Unlike most undergraduates, Rakesh Nandaand Ankita Desai knew exactly what they wanted to do after their bachelor's degree in mass media from SK Somaiya College, Mumbai. "We were keen to start something in retail branding as it had a lot of potential," says the 25-year-old Nanda. Though the market for large format printing and retail branding was crowded, "we were sure our passion and better services would bring us success", he adds. Since they didn't have sufficient funds to start the venture, the two picked up jobs after graduation, gaining work experience in retail branding. It took them nearly seven months to raise Rs 40,000, and in January 2009, the two quit their jobs to focus on their own company.
They registered their company and rented a 100 sq ft office space at Bhuleshwar in south Mumbai for Rs 7,000 a month. In April 2009, Plus Branding Solutions was open for business, and they landed their first client, Royal Canin, through a college friend. It's a testimony of their capabilities that the pet food major remains a client four years on. In the first year of operations, they generated a turnover of Rs 40 lakh and hired three people to handle the workload. "We faced quite a few challenges during the first and second year of operations," says Desai. For instance, they were forced to outsource printing since they lacked the means to do it and the delay in implementation impacted their margins. "We made profit, but not enough to take salaries. In fact, we don't remember spending any money on ourselves and used it to grow the business," says Nanda. When work picked up, they decided to purchase printing machines to save on the margins. In May 2010, the company shifted to a bigger place at Dadar. "When we invested in a printer lamination machine, we needed bigger space," explains Nanda. The following year, the business expanded and the duo purchased three more machines for Rs 25 lakh, but the move paid off. This also meant that they had to shift base to a 400 sq ft office at Nahur, central Mumbai. "Today, we are in a position to create excess capacity and can manage all our printing in-house," says Desai.
Another challenge faced by the founders in the initial years was getting skilled manpower. "Our business requires a lot of people who can handle implementation and fabrication. However, most of them are not ready to work on fixed pay rolls. Hence, it became difficult to get skilled labour at short notice," says Nanda. Fortunately, over the past four years, Plus Branding Solutions has developed a good reputation in the market and managing a large number of people at short notice is no longer an issue. The company boasts a client base of around 25 companies and clocked a turnover of Rs 2 crore last year. "Till date, we haven't spent a single rupee on marketing and get our business through client references and wordof-mouth publicity," says Desai.
According to Nanda, the company is now targeting a year-on-year growth of 100% for the next five years. "We will strive to add one service every year during this period," he adds.