My Business: Indian youth brand Happily Unmarried

Rahul Anand and Rajat Tuli on how they created a youth brand for India

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What makes an entrepreneur? The BBC's Saima Iqbal and Tom Santorelli speak to Rahul Anand and Rajat Tuli, about turning an idea about making products tailored specifically for young, upwardly-mobile Indians into a thriving business.

Business partners Rahul Anand and Rajat Tuli first met while pursuing their Masters degrees.

In 2003 the software company they had joined together went bankrupt and they decided it was time to take the plunge and start their own enterprise.

A coconut purse One of Happily Unmarried's products - the coconut purse

They had the notion that there was a niche in the market for a brand which catered for India's youth - a demographic which they thought up to then was being underserved.

At the time a large number of foreign companies were setting up their outsourcing arms in India.

Rahul and Rajat realised that this would mean there would be more young employees with disposable income, but there was no brand completely dedicated to India's youth.

"The youngsters these days are independent, they have opinions and they like to make a statement with the T-shirts they are wearing or the glass they are sipping their drink from" says Rajat.

The idea for their business hit them while they were both out jogging. They were so excited by the brand name they immediately ran to a cyber cafe and registered it.

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Happily Unmarried would be a fun brand which made a vast range of products from household items to clothes and beyond which catered for young Indians. The sort of well-designed yet functional items a young single - or taken - person might like to be seen with.

Seed capital

But their former employers had not paid them for the last six months and they had no capital to get their venture off the ground.

Pawning a laptop given to them by their old company raised 25,000 rupees ($450) - which was not even enough for them to hire office space. "So we said let's give the impression that we're a really cool company! So we got nice visiting cards made, very fancy posters made and put them everywhere. And then we got a website...we were operating out of cyber cafes, out of buses, out of other peoples' offices, and that's how we managed in the first couple of years" says Rajat.

A shopping mall in Delhi Rahul and Rajat targeted the youth demographic by opening stores in as many shopping malls as possible

Their efforts at raising their brand awareness paid off. Starting out with a small kiosk inside a mall in Delhi, they now sell in 80 stores across 25 cities in India. "We also have stores in smaller towns in India and the sales are encouraging, it shows that Indian youth in smaller cities also like to spend and they are opening up to products that are in your face and make a statement" says Rahul.

Design ethos

The partners employ four designers to come up with new product concepts: "The basic surmise is very simple. It has to make you smile", says Rahul. Their products are colourful, funny and are often emblazoned with somewhat irreverent text which makes them a hit with the younger generation.

But their goods are also designed while keeping the utility factor in mind, says Rajat. "We have designed some innovative laundry bags, toothpick holders, key holders for walls, door-mats and tea-cups that are not just great design ideas but we need them in our lives too".

They are open to new ideas and one need not be a professional designer to design for them according to Rahul: "People from all walks of life write to us sharing their ideas and if we like the idea and decide to turn it into a product then they get royalties and credit".

A range of Happily Unmarried's products Happily Unmarried's design ethos is simple, according to Rahul: "It has to make you smile"

E-commerce is also one of the fastest growing platforms for their products and the past year alone has seen the highest online sales of their products. "People have better access to the internet and they are opening up to the idea of shopping on the internet" says Rajat.

Youth connections

They have been able to leverage the ubiquity of social media sites to increase sales and create a sense of community in their customer base. "It just reaffirms your faith....it's a feel-good factor!" says Rajat, checking the number of friends Happily Unmarried has on Facebook - 63,00 and counting.

One of the aspects of the business the partners enjoy the most is putting on one of India's biggest independent music festivals - called Music in the Hills - in different venues each year. It helps introduce people young and old to the Happily Unmarried brand. "It's a big party for two days and two nights" says Rajat. "It works as a huge promotion for us and we love doing it".

Operating out of an office in Delhi, most of their 200 or so products are made in smaller towns closer to Delhi like Saharanpur, Roorkee, Moradabad and Panipat which are the traditional industrial hubs of northern India. "These cities have seen huge losses due to a lot of manufacturing industries going to China, but the cost of production is low and fits our needs" says Rajat.

Young Indian ladies shooping in a Happily Unmarried store India has one of the largest youth populations in the world

With an annual turnover of 5 crores (roughly $900,000; £570,714; 707,247 euros) Rajat feels the industry is taking them seriously now. "We're not just designing products we are also designing restaurants, organising events and giving them our touch by making it more fun".

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