Tackling the pervasive problem of body-image dissatisfaction

Roslyn Teng & Robin Lim, Co founders- Made Real

Roslyn and Robin co-founded Made Real at the age of 19. Roslyn and Robin grew up together. They have been friends for over 10 years when they founded Made Real. Building a successful career comes with a price in form of fast paced lifestyle and unhealthy diet. Made Real believes that staying healthy is not only a physical task, it’s also mental and spiritual.

Inspired by personal struggles with body-image, Robin and Roslyn founded what was then known as Project Made Real to tackle the pervasive problem of body-image dissatisfaction in society. What started as an awareness campaign transformed into an actual business.

Robin believes the best learning occurs outside of one’s comfort zone, that one should never be afraid of pushing boundaries. She’s excitable, optimistic and driven, never one to shy away from challenges or risk. An avid supporter of diversity in entrepreneurship, she hopes to be an inspiration for young founders in Singapore.

Roslyn is a studious scholarship-holder turned entrepreneur with dogged persistence. She is interested in the intersection between food, nutrition, and tech. Specifically, she is passionate about behaviour change in the context of healthy living, and innovations in alternative proteins. Robin & Roslyn have worked together for over 3 years and have gone through many challenges and triumphs by each other’s side. Their personalities and skill sets are incredibly complementary.

Team ABT brings out some more interesting facets from their journey in this interview.

How did you come up with the unique idea of Made Real & what is its reach so far?
Made Real started originally as a community of people who came to together to lend support to those who have suffered or were victims of an eating disorder. Overtime our community grew and we needed a more sustainable way of spreading our message. The name came about because we saw our movement as one that was bringing light to eating disorders as a real issue that real people faced. We also wanted to provide real solutions, through promoting proper nutrition and balanced diets. That’s how we slowly developed to be a modern-day healthy snack brand, because we wanted to offer our community wholesome and natural products.

Made Real has grown very much organically since it was first founded. We’ve always believed that if we delivered a good product, and solved an actual problem for our customers, the growth would come naturally.

Who is your inspiration and why?
We have had many mentors throughout our start up journey and many of them   served as great inspirations. Not only were they there to guide us, but they also were our early supporters. And that is critical for any founder.

During the early days of Made Real, what all challenges did you both face and how did you overcome it?
One challenge would definitely be the lack of a strong business network to tap into, as first time entrepreneurs. However, this is challenge can be overcome by putting ourselves out there, to go out of our way to meet people and ask for help.

How does Made Real create a niche in the market?
We believe that we do so by building a brand that people love and can relate to.  Our supporters know that they are getting the best products out there in the market. We hope to further this niche in the market as a brand that understands its customers and is able to put out innovative products that meetsa diversity of nutritional needs.

If you were to do one thing differently what would that be?
Something we struggled a lot with was insecurity over our age, what if people don’t take us seriously. Above that being a female. We were young girls in a male dominated field (entrepreneurship). We used to tell people that we had all the odds against us; however we soon realized that that was a matter of mindset. We will only be limited if we let these stereotypes define us. Breaking away from those stereotypes and conventions really helped us to push ourselves further and aim for higher goals. It also helped us to bounce back faster from mistakes because we had no excuse to feel sorry about our failures. Instead we focused on learning from them and growing into the people we wanted to be. One thing we would do differently is to not have such fears in our early days.

What’s your future road map?
We believe that Made Real is so much more than just a healthy snack company. That’s how we started, we sell healthy snacks, but we are so much more. We want to be the company that changes the way people get and live healthy. And we see that we can do this with technology.

Discovering Fitness & Wellness, the Gympik way

Amaresh Ojha, CEO – Gympik

Being a fitness enthusiast took him to the direction where the concept of Gympik was awaiting.  Amaresh Ojha founded Gympik with an objective of thought of doing something on his own rather than following the crowd in general. Gympik is one of India’s leading fitness discovery platforms.  It provides the best options for people who want to make fitness a lifestyle choice and be the better version of them.

An alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Amaresh has a compelling work experience with front-runners in the IT field like Sun Microsystems, CISCO and Intuit. He manages and focuses on technological decision making, innovative business strategies, collaboration and expansion. Founded in 2013, Gympik receives over 1,00,000 monthly visitors. It has more than 9,000 fitness centers and 5000 fitness professionals signed up, making it one of the largest online fitness discovery platform in India.

Here are some more insights about Mr. Amaresh Ojha and Gympik shared with the team of ABT.

What was the inflection point that led you to the path of entrepreneurship?
There was no inflection point. It was a well thought and well-planned action that made Gympik what it is today. Of course, it took a while to figure out the right approach to make things fall in the right place. Entrepreneurship is not easy as pie, yet its fun, encouraging and motivating when you see your firm flourishing to the hilt and that’s the kind of enthusiasm and courage of my own convictions that motivated me to keep the stunt going.

Tell us about the first 90 days at Gympik
Oh, that was crazy and of course, fun too! Every day we spent at office was more of a trial and error kind of days when we used to focus more on brainstorming about different ideas than following the conventional approach towards making quick money.

What is the market challenge that you are addressing?
Gympik aims at solving one of the most critical situations in India, i.e. making health a choice & not an option. Since, there is lack of clarity on what is the right way to achieve fitness; people mostly are confused when it comes to take the right decision, be it taking personal training services, nutrition & diet counseling or even choosing the right fitness center. In India, where most of the people suffer from diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure, we, at Gympik, are striving to make health reachable and accessible to each and every part of the country so that people make a conscious effort to take health seriously.

What is your philosophy, when it comes to doing business?
It’s simple and straight forward— for me my employees are my strength and I consider them as the assets of my organization. My vision is to make Gympik a place where people enjoy every bit of their work and grow professionally. We are a family if you talk about the work culture in Gympik. The core of our foundation is integrity, equality, transparency in communication and flexibility. Our employees face different challenges every day, they get to learn a lot, have fun on the way and try to achieve their potential in the fields.

Have you managed to raise any funding? How are your funded?
Yes, we did! We are a well-funded start-up and in future, we hope to grow in terms of launching different verticals which can take Gympik to the zenith of success.

What are the challenges that you face as an entrepreneur, how do you overcome them?
Initially there were a lot of issues related to giving a proper shape to the ideas, finding the likeminded people who were ready to take a plunge and dive into the world of uncertainty, truly believe in concept and contribute their time and effort to make it work. Of course, at the onset, getting enough funding was a far cry and I had to invest my savings to make it happen. I started with a small setup where I had to be the all-rounder to keep the venture going.

Thanks to a couple of friends, I knew from my previous jobs. They trusted me enough and joined hands to share some of the major responsibilities at Gympik. Within a year, we raised a seed funding from a group of angel investors. Hard work and destiny played their hands and now Gympik is present in 20 major cities with more than 12000 fitness & wellness centers and 9000 personal trainers listed from all over India. We get more than 3500 unique visitors on this platform every day and the conversion rate has become much higher than before.

If you were to do one thing differently, what would that be?
I would like to sharpen the greatest weapons of all, the education system of India, and make it more of an experiment and learn kind of activity. It’ll encourage the young generation to soar high, bring in the best of ideas to materialize and make India a better place.

What does the road ahead, look like?
The coming years are going to be an exciting and full-on implementation of amazing ideas that we have been working on for past few months. New verticals, integration, collaborations and much more are on the cards. Apart from Corporate Wellness Program, we have a few comprehensive and all-encompassing projects which we are developing to integrate technology and constitute a holistic approach towards the entire program.

In India, the total retail market for fitness as a category is valued at Rs. 4,579 Cr (US$ 0.76 bn), growing at 16-18% and is estimated to cross Rs.7000 crore (US$ 1.18 bn) by end of the year 2017.  Fitness centers are burgeoning as disposable per capita income rises and sedentary lifestyles lower immunity amongst today’s youth. Moreover, global corporations, the ICT industry, BPOs and KPOs specifically, have already provided the impetus to the industry by installing in-house fitness centres and health clubs within their office premises.  So we have recently launched a cloud-based B2B software – TRAQADE a one stop solution for Fitness Centre Managers to manage their customer journey online and to facilitate them to manage daily operations.

