. My products reflect my understanding and skills as a graphic designer.
I love paper. I love bright and bold colours. You can see a reflection of that in most of my creations.
What is your vision for the venture?
- To revive the traditional arts of book making and printmaking (by creating products and training people.)
- To create products that reflect the highest quality of this skilled craft.
- To use the best of technology as a helping tool for enhancing the craft e.g. using computers to create digital artworks, using printers for prototyping, using platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter to support the promotion of the design and craft.
What sort of growth strategy did you follow?
A. Showcasing products during workshops and classes.
B. Sharing works regularly with professional and personal networks.
C. Meeting with people, joining groups related to the craft.
D. Launching products with other artist’s in exhibitions.
E. Creating a blog and a website.
Any steps that you are taking to help society in general & people in particular?
I am taking workshops to train people with this skill so they can earn their livelihood with this craft.
What are the problems that you are facing?
- Finance: Yes, now that I know the products are being well received i want to invest more to create products at a regular interval. Investments coming from good projects are not as regular and sufficient.
- Administration: not a problem till now
- Marketing: it’s a hassle sometimes to manage everything on the plate, for example updating website and blog and sharing it regularly. Meeting people calls for a lot of traveling and that takes away time from the creation process.
- Human resources: No. It’s a very small team and till now it’s working just fine.
- Any other: MRP
Since the products are all hand crafted they take time and are expensive in comparision to other available machine made products so it’s a slow process.
It has been and will be a challenge to educate people about the importance of traditional art and its survival. It’s difficult to explain that an artist has to leave his/her art and work as a labourer to earn a livelihood. Until and unless people value (with respect and remuneration) handmade and traditional art over machine made art the perception will be difficult to break. And also the fact that artist have to create innovative products using traditional techniques to appeal the audiences plays a key role in the perception.
Where do you see yourself?
I am going with the flow. There is planning definitely but a lot of times planning fails before human condition and perception.
Asked today i would say i see myself changing a lot of lives and making the brand big enough for people to re-think about their idea of helping traditional art survive.
Any plans of expanding the business? YES
Right now i have a home studio i would want a well equipped workshop for this endeavor with trained and skilled artist working together for creating innovation products and getting the magic back in traditional art forms.
How much use of technology is used to promote business?
- WEBSITE Yes, It’s A Great Source To Share Latest Artworks Created.
- ONLINE STORE Yes, I Linked Up With A Couple Of E-Commerce Sites Such As “Ofindianorigin”, “Aniika”, “Itshandmade”, “Afday”
- SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES LIKE FACEBOOK Yes, It’s A Great Way To Network With People In Professional And Personal Capacity
- ANY OTHER
Anecdotes/Experiences (Good )
Well there have been good and bad experiences. A good experience always balances out a bad one.
It’s amazing when once you decide to do something there are people and forces trying to help you from random places you never thought were possible.
I got my first order for handmade artist book in such a situation. I was in IIT taking workshops and i visited the souvenier shop. i really liked the collection and thought of complimenting the store owner who was present there. to my surprise he was an alumni who had taken over the store over passion and after 15 minutes of our conversation was ready to experiment with my books at the store. i was delighted! The first order that too from my alma mater for a group of graduating students of 2010.This was first week of may 2010.
I feel without bad experiences you lose the importance of good ones and therefore they are important. They do teach you a lot. Sometimes it can also discourage you. They check on your passion for what you believe in.
I have had people copying my art, telling me “how can this be so expensive?, afterall its just paper!” People questioning, “What age do i want to live in? Move with the world”
They say, very few lucky people turn their passion into profession but what they don’t realise is the very same fact could be the most difficult to deal with. An unknown audience always judging your passion and putting a price tag on all your hard work and emotions for your creations (especially something that you feel very strongly about and are emotionally very strongly connected to) isn’t the best way to earn a livelihood.
Any advice for future entrepreneurs?
Be true to your art/work/passion/idea, because when everything fails, only that can lift you up!
What are your STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES AND THREATS?
STRENGTHS: I am passionate about what i do. i believe in my instincts and never let anyone take over my art.
WEAKNESSES: I dislike putting tags to my work which is one thing I always have to do. I hate to interact with people with deep pockets but no reasonable ear for art or survival of traditional arts. (I say so because these are the people who need most education and awareness about such issues and therefore is important to discuss these issues with them more than others)
OPPORTUNITIES: I have worked hard and also been lucky to create opportunities for myself.
I want to take this to an international level creating rich Indian artist books.
THREATS: A. Finance
B. Theft of ideas
C. Logistics (if i want to take it on a bigger scale and i do)
What innovative ways of doing business are you using?
Honestly I Am Still New To The Art Of Selling Art J
What are your views on customer relationship management? How do you approach it?
It’s important to me to know who is taking my books, what kind of people enjoy and respect the efforts that have gone in making those books.
Even while working with e-commerce sites I have requested them to update me about the buyers and i make sure to connect with them after they took one of my creations.
What makes you different from your competitors?
My approach towards my art and therefore my way of running the business, which is completely organized, well planned yet driven by passion, emotion and the love for the art!
Images Courtesy: Ab