There are only two rules of procrastination. 1. Do it today. 2. Tomorrow will be today tomorrow. So says The Procrastinator’s Diary that catches my eye as soon as I walk into the little store up an impossibly steep and narrow staircase in a sunglasses and spectacles shop. Tappu Ki Dukaan, a curio-gift-knick knack shop has many such wisecracks up its sleeve. Tappu who? Meet Sneha Raisoni, the 28-year-old proprietor, who chucked her job as a chartered accountant to start the store in December 2009. Tappu is the pet name her brother gave her. Ergo, Tappu ki dukaan.
Travelling the world for work, Raisoni found little shops with quirky stuff everywhere, but none in South Mumbai. And whenever she wanted to get whacky gifts for her friends, she’d have to travel to the suburbs. “Tappu Ki Dukaan hopes to bridge the gap between an Archies, which is too teen-ish, and The Good Earth, which is too expensive. People may use the words ‘pop’ or ‘kitsch,’ but it is all about quirky stuff here,” says Raisoni.
In a scenario where rentals are among the primary concerns of even big businesses, Raisoni had an immense stroke of good fortune—the shop belongs to her father. Raisoni just had to clear away an infrequently used room of some boxes and set up her own store with the help of her interior designer cousin. Still, to leave her job in the middle of the recession was a big risk, one that her family was not very eager she take. Using her own savings and a loan from a friend, Raisoni plunged into business and broke even in 10 to 11 months. “I’m careful not to give the impression that it’s very easy, that you should just chuck your job and start your own business. The fact that I don’t have to pay rent is a huge advantage.”
Having her father just downstairs, too, is handy in more ways than one. He handles her accounts and she’s even trained a couple of his staff to manage the store in her absence. For it has been a busy year-and-a-half for Raisoni. From meeting designers to handpicking merchandise to delivering orders—yes, she even does that occasionally, if it’s in the downtown area—Raisoni has managed it all on her own, with the support of her family, of course. Two days before I met her in mid-May, she had hired her first employee!
Raisoni says she has learnt the biggest difference between being employed and being an entrepreneur is that now she is on the job 24X7. And she has learnt to deal with all kinds of people, not just the corporate customers she interacted with earlier.
Till now, Tappu Ki Dukaan has been a quaint, cozy set-up, but the advantages that have made it a compact, successful enterprise, may well prove to be hurdles in scaling up. At present, Raisoni has a client database of 1,000 clients, of which she estimates 65% are South Mumbai residents. As she has no wish to pay rent, Raisoni is planning to take a franchisee route to expand. “I want to take Tappu Ki Dukaan to Tier-II towns,” she says. Cities like Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Baroda are on her radar.
Raisoni does not advertise aggressively. While she did hire a PR agent for the first few months, she has, for the most part, relied on social networking and word-of-mouth publicity. Nor has she wooed corporate orders in a big way. She does accept bulk orders, whether from corporates, for birthday parties, festivals, etc., but most of her clients are individuals. Therefore, she is very particular that her brand not be diluted. “Tappu Ki Dukaan will only have stuff that Tappu likes. I have to be very careful about franchisees, see how interested and warm the owner is, where the store is to be located, and that the merchandise isn’t diluted with items that the parent store doesn’t have.” She insists that the store is about the whole experience of browsing and it is not just the sales that are important. “All my customers bring four or five friends to the store. They come and show their friends around, as if they are part-owners—that makes me very proud.”
What may help Tappu Ki Dukaan increase its reach is the online store expected to be launched in a couple of months. And while she is always introducing new products and designers, Raisoni is now in the process of negotiating exclusive tie-ups with foreign names like the London-based, Anglo-Swiss Balck+Blum, American Fred and Friends and Dutch Invotis. Their products will be available in India only at Tappu Ki Dukaan outlets from mid-June. She already has a tie-up with Indian label 037 to design customised items for clients.
While Raisoni has a fledgling brand on her hands and space issues, she is ambitious and determined. Right now, the motto of Tappu Ki Dukaan is, “We have nothing you need, but you’ll want everything we’ve got”. But if the girl has her way, she’ll also introduce a line of furniture, all quirky, of course, in your home. Live with that.