Swapping Skills for Travel

Arjun Tuli & Rajshree Bothra, Co-Founders – Stay On Skill 

Amidst the buzz around skills development, make in India, industry readiness etc. the duos – Rajshree & Arjun have come up with a unique idea of mixing pleasure with sharing skills & knowledge through their venture Stay on Skill. Its is a platform that helps people with skills to travel the world and get free homestays, in return, helping their host learn a skill they are good at. Both the co-founders Rajshree Bothra and Arjun Tuli share a common passion for travelling. The Idea was conceptualized with the motive of making travel affordable.

Across India, their hosts have learnt interesting Guitar, French, Baking, Yoga, among other skills till date. Over the last 2 months, there has been more than 40 successful trips, in which the travellers have saved more than INR250,000 (approx US$3800) in stay cost, and hosts have spent more 260 hours in learning new skills. Its quite interesting to note that over 50% of them were solo Women Travellers.

Rajshree spent 11 years in corporate world in global, Asia and country roles and now has been immersing herself in the startup ecosystem in various forms – mentor, consultant, a short stint as an employee at Zivame and now co founder at Stayonskill. She loves travelling and have been so far to 30 countries. Apart from travelling she likes baking. She is a pastry Chef trained from world’s best culinary school in Paris by the name of Le cordon Bleu. She comes from a Marwari family of generations of entrepreneurs, so somewhere she has always enjoyed running businesses. In her corporate career also the same was the case where she grew or turned around businesses. She holds a Economics Hons. Degree from St Xavier’s, Calcutta and an MBA from MDI Gurgaon.

Arjun never really knew what entrepreneurship was or how to even pronounce the word properly until the second year of his bachelor’s in Electronics and Communication Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Delhi (NIT Delhi). He applied to B Plan competitions of IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, IIM Calcutta, and IIT Guwahati and reached the finals and there after he learnt how to give presentations, got more field knowledge from his mentors, understood how businesses work, and how ideas that look good on paper don’t always work in real life.  Later he started learning how to code – to turn his ideas into reality. He took CS course from the famous Harvardx to learn web development. In the final year of his college, he started working on the project Knowledge Maps, with one of his friends – Pavneet Tiwana, who later became his co-founder.

Here are some more insights from the Entrepreneur duo about their journey.

How did you come up with the concept of Stay on Skill? How has been the journey so far?
Arjun: The journey of Stay on Skill has been very exciting. In December 2016, since the time we had closed Knowledge Maps, I was looking to solve new problems. At a personal level, the funding and savings that I had from working on Knowledge Maps had dried up.

On the other hand, I was looking to travel – to do away with the burnout I had after Knowledge Maps. My previous co-founder – Pavneet, and I were still in touch and used to discuss new things that excited us. During one such talk, he mentioned about an idea of getting coders develop to WordPress templates for hostels/hotels, and maintain them in return of getting stay and some fee (for maintaining the website).

The idea seemed interesting to me, but I saw it in a different light – where the skill should not be limited to coding, and the product should not be limited to websites, and the hosts should not be limited to hostels/hotels. Between the two of us, we could not reach a consensus for the vision of the idea. But it had excited me enough to take it up individually. I probed a lot into finding the reasons for Couch surfing failing in India, and the problems that current free stay products were facing. I started discussing perspectives of this idea with my fiancee. And during one such discussion, we reached the idea for Stay on Skill. To test if the idea had legs, I made a simple landing page and shared the link on my facebook, and beta list. And I immediately started getting responses from a lot of people. Within a week, I had over 1000 signups. I then reached out to my earlier mentor Rajshree Bothra.

Rajshree loved the idea, and felt thrilled about it, especially because she was an avid solo traveller. Having extensively travelled, she increasingly wanted to make people experience the joys of travel and thus wondered how one can travel cheaper.

