The journey of entrepreneurship in India has seen remarkable transformations since its independence in 1947. In the 1970s, the business landscape was vastly different from what we witness today. During this era, the country was grappling with the complexities of the License Raj, a regulatory framework that imposed production quotas on manufacturers across India. Navigating these regulatory hurdles required unwavering determination and passion, and one individual who exemplified these qualities was Mahendra K Daga.
Mahendra K Daga, driven by his entrepreneurial spirit, initially aspired to venture into the manufacturing of bent glass. However, his keen observation of a burgeoning market in sanitation led him down a different path. Recognizing the potential for growth in the sanitation industry, he envisioned the establishment of a tile manufacturing business and dedicated himself to its realization. This decision laid the foundation for Orient Bell Limited (OBL), a company that would ultimately become a pioneer in India’s tile industry. Establishing a business during the License Raj era was no easy feat. The government imposed strict production quotas, making it challenging for entrepreneurs like MK Daga to access essential resources such as land, labour, water, oil, and electricity. MK Daga’s relentless pursuit of his vision saw him spending up to 16 hours a day navigating the bureaucratic labyrinth to secure approvals.
In 1977, armed with his personal savings, MK Daga founded OBL in New Delhi. Despite the numerous challenges, he succeeded in building a company that achieved an impressive turnover of Rs 571.14 crore. Orient Bell Limited’s journey has been marked by diversification and innovation. MK Daga’s commitment to meeting specific customer requirements led to the development of a wide range of tiles. These innovations included germ-free tiles for environments like hospitals, schools, and airports, as well as cool tiles designed to lower indoor temperatures in hot regions. OBL’s Glazed Vitrified tiles (GVT) and ceramic tiles offer a diverse selection of sizes, colours, and SKUs to cater to the varied needs of Indian consumers. This versatility has set OBL apart in a highly competitive industry.
Milestones and Differentiators:
Orient Bell Limited achieved a significant milestone when it became a publicly-listed company. This step underscored the company’s commitment to transparency and corporate governance. OBL’s proactive approach to publishing quarterly results set it apart in the tile industry. In 2004, OBL obtained ISO 9001 and OHSAS certifications, demonstrating its unwavering commitment to quality and employee safety. The company’s dedication to excellence extended to its retail experience, with the establishment of over 150 OBL Boutiques across the country.
In recent years, OBL has witnessed an infusion of new talent, driving product innovation and digital solutions to enhance the customer experience. This commitment to addressing customer pain points has earned OBL recognition, including awards like the Realty+ Award 2020 for the best website and the most “Integrated Marketing Campaign.”
Challenges and Future Prospects:
Despite its success, OBL faces challenges, particularly in the context of the real estate sector’s underperformance. Issues like GST on power and fuel continue to impact the industry’s cost structure. Addressing these challenges and advocating for a streamlined tax structure remains a priority. Looking ahead, OBL aims to expand its reach by strengthening its network of over 2,500 channel partners across India. While the company has a strong presence in North and East India, it plans to extend its footprint to other regions, contributing to its continued growth and success.
Mahendra K Daga’s journey from navigating the complexities of the License Raj to founding Orient Bell Limited is a testament to his entrepreneurial vision and unwavering commitment. His ability to adapt, diversify, and innovate has transformed OBL into a pioneering force in India’s tile industry, poised for even greater achievements in the future.
Jairaj Bhattacharya, Arnav Pyasi, Shikhar Gupta, and Shashank Pandey The Pioneers of Edtech Common Sense
In the realm of India’s booming edtech industry, where the chase for funds and rapid expansion often takes center stage, a quartet of entrepreneurs has forged their path with a different approach. Jairaj Bhattacharya, Arnav Pyasi, Shikhar Gupta, and Shashank Pandey, the minds behind ConveGenius, have exemplified the power of common sense in navigating the complex world of education technology. Their journey began in 2014 when Jairaj Bhattacharya and Shashank Pandey, both engineering graduates from the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, ventured into the social enterprise and impact segment of edtech. They embarked on a mission that set them apart from the conventional edtech founders of their time. Their vision was audacious yet clear: to provide high-quality educational content to an astounding 100 million children from middle- and low-income households across India.
