Dreaming Big!

A wise scholar once said “Dreams are only dreams until you wake up and make them real.” Well, today’s millennials are all out to seize the moment! With new ideas and concepts, and the vision to succeed, these young entrepreneurs have the pulse of the market to make it big in a range of fields, be it PR, entertainment, photography, gifting or hospitality. This week we feature some Hyderabadis who chose not to struggle their way up the corporate ladder, and instead decided to make their own income in their own innovative ways. And age is truly no bar for these passionate people who’ve realised that it’s never too late or too early to pursue their dreams. Read on to hear these ambitious youngsters’ stories.      

Sindhu Rao, Tanya Gupta Viccajee, and Aarti Kumar, Partners, The Pink Circus

Good friends turned business partners, Tanya, Aarti, and Sindhu jointly discovered an interest in decor only recently. Previously, all of them had individually been involved in events, media marketing, and styling and were keen to start something of their own. Tanya’s wedding two years ago – where she worked closely with Akhil Paul and got a sneak peek into the busines from conceptualisation to fulfilment—sowed the seed towards décor.

Explaining how their partnership was formed, Tanya says, “One brainstorming session led to several more as we realised the synchrony in our thinking – our thoughts echoed and we soon started humming the same tune. Creating a story-board and executing it soon became an obsession. Our complimentary skill sets completed our canvas.

Why the name The Pink Circus we asked, and they responded “the colour of festivities is related with vibrancy and freshness... and therefore ‘pink’. And if you don’t have someone reliable to help with it, it can be a real ‘circus’! The Pink Circus strives to live up to both vibrancy and fun.” The trio strives towards  taking over as ring-masters, seamlessly juggling the pieces together and serving out a beautiful experience. 

The endless depth of possibilities has been The Pink Circus’ primary inspiration. Bringing smiles on the faces of the hosts and guests is their mission; doing it differently without making it mundane or boring is their passion. What they enjoy most about their work is the ability to dream, to create, and to deliver. “Everyday is a new lively learning experience. There are no dull moments,” they say.

Talking about a project that’s closest to their heart, they say it was their first project, for Deepa and Sunil Reddy, that will always remain most special. “We were new. We were also nervous. But we were very committed.” The trio distinctly recalls getting into a discussion with Deepa for one project, confessing to her that they came without any past experience and her response with giving not just one project but two—their daughter Swapna’s wedding and a YPO year-end social event, followed by a commitment to give all the socials the following year too. That was their biggest high, they say. Apart from that, winning a project for the Global EO Meet recently, being pitted against some of the biggest brands in the industry like Percept and Wizcraft, and flawlessly executing a 520 people sit-down dinner for attendees from 35 countries at the Chowmahalla Palace was something that has given their feet new springs, new wings.

Prudhvi Raju Addala and Vamsi Krishna VarmaCo-Partners, Stargaze Studios

It all started as a hobby for Vamsi and Prudhvi who decided to take on photography as a profession after some unexpected paid assignments. Vamsi always believed in visual representation as he was never fond of reading. So, he would often follow several professional photographers and their work. For Prudhvi, it was those unconventional images on Flickr and the works of Ansel Easton Adams that served as an inspiration when he began.  

Through their company Stargaze Studios, the duo specialises in fashion, food, weddings, products, and travel photography. Talking about their favourites, Vamsi says that it’s the photographs he shoots himself that are closest to his heart. But unfortunately most of them never make it to any medium, owing to the commercial commitments. “I like to experiment,” he says, while Prudhvi’s eternal favourites are the pictures they clicked in Banaras.  

When asked about which of their contemporaries they wish to work with someday, Prudhvi and Vamsi respectively reply: Chris Burkard, and Mario Testino and Manoj Jadhav. And who is their ideal muse?—a person who doesn’t say ‘No’ to anything. Vamsi says, “My work gives me a high. I enjoy being around people who put art first.” Talking about the perfect set, the young talents say that the set is not important as long as the lighting is right. “I like to have reflections in my photos,” says Prudhvi. 

Harshvardhan Khemani and Varun Todi Founders, Oye Happy

“People today are too busy for the very reason they stay busy: to be happy. We help people make the special occasions in their life extraordinarily memorable through unique and customised surprises,” say the founders of Oye Happy, Varun and Harshvardhan.

The website began in 2014 with this simple thought, and in three years the company has evolved into one of India’s biggest gifting companies that has delivered over 30,000 surprises in more than 600 cities. One of the biggest reasons for its success has been people’s love for the concept on social media.

