People | Make And Grow

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Make And Grow
Text by Meher Marfatia
Published: Volume 17, Issue 5, May, 2009

Parthip Thyagarajan offers pointers on floating and running a creative business

Until a few decades ago, only a minority understood the world of a creative professional in India. Then boys and girls opted for newer professions. They often worked in underpaid jobs, sometimes struggled as freelancers and then moved on to set up new businesses in the fashion, design, beauty, culinary, lifestyle, visual merchandising, content and programming spaces. Suddenly, college going kids looked up to new role models in their community. Bollywood hotties pursuing new professions on screen subconsciously motivated youngsters to consider new vocations. Creative entrepreneurs were glamorous, articulate and very expressive, even if few actually knew how well their businesses did. Young and good looking fashion designers, hairstylists, chefs-cum-restaurant owners, graphic artists and interior decorators offered new hope to people who sought a career with a difference.

What does tomorrow hold for a creatively inclined Indian who has loads of talent, energy and enthusiasm? Here are some thoughts for those toying with the idea of setting up a creative business in this recessionary stage.

Create happy energy
If you’re doing nothing with your time, or stuck in a job that is taking you nowhere (and you can do without that regular paycheck for a while), watch your energy and enthusiasm grow as you visualise new ideas and generate new offerings based on your talent.

Execution is key
Ideas alone don’t build a business. Don’t worry if someone overhears what your ideas are, or if someone else is trying to copy your plans. It’s how the idea is executed that differentiates a failed and a successful business.

To sustain your business you need to think quantum (big). This is the difference between creativity (little and short term impact) and innovation (large and long term impact). Do you want to be an exclusive designer like Tarun Tahiliani, Abu-Sandeep or Radhika Naik? Or would you prefer to impact a large cross-section of society with chic clothing or creative accessories like FabIndia, Hidesign, Identiti, and Ferns n Petals?

Shed the snobbishness
If you’re in business for the long haul, you’ll objectively have to look at customers who actually need you. A lot of creative individuals presume there will be adequate demand from their ‘circle of friends’ who’ll then spread the word among their friends. In the initial stages, friends can guide and support, but they alone cannot directly contribute to your long-term growth.

Capitalise on your freshness
Faced with excessive competition and a shrinking bottomline, large conglomerates are seeking the services of external agencies (public relations, design, events and promotions) who can add extra zing to their marketing efforts. All they need is someone who can offer something refreshingly different. The downside is that the ‘small is beautiful’ agency will be ‘bullied’ into doing heavily discounted work.

Dream big
Aim for thought leadership. Align yourself to a bigger cause. Ritu Kumar’s vision was not to make Big Fat Indian Wedding lehengas; her message and philosophy were about building a high profile brand that would generate employment and work towards the upliftment of traditional Indian embroiderers.

Pep it up
We all get bored with the same clothes and accessories, deli, restaurant, lounge bar or e-zine, salon, health club or spa. The economic downturn further lowers our spirit. A new offering in the neighbourhood, or a new service that offers convenience or delights a loved one gives us the opportunity to experience or gift something different. Only the creative entrepreneur can create that.

Parthip Thyagarajan, a creative entrepreneur runs He also writes extensively for several publications, and coaches and trains entrepreneurs and corporate executives.

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