What made their approach unique was the decision to offer this education for free. It was a decision rooted in common sense. They recognized that their target audience lacked the financial means to pay for educational resources. Drawing inspiration from tech giants like Google and Facebook, who offered their products for free to achieve massive scale, Bhattacharya and Pandey saw the potential for impact through a similar strategy. In the fast-growing edtech landscape of 2014, where venture capital was pouring into the sector, Bhattacharya and Pandey remained focused on their mission. They were not driven by the fear of missing out (FOMO) on funding rounds but by a genuine sense of purpose. They possessed an unwavering belief in the importance of what they were doing and never felt pressured to conform to industry norms.
In a market where edtech startups were raising substantial sums, ConveGenius managed to secure just one angel investor in 2015, who contributed a modest sum of Rs 25 lakh. Undeterred, they persisted, and in 2016, they raised a seed round of $1 million. Throughout this period, they remained acutely aware that investors were not queuing up to back their socially impactful edtech model. This awareness became one of their key strengths. While many startups were chasing vanity metrics like user engagement, Bhattacharya and his team focused on the fundamentals of building a sustainable edtech business. They understood that having thousands or millions of users did not automatically translate into significant revenue. Their emphasis on user retention and stickiness set them apart from others in the industry.
One striking example of their approach is ShareChat, a social media platform backed by Google. ShareChat had a massive user base of 400 million monthly active users by December 2022, with a valuation exceeding $5 billion. However, over 60 percent of its revenue in FY23 came from advertising services rather than direct user payments. Bhattacharya understood that having a large user base did not guarantee proportional revenue growth.
ConveGenius’s journey has been characterized by steady, sustainable growth rather than meteoric rises and dramatic falls. Their revenue from operations increased from Rs 13.5 crore in FY21 to Rs 46.7 crore in FY23, with losses growing modestly from Rs 6.87 crore to Rs 7.8 crore during the same period. This performance stands out, especially when compared to some of their peers in the edtech industry. For instance, FrontRow, an edtech platform for non-academic skills, raised significant funding but ultimately shut down in July. In contrast, ConveGenius, with its lean approach, managed to make a meaningful impact with fewer funds raised.
Amidst the challenges of 2022, when edtech venture funding declined, Bhattacharya faced pressure from various quarters to diversify beyond edtech. However, he viewed the market downturn as an opportunity to be more aggressive, emphasizing the importance of doing less and achieving more. His common-sense approach, combined with a lean team and a lack of heavy operational and administrative machinery, allowed ConveGenius to stay on its unique path. In reflecting on his journey as a social impact edtech founder, Bhattacharya remains humble. He does not consider himself a genius, noting that he possesses an average IQ. However, his journey and the success of ConveGenius exemplify that genius lies not in extraordinary intellect but in the thoughtful application of common sense.
The story of Jairaj Bhattacharya, Arnav Pyasi, Shikhar Gupta, and Shashank Pandey serves as an inspiring example of how entrepreneurs can make a lasting impact by staying true to their mission and relying on common sense to navigate the complexities of the business world. In an industry often dominated by hype and excessive spending, ConveGenius stands as a beacon of thoughtful, sustainable growth.
Kaushal Shetty Transforming Lives with Nostos Homes
In a world where innovation is often synonymous with profit, Kaushal Shetty stands out as a beacon of hope. At the age of 27, he is not only a Senior Product Manager at Mastercard but also the Co-founder and CEO of Nostos Homes, a non-profit organization with a noble mission – to provide shelter, dignity, and safety to displaced persons. The story of Nostos Homes is deeply personal for Kaushal Shetty. Hailing from a village plagued by annual floods, he intimately understood the plight of those who were forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters. His own journey from his flood-ravaged village to the bustling metropolis of Mumbai shaped his perspective and fueled his determination to make a difference.
Modular, Lightweight, and Transportable Shelters
Nostos Homes took shape as a solution to a pressing global problem – the plight of displaced persons. The organization designs and builds modular, lightweight, and easily transportable shelters. These shelters serve as a robust and safe alternative to the conventional tent, providing not just a roof over one’s head but also a semblance of privacy, dignity, and safety during times of crisis. One of the remarkable aspects of Nostos Homes’ shelters is their cost-effectiveness. These shelters come at a price point comparable to traditional tents, making them accessible to those who need them the most. For displaced individuals and families, Nostos Homes’ shelters represent more than just a physical structure; they symbolize hope and the promise of a better tomorrow.