Unlike most gifting companies that cater to singular aspects of gifting, such as flowers, cakes, and photo-based gifts, Oye Happy provides gifts and experiences that are relevant to people with different tastes and preferences. For example, you can surprise a pet lover by spending an hour at a kennel with hundreds of dogs. Or why not surprise a phone addict by secretly installing a mobile app with personalised quizzes and games? How about treating your mom to an NGO visit with hundreds of children, dazzling your fiancé by chartering a private jet to Goa, or delighting your long-distance boyfriend by gifting a card with a video message inside.

Oye Happy focuses on “creating” innovative gifts and experiences rather than simply “curating” them. “We have built our own range of jewellery, which can be customised with pictures, naughty board games in an Indian context, mobile apps with quizzes and puzzles especially designed for couples, social surprises, etc.,” say the founders. Asked what they enjoy most about the company, they add, “We are probably the only company where the only thing monotonous is that there’s a surprise every day. The instant gratification of making someone happy is the most amazing thing about our work. We have over 7.5 lakh followers on Facebook, proving that it’s not just us, but our audience truly enjoys and connects with what we do.

Mitali Aharam and Supriya Lolayekar Partners, Crafted Spaces

Both avid readers since childhood, Mitali and Supriya realised that they could become storytellers through architecture and interior design. “An empty space is a story waiting to happen”, they say, adding that clients come to them to write their biographies. But instead of words, the duo use fabrics, furniture, colours, and personal items. They add, “When we start sketching and ideating, it dawns upon you, architecture is just art we live in!”

At Crafted Spaces, they’re continuously working to make bespoke modern rustic spaces that have an air of ‘je ne sais quoi’. The duo loves playing with the design scenography and the effects of light and shade. “In this day and age when the whole culture is telling you to hurry,” they say, “our spaces will want you to take time and listen to the stories that we have woven into our work.Whether it is homes, stores or restaurants, we always design keeping in mind that ‘Form Always Follows Function’.”

Formerly colleagues, Mitali and Supriya became partners in 2014 when they launched Crafted Spaces with an aim to provide good design in architecture and interiors at every price point. The harmony in their working relationship and deep bond of a beautiful friendship makes for a working environment where creativity thrives. Meeting clients from varied walks of life who then go on to become extended family is something the two partners cherish and enjoy the most.

Speaking about their inspiration, the duo says that Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa inspires them at every step. The open plans, the courtyards, and the continuous flow of spaces with his signature white frangipanis framed in a play of light and shade truly defined the architecture of happiness. Closer to home, Charles Correa, an iconic figure whose works can’t help but make you marvel at his imagination and vision, is an inspiration. “His play with air and sunlight always took centrestage, with an emphasis on natural light. A very striking feature of his work is how he balanced modern and traditional styles. He set such a solid foundation that we are merely building our works on and around it,” they say.

As for the project that’s closest to their heart, the partners of Crafted Spaces say Malaka Spice, a 20,000 square-foot restaurant in Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad is the one.

Eshaan Girri, Owner, Eshaan Girri Photography

Photography came to Eshaanas an amazing surprise. 28 years old and lacking vision to find his true calling, he was somewhat stuck in the monotony of a job that was not fulfilling his entire potential. So he decided to pack his bags and travel. Eshaan discovered his passion for photography on a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal, which served as an ideal backdrop to try out a new skill. Beaming with ideas, he experimented with environments and how light effected subjects. It didn’t matter what he was shooting then, all he knew was that he had found a way to showcase how he saw the world, and converted them into beautiful memories.

Talking about his inspiration, Eshaan says it was his family. “Every photograph that I clicked would definitely have their suggestions. I would always take inputs from them on how I could improve as a photographer. I feel people who truly want you to improve and succeed in anything will not always say you’re the best, infact they would always find a way to critique your work, which is really important for us especially when learning something,” he says. Today, Eshaan draws inspiration from his previous projects, seeing how he photographed then and what he feels could have been done differently.

Eshaan specialises in art photography—be it Portraiture, Fashion, Architecture, Weddings etc. The photographs go out with a certain kind of feel, that impact is his signature. “The aim is to generate a certain kind of chemistry between the viewer and the subject irrespective of the field. I’m open to exploring all kinds of avenues, narrowing down will only limit my journey of exploration, creation, and learning,” he says.

A self-taught photographer, Eshaan recalls a project that he documented while on a trip to Spain, which he says was the perfect combination of a holiday, portraiture, landscape, and lifestyle photography. Going on to explain what he enjoys most about his work, he says he enjoys everything about photography. “I’m one of those very fortunate people who could convert their passion into work! It’s my happy place. So you see I’m never tired of it. It’s my retreat on bad days, he concludes.”

