I graduated with a masters in business administration in 1992. Armed with an MBA, I thought launching my dream project, Sweet World - the first chain of retail outlets in India to offer the western concept of pick 'n' mix candies through colourful theme stores and kiosks in malls across the country - would be a breeze. But I learnt soon enough that life was not a bed of roses!
Even my earlier connections with business didn't help. While I come from a Mumbai-based business family that has traditionally been involved in the field of pharmaceuticals, it had little relevance with the line of business into which I had ventured.
While studying in the US and my travels across Europe, I had seen that the candy store concept was very popular. But we had little or no variety in confectionery available in India at the time.
So I decided to introduce the format here. When I was starting out and talked about the concept of Sweet World, I was greeted with scepticism by most people. But instead of letting this dishearten me, it only encouraged me further to go ahead and prove them wrong.
At the university I was taught to focus on being a manager within an organised space. But unlike the case studies in business school, entrepreneurship in India was a totally different ball game. I had envisioned a business model that would be the first of its kind in the country and this came with its own set of problems.
If I were to summarise my learnings from my plunge into entrepreneurship, they would be simple and to the point.
Don't only stick to your learnings from B-school as it can be academic; ground realities may be very different. You have to adapt and change to suit different situations. And make sure you keep all your options open. I did not get undertake any market research before I launched my business as the concept was new to India. Instead, I chose to go with my with my gut feel.
As it turned out, I made the right decision. When I launched my first store in Mumbai in 2002, the response was stupendous. So much so, that in the first few weeks, I would have to move out of the store to give way to customers.
Secondly, there is a world of difference in the work environment of the US and India. The US has a very controlled environment where everything is streamlined with systems in place and clear regulations, whereas in India you have to face googlies at every stage and there is ambiguity at every step.
My advise to budding entrepreneurs would, therefore, be: don't fear to dream as it only helps you achieve the seemingly impossible. You must possess the inherent ability to envision and strategise.
Above all, you must have the confidence to execute your plans with full conviction. A B-school just helps you to train and facilitate your thinking. Ultimately, it is only passion for your work, belief in yourself and hard work that makes you successful.
Vrinda Rajgarhia graduated from the William E Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Rochester, in 1992.