Nostos Homes’ reach extends far beyond the borders of India. While the organization has provided its innovative shelter solutions in Assam and Nagaland, its impact has also been felt in Africa. The modular shelters have not only improved living conditions but have also instilled a sense of security among displaced communities. Kaushal Shetty’s vision for Nostos Homes goes beyond providing shelter to a few. He envisions a world where his organization’s solutions can make a significant impact on a global scale. To turn this vision into reality, Nostos Homes is actively engaging with governments and agencies, exploring partnerships that can help scale up their operations.
Kaushal Shetty’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of social entrepreneurship. With a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to making a difference, he has harnessed his skills as a product manager to create real-world solutions that address one of humanity’s most pressing challenges – displacement.
Kaushal Shetty’s dual role as a Senior Product Manager at Mastercard and the CEO of Nostos Homes exemplifies the fusion of technology, compassion, and innovation. Through Nostos Homes, he has demonstrated that profit is not the only driving force behind innovation. Sometimes, it’s the desire to alleviate human suffering, to provide shelter and security to the vulnerable, and to restore dignity and hope to those who have lost everything. Kaushal Shetty’s journey is an inspiration to all, a reminder that each of us has the power to make a positive impact on the world, regardless of our age or circumstances.
Genrobotics Revolutionizing Cleaning and Rehabilitation with Robotics
In the heart of India’s bustling tech landscape, where innovation thrives and new frontiers are explored, a group of visionary individuals came together to create Genrobotics. Arun George, Nikhil NP, Rashid K, and Vimal Govind MK, all in their late twenties, are the co-founders of this ground-breaking venture that has set out to revolutionize several industries through the power of robotics.
Founded in 2017, Genrobotics embarked on its journey with a singular mission – to eradicate the perilous and inhumane practice of manual scavenging in India. Manual scavenging, a practice that had claimed far too many lives, was about to meet its match in the form of a revolutionary robot scavenger.
Robots to the Rescue:
Genrobotics’ flagship creation, the robot scavenger, is designed to perform tasks that were previously done by manual scavengers. These robots not only ensure efficiency and precision but, more importantly, they eliminate the life-threatening risks associated with manual scavenging. It’s a giant leap towards safeguarding the dignity and lives of those who were once forced into this. The impact of Genrobotics was not confined to ending manual scavenging alone. The company’s visionary founders set their sights on broader horizons, seeking innovative solutions for the healthcare, sanitation, oil, and gas sectors. With an unwavering commitment to enhancing human lives through automation, they ventured into creating robots catering to various cleaning requirements.
Genrobotics’ influence spread like wildfire. The company’s solutions found favor with 85 urban local bodies across 17 states and three union territories in India. Its robot scavengers and other cleaning robots became integral to maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in numerous areas. One of Genrobotics’ most commendable initiatives is its rehabilitation program. While automation was improving sanitation and safety, it also had the potential to displace manual scavengers from their livelihoods. To address this, the company introduced a comprehensive rehabilitation program. The rehabilitation program initiated by Genrobotics has transformed the lives of thousands of former manual scavengers. With a focus on imparting skills that are directly aligned with operating and maintaining the robots, the program ensures that these individuals don’t lose their source of income due to automation.
To date, Genrobotics’ rehabilitation program has benefitted over 3,000 people. This remarkable feat showcases the company’s commitment not only to technological innovation but also to the welfare and upliftment of those who were once marginalized. As Genrobotics continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible with robotics, the co-founders, Arun George, Nikhil NP, Rashid K, and Vimal Govind MK, remain steadfast in their commitment to creating solutions that enhance the human experience. Their journey, which began with the noble goal of ending manual scavenging, has expanded to encompass multiple industries and sectors, with a focus on improving lives and preserving human dignity.
In a world where technology often takes centre stage, Genrobotics stands out as a beacon of innovation with a heart. The co-founders’ dedication to tackling societal issues with cutting-edge technology while simultaneously empowering individuals through rehabilitation is a testament to the positive impact that tech-driven social entrepreneurship can have on our world. As they continue to pioneer advancements in the field of robotics, Genrobotics serves as an inspiring example of what can be achieved when visionary minds come together with a shared purpose.
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