Jayanti Reddy

Although she graduated with a degree in Business Administration, Jayanti decided to take on a career path in fashion as she was drawn to creativity right from her childhood. Her mother, an artistic and dynamic woman herself, was her inspiration. “She was very creative and had a flair for fashion, so I think that rubbed off on me,” says Jayanti who is a self-taught designer. “I have no formal training in fashion design so I’m not bound by any rules, which I see as an advantage sometimes.”

The main challenge initially in Jayanti’s career was executing her design aesthetic. She says, “I had lots of ideas and designs in mind but since I’m not formally trained, executing these ideas and actually transforming them into garments was quite a challenge.” But now, she says, one of the main challenges is labour and production. She adds, “Handling workers and making sure I get my production in place is still quite a task.”

Explaining her inspiration as a designer, Jayanti says, “I always have an eye out for things. Everything around seems to bring out the creative in me, be it people, travel, or even art! I’m also very inspired by India’s traditional weaves and try to create awareness about our craftsmen and their talents. It’s a commitment to Indian art and craft.”

The nationally recognised Hyderabadi designer is drawn towards creating designs that are indo-Western. She has recently begun targeting the bridal market as well, which she says she’s thoroughly enjoying.

When asked about celebrities she’d like to style, Jayanti instantly replies “Sonam Kapoor and Deepika Padukone”. And her all-time favourite fashion trend—a pair of distressed jeans and a crisp white shirt. “You can never go wrong with it,” she concludes.

Swapna Anumolu, Owner, Mishru

Hyderabad-based designer Swapna Anumolu who is known for her innovative cuts and styles, always knew that she wanted to get into fashion design. It’s the love for creating something new that drives her.

Specialising in Indian Bridal and Luxury Prêt, Mishru’s focus is on experimenting with embroidery and on developing new silhouettes with every collection. Swapna explains, “For instance, we’re using zardozi as a primary element in our embroidery this season while still achieving a look that is very different from anything else available in the market.”

The young designer goes on to say that her parents have always been her biggest inspiration. “I love their attitude towards taking up new challenges and the willingness to go the extra mile. They are quite fearless and this is what I try to be.”

What has her primary challenge been? Finding skilled workers who are able and willing to execute her vision and achieve a level of finishing  that is better than what is usually accepted. And her all-time favourite trend—fluid, dramatic silhouettes. “My current favourite trend on the other hand is ruffles. I love playing with the volume that they bring. They’re a very feminine element and bring a lot of fun to a garment,” concludes Swapna who says she is waiting for Alia Bhatt to wear Mishru.

Swati Jalan, Founder, Communications 2.0

Not wanting to pursue the general streams of Art, Commerce or Science that was offered to students in her time, Swati was lucky to be part of the first batch of Mass Communication & Videography in
St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. That opened a whole new world for this entrepreneur.

“I always wanted to study something which is unconventional and at the same time could prepare me to be industry-ready since I wanted to be a working woman,” she said adding that media and communications fascinated her since the beginning. “While studying in the third year of college a friend’s sister spoke to me about interning with a PR Company as soon as I finished college. At that point in time I did not of course understand the realities of PR but I still decided to take a plunge. I joined Genesis, a pan-India PR firm that is now Genesis Burson Marstellar (GBM), as a Junior Associate and over time went on to head the branch. Genesis taught me everything that I am today in my professional life—the corporate culture, how to work under pressure and have fun at the same time, how to deal with clients, and to always offer the best with utmost sincerity.” It was here that Swati realised her love for PR. After seven successful years she introduced her own PR company called Communications 2.0 to service mid-level clients who cannot afford large organisations.

Her company, Communications 2.0, specialises in hospitality, food and beverage, and fashion brands along with other verticals of consumer and entertainment. It also works with a cluster of real estate and other corporate clients. The joy of meeting so many people from different walks of life makes her go on. She says, “Meeting people, hearing about their challenges, their stories of success and failure, and myriad experiences gives me a whole new perspective to the bigger picture I have for myself. It is priceless.”

Hailing from Kolkata, Swati married a Hyderabadi and hence had to move base here. In doing so she faced several challenges, all of which were learning experiences. But the biggest challenge, she says, was to be in two different cities at the same time—a city grew up in and a city she needed to grow up with. Hence she divided time almost equally between Hyderabad and Kolkata, and it all seems to have worked out beautifully. This couldn’t have been done without the support of both her families, of course.