During the same time, I also did some jamming with my other mentors – Abhishek and Kabir. Abhishek suggested that for execution, a good way would be to launch this idea as a campaign – India Tour – covering 25 cities with 2 hosts in each and having 50 travellers travel across India. This seemed like a great idea. I and Rajshree both joined hands as co-founders and started working dedicated to bringing this idea to life. As we were based out of different cities – Chandigarh and Delhi, we used to have long discussions over calls, and meet whenever possible – when I would be in Delhi and so she would be in Chandigarh. We launched the campaigns in June of 2017 and had a deadline to start India Tour by 1st July. We got a tremendous response on the social media. Within weeks, more than 500 skilled people applied to travel to different Indian cities. These people were not just from India, but from Spain, the United States, Argentina and Indonesia – more than 10 countries across the world.

Who is your inspiration and why?
Rajshree: The experience of travelling itself was the biggest motivator. Then there were concepts like Airbnb, couch surfing that are making travel easier for young millennial. On the other hand people are adopting alternative ways to learning and social media is fuelling the desire for new experiences. All this made the cards line up neatly for Stayonskill to shape up.

Arjun: I don’t have any business icons or anyone that I like to follow. When I started out with entrepreneurship, I did look up to a few people and wanted to be like them. I used to read those click bait shitty articles about what successful people do in the morning, and stuff like that. But as my journey matured, I realised what a waste of time these things are. All I want to be is who I am. Wealth and success don’t drive my vision or my way of building Stay on Skill. 

Did you face any challenges? How did you overcome them?
Both: This is a new to the world concept that encourages solo travelling. There are challenges and we have tried to overcome them in pilot stage, thus building a market validated consumer friendly product.

To recall some of the challenges we have faced till now:

  • Security of traveller: We do host validation using multiple social media data available on that person as well as talking to them.
  • Host cancellations in the last moment: We have a “stay assurance” plan where traveller can buy stay insurance and thus be assured that in case of host cancellations; Stay on Skill will host them for 1 week of stay.
  • Skill Validation: we curate our travellers and delve deep into their knowledge by asking for videos, artworks, Instagram accounts and Linkedin profiles.
  • Host stay quality: host sends us pictures of her home including the room and bathroom that the traveller would be using.
  • Host engagement: We manage communication with travellers and send messages to hosts only if we are sure of connection happening and few more.

What is your philosophy when it comes to doing business?
Rajshree : Businesses should be run in socially conscious manner creating win solution for both the entrepreneur and the consumer. It should make the world a better place by being there. It should have a shared purpose with the consumers such that the ecosystem benefits by its scaling up.

Arjun: My approach towards doing any business is that there should be value in it for both the sides. Don’t try to cheat on someone by overselling them your product. At the end of the day, it will come back to bite you. Be very clear about what you are offering and how it will benefit someone.​

What’s your business model?
We have been testing different business models and have been successful in executing them. But it would be too early to finalize as we are still iterating and trying various methods. We are looking to raise seed funding as well, in parallel.

If you were to do one thing differently what would that be?
Rajshree: As of now, I only wish we could make the product a world class one with speed. We are constantly course correcting and taking early feedbacks and incorporating these in the product. So at this point, there isn’t anything that I’d like to differently…yes faster definitely but not differently.

Arjun: Improve upon my attitude towards dealing with people – everyone – from my co-founders, to interns, to users to family members.

What would you like to achieve in the next coming years?
Both: The objective would be to get more and more people to travel, connect people from different communities and cultures so that they get to enhance their perspective on life and open their mindsets. For us personally, this is what travelling is all about. And this is the vision that we hold for stay on skill. Going statistically, after the next 12 months, we aim to get about 50 trips going every day.

The News-Paper aggregator with a Zeal for Innovation

J.V. Karthik Raja, Founder – Paperboy

An avid reader and traveller, Jonna Venkata Karthik Raja, the founder of Paperboy is an energetic, passionate and positive person, with zeal to learn and grow. An innovator at heart, Karthik acquired his business acumen from his father, Mr. Vijaya Bhaskar.

Paperboy is an online news discovery and distribution application that aggregates newspapers and magazines accessible on any platform. With a clean and simple interface, the app contains no pop up ads or interference, and lets one access their news both in online and offline mode; thus, making it easy to for people to read the newspapers at their convenience. Paperboy provides you the experience of reading your favourite newspaper but on a screen which is the in-vogue format of choice today.

