The 'Make in India' Flag Bearer
Devita Saraf on building an INR1000 Cr new age technology conglomerate
DEVITA SARAF, Chairman & CEO, Vu Group
The child of an entrepreneur is more likely to be an entrepreneur than a professional manager. When Devita Saraf joined the family business (Devita’s father Rajkumar Saraf owns Zenith Computers) at the age of 21, she saw the opportunity of building a high-end brand in the electronic space and came up with the idea of Vu. Talking about her interest in building a new venture, Saraf mentions, “I did my research to start a lab that developed high-end products which were followed by a store, after which I focused on building the entire television and display space.”
Television is a product that most Indians like to have in their house because Indians love video content. However, a lot of companies in this space have been there for a long time. Their approach is traditional when it comes to the product, while Chinese players are more commoditized and selling products based on specs. Saraf was inspired from the beginning to make products very high-end, very modern, and at the end of the day very relevant to a new age consumer. Saraf started with an initial capital of INR 30 lakh to build her first store, built the team, the lab, and inventory, which was worth around INR 1.5 crore. Sharing the number of products sold Saraf says, “We have sold over 30 lakh TVs and interestingly most of them were in the high-end space.”
“It is important to have women in higher positions. My head of corporate sales, my head of finance, a lot of senior positions are held by women. In terms of percentage of women leaders, I would say it's easily 30% at our organisation.”
On taking the unusual approach of promoting her brands herself, she avers, “I wanted to be the face of my business rather than hiding behind the face of an actor. I decided to pretty much become the brand ambassador while being the CEO and Chairman of Vu, so that is more relevant and connects with our consumers.” That broke a lot of glass ceilings as businesspeople are likely to have a much more serious image and it is very difficult to balance that when you also show a more glamorous side of yourself.
Covid-19 gave the brand a huge opportunity because people were stuck at home and wanting to watch TV. When asked how prepared she was when the lockdown was announced in India, she says, “My Harvard classmates had warned about the lockdowns taking place across the world. So, a week before the official lockdown announcement, I was able to align my team to make sure if we had to work from home how we would do it and that is what happened. We were prepared at the backend so when the demand shot up we were able to match the demand of people who wanted to buy a TV at this time.” Closing the financial year 2019-2020 at close to INR 1000 crore the company decided to exit basic TVs and only do high-end TVs, to not just reduce the top line but increase the bottom line for this year.
(This article was first published in the March 2021 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)