Pooja (prayer) and other rituals may be full of hassles at times to gather samagris (material for prayer). Keeping this point in mind, the foundation of Poojashoppe.com was launched under the leadership of Amushree Jha. This start-up offers superior quality of pooja samagri and other ritual related stuff at a competitive price. Amushree decided to adopt omnichannel model for her business venture. Twelve offline stores of pujashoppe.com are serving the puja needs of customers effectively. We had a chat with the founder to know more about their entrepreneurial journey. Here are some excerpts:
Share your work experience and role of educational background in supporting it.
After completion of my Masters in Journalism and while pursuing my doctoral studies in English I worked for few years in companies like The Telegraph, TOI and Edelman India, a multinational PR firm. It was sometime then that this idea of being self employed kept on bugging me as like every employee I felt I was terribly underpaid and if I could do well for the company I worked I would definitely do better on my own! And then one fine day I gave up my cosy job and started a PR firm with two offices based in Delhi and Ranchi, my home town. That was my first start up!
Tell me more about your journey to be an entrepreneur? Was it really your career vision?
The decision of becoming an entrepreneur for me was taken more out of an impulse rather than a well planned one. I used to hate getting up early to go to my office on time and get reprimanded almost every day. Being an entrepreneur, I thought would solve that problem forever. Now I know that I was so awfully wrong! I don’t even get sleep at nights!
How did the conceptualization of your startup brand strike your mind?
My mom used to a lot of pujas/rituals at home and I being the elder of the siblings had to attend most of these rituals. I used to see her getting worried about the ‘samagris’ she might have forgotten to buy which Panditji would ask during performing of the rituals. And trust me almost in every puja there would be something missing which would be asked by the priest. I wondered if there could be a solution to this problem. Later on during one of my overseas trips in Bangkok, I visited a temple and found beautifully packed puja kits being sold outside the temple. That reminded me of my mom’s perennial woes of performing her rituals and also felt it would not be her isolated problem. I came back and teamed up with a number of people, did a lot of research and came up with the prototype of a ‘Ganesh Laxmi’ puja kit! We did beta testing of the product and received very positive feedback. Finally we founded PuaShoppe.com and chose a tagline: ‘Puja made easy’!
Share with us the story behind the selection of your brand name.
Naming the venture was really a big issue. The domain names that we liked had already been booked by someone else. There were so many names that came up like pujaon.com, easypuja.com, makemypuja.com, pujasolutions.com etc. We chose the last one - pujasolutions.com and booked all the domain names and started working on the venture. After a couple of months, a friend of mine came and asked: ‘Don’t you think that the domain name is a little big? Can’t you make a bit shorter?’ After that again name hunting began and finally we came up with this one ‘PujaShoppe.com’.
What has been your major business model and tell us about the key players of your team who contribute to your success?
- Our business model aims at establishing a strong ecommerce platform for spiritual products and services with presence of retail / touch points/ franchise outlets, which would act as delivery/distribution points.
- Our target is to achieve delivery time of maximum of 4 hours in the cities having our physical presence
- Omni channel which is integration of online and offline business helps in faster delivery and customer delight
- As puja/rituals are normally last minutes decisions taken by devotees, it is imperative to create local distribution/ retail points for on time delivery and customer satisfaction
- Retail outlets also create stronger brand value. Ecommerce companies like FirstCry and LensKart have also started establishing offline stores
What was the response received by the launch of your product/service? Is there any particular story or comment you remember?
We have registered a brand called ‘Agrhyam’ which has been widely accepted in the market. We have recently launched our distribution business of agar battis and dhoops with the same brand and are giving great competition to all established players in the business. And our puja kits are a big hit within communities of northern part of the country. The usual comments of our customers who visit our offline store are: “How did you all come up with this idea? The puja kits are awesome.”
Is there any source of inspiration which makes you moving ahead?
The joy of creating something new and unique keeps motivating me to move ahead and face the usual challenges of a start up. Life for me has become some sort of a roller coaster ride and I get a little perturbed if I don’t have any problems on a certain day. That’s the flip side of being an entrepreneur.
Please give few tips for upcoming entrepreneurs who want to enter Indian startup ecosystem!
My advice to everyone who wants to start something of their own is that they should plan as much as they can in advance before taking the plunge. The grass on the other side may seem greener from a distance; which may not always be true. Ability to take a great amount of risks and facing uncertainty along with ‘effectual thinking’ are the key elements for being a good entrepreneur.
Share us interesting facts wherein your family became a source of success for you. How did they support and guide you?
I lost my father when I was just 15. Being the elder daughter I had to face great financial and social challenges and my mother has been a great support. I started working part time even when I was an undergraduate student. My mother has always supported in whatever I did right or wrong, mostly the later.
Was there any mentor in your entrepreneurial journey? What has been your biggest learning from the mentor?
At PujaShoppe.com I have been getting constant support from Dr. Tapas Mallick, with whom I started this venture. He has constantly tried to motivate me to work harder. He has great ability to remain calm and patient even during the worst of crises which I have constantly been trying to imbibe.
Was there any biggest challenge which you faced while running your business? How did you overcome it?
Arranging finance, achieving sales target and managing people are the prime challenges that I face regularly. The biggest has definitely been arranging the finance. I have been constantly meeting people, giving pitches to get funds. It’s a continuous process of a start up until it generates enough cash to fund its own operations and future expansions.
That’s an interesting way to blend religion into the startup sphere!