Christian Dior once said, “You can wear black at any time, any age & almost any occasion.” Well, that’s what Anurag & Shikha believe in too. Their love for black clothing is so deep that they decided to make a living out of selling black clothing & accessories to the ones who share a similar love for BLACK.
Anurag Kanoongo and his wife Shikha Khandelwal are as they’d like to call themselves, “Black Addicts”. The idea for their start-up The Perfect Black came in primarily from one simple need, the need to buy premium quality black t-shirts. Both the partners in crime and permanent roommates have several things in common – their love for travel, exploring different cuisines & cultures, and most importantly, their love for the colour BLACK.
Both of them before jumping into the black sea they created for themselves, worked in the corporate sector for more than twelve years. In fact, the whole corporate exposure helped them learn the nuances of every possible business function.
One day, after a long heated argument before leaving for work, they intensely discussed as to how they were stuck in the corporate cycle and how badly did they want out. They decided to give themselves a break and invest about three months to come up with an action plan. Anurag left his job first and after serving a month-long notice period, here he was with a small amount of savings in his bank account and cluelessness as to what would be the next step.
They took a few days of break, travelled and breathed into the time they got. Then began the phase of googling, reading and ideating for ideas but to their disappointment nothing came up and then as Anurag mentions, it was a Eureka moment for them.
The idea of their start-up was not a direct result of their hours and months of thinking. It was as coincidental and extemporized as it can get. When Anurag was organizing his wardrobe, he looked at his worned out Black t-shirt and said to Shikha “I will again need to hunt for a solid black tee, I really wish if there was a brand I knew where I could just buy good quality staples in Black” – BINGO! He looked at Shikha and even without saying a word to one another, they knew what the look was all about. They discussed and deliberated on this thought for days and reached a point where they now had a potential idea to work upon.
High on idea orientation & risk-taking Anurag has a very interesting & varied experience. A B.E., MBA he has worked with leading brands across Telecom, IT, Education, and Internet & Digital Media domain. In his last stint with Times Internet he was leading pre-sales, business operations & marketing for some of the best brands which include MensXP, iDiva, Indiatimes, itimes, and WhatsHot. Continuing to work in one of these brands would have sent him on top of the corporate map any day, however, both life and Anurag had different plans, that too pitch black ones that would bring in enough light in his career.
Talking about the woman behind it all, Shikha had always been inclined towards business, and being an entrepreneur was her natural calling. A Chartered Accountant by profession, Shikha has over 15 years of rich corporate experience. During her stint, she has worn many hats including one of Marketing, HR & IT, and of course Finance. In fact, she was the founding member of the team that has built and established a leading retail eyewear brand that has over 50 stores across India. She is blessed with analytical skills and is high on thoroughness.
Initiating a startup has been a herculean task for them like any other, however, their passion and togetherness kept them going! Their working style is inspired by the Indian way of doing business (as they call it). For them, business is not all about generating income but also about engaging themselves in doing something meaningful which helps them to grow materially, intellectually, and emotionally.
When asked about his lessons, harsh realities and dos & don’ts for the young generation budding entrepreneurs, here is what Anurag had to say:
- There is no right way of doing business
“During my MBA days, I had learned many theories and frameworks for solving different kind of problems and the best practices to do business, but I have come to realize that the best way is your own way of doing it! The way your business shapes up is a reflection of your personality and value system. So don’t let people tell you what’s right and wrong for you. Trust your gut and make your own decisions.”
- Product/Service has to be the Hero
“Get your product right! Invest a disproportionate amount of time in working out the minutest detail of your product/service. Your product should give you the confidence that it is the best thing available in that category.”
- Be ready to become ‘Jack of All Trades’
“When you are about to start on your own, most of you will not have the luxury to spend your dollars on everything, so be ready to learn new skills and do things which you haven’t in past. For eg. I believe I have a fair sense of design and so I decided to build my own website using readily available online tools and saved money which I invested in hiring a professional agency for creating our brand identity including brand logo, brand elements etc.”
- Don’t expect Glamour and Flamboyance
“We hear success stories of startups and perceive that the journey is going to be full of glamour. Well the reality is that you have to work in the trenches and it’s a lot of hard work and perseverance. The glamour comes only when you reach a stage where you can narrate your story and inspire others!”
To read about their startup The Perfect Black in detail, click here.