Pursuing his final year of graduation from Jain University, Karthik has a keen interest in aviation and holds a student pilot license. Travel for volunteering (teaching or being a gardener in organic fields) is another one of the things he loves as he finds them to be the perfect way to explore the world, different cultures and meet like-minded people. Read the interview to know more about Karthik & his entrepreneurial journey.

What led you to the path of Entrepreneurship?
My father is an adept businessman. Growing up in an entrepreneurial home not only sparkled my passion for business at a young age but also gave me exposure to real world business experience long before I stepped out into the path of entrepreneurship. I have seen my dad work on out of the box businesses in his time and taking the bulls by the horn.

Having him as my example and constant support helped me build my “entrepreneurial stomach”. I too, like dad, have always been an innovator at heart and I believe in creating new solutions that makes life easier and more interesting. After working on multiple projects with dad and in college, I put my skills to test in my own venture. The ability to procure and follow local news from any corner of the world was one of my age old visions and hence I decided to make it my first project in form of Paperboy as well.

Who inspires you the most? Why?
My inspiration and role model has always been my father, Mr. Bhaskar, Director, Paperboy. Growing up, I have watched my father set up many businesses and juggle them successfully. He has always invested in the out of the box, yet practical ideas, that add value to the consumer’s life. He is a risk taker but he balances it out with his thorough research, knowledge on the idea and by formulating a carefully thought through plan of action. Dad’s strong work ethic and never-give-up attitude has always inspired me. He is honest, dedicated businessman who treats his employees like his family and his projects like his baby. I really admire these qualities of his and hope to follow his footsteps to become as successful businessman as he is, someday.

If not business, what would you be doing?
I love travelling and reading. Paperboy is, in fact, a by-product of both these passions combined. I have also had a keen interest in flying and have an undying love for aircrafts. I currently have a student pilot license and I plan on pursuing aviation alongside my business. So if not business, I would definitely be in a profession where I get to travel the world.

How did you manage to fund the business?
We are currently bootstrapped and are not looking for funding anytime soon. Since Paperboy has recently been launched, we are yet to map any substantial profitability. However, we have in place long term plans that can deliver a profit margin for the company.

What are your plans for monetization of the idea?
We are looking at organic growth at the moment. While we are not looking at generating revenues in the first few months, instead our focus will be – onboarding as many leading print newspapers as possible onto our platform. Over time we will explore non-intrusive strategic advertisement placements that do not deter the reader in any way along with the buy-in of newspaper publishers and their advertisers. In our second phase of development, we will be introducing customized ads for digital newspapers only. While every newspaper publication has ads on the physical print paper, the same ads will be customized in the digital version. This will not only increase revenues for both publishers and Paperboy, but give publishers get an opportunity to go head-to-head with online news sources to secure advertisers.

Tell us about your vision for “Paperboy” & future plans to upscale
Uniting newspapers into one application, Paperboy aims to broaden the global readership base of newspapers. By providing the widest range of newspapers and magazines accessible on any platform, we look at being the ultimate way to browse, buy, and read news on the go. Regional and national editions of newspapers can also be accessible from anywhere in the world through Paperboy’s platform. No matter which part of the world you are in, one can get a flavour of your country and be updated about regional happenings.

Our mission is to: Bring the world in a single scroll; Create value and make a difference & Making Paperboy the ultimate way to read newspapers.

In its second phase of development, over the next few years, Paperboy will expand its tie-ups to global newspapers outside of India. Paperboy will aggregate global newspapers from the United States, UAE, UK and Singapore, before expanding to markets in other countries.

What were some the challenges that you had to overcome?
During the seed stage, a lot of newspaper publications were hesitant to embrace this unique idea. But considering we are a new and niche segment, challenges were bound to arise as we continued trundling along. And now Paperboy has 200+ newspapers and some major magazines on board. We are currently focusing all our energies on empanelling leading newspapers in India that will in turn draw audiences to our platform.