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Most of us would consider ourselves lucky if we can live one successful professional life. Not so for Tanushree Chatterjee Basu or TCB as she is known as in her professional circles. She started life as an army daughter, blossomed as a literature student, flew as an advertising professional,  fluttered as a home store owner and has now found her calling as a champion of sustainable clothing. 

All this while juggling her many roles as wife, daughter, sister, friend and mother. This serial entrepreneur has learnt many money lessons along the way.

The entrepreneurial dream

Everyone wants to be their own boss. After all, who wouldn’t like to see their own hard work resulting in rupees in their own bank account rather than fattening the bottom line of whatever company they are working for? So what is the first step towards becoming your own boss?

Risk profile

“Before you quit your job and put all your money into your dream project, analyse yourself. Identify your risk profile. Are you risk-averse or are you risk friendly?” says Tanushree.

On the Basis app, we feature a risk questionnaire to help you set your investing goals accurately. Establishing your risk appetite, however, is not limited to just your financial habits, but also your mental attitude. “If you are willing to fly to the sun, also be prepared to burn and fall. Figure out if you are temperamentally suited to give up a secure job if you can handle failure. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst,” she advises.

Tanushree set up her first company – TCB Productions – an advertising film production house – with just a few years of experience as an advertising professional. She was only 23 when she had a business card that listed her as Director and Founder.

“Another important thing to remember before starting out on your own is to not burn any bridges. Put your ego in a strong box and throw away the key. Be willing to go back to your former boss and ask for your job back in case your enterprise fails,” she says. Keep all options open. 

Failure can smell like desperation

Another important mindset you need to evolve before starting out is to avoid being desperate. “Do not start a business by putting all your savings into it. It will only create a situation where you are desperate to make a go of it because you risk losing it all. This will leave you stressed out even before you have begun,” she says. Stress creates a negative spiral and will only lead to increased stress. “We all want to create our own enterprise mainly for money, but also for the joy of creating something. Desperation and stress will take the joy out of the venture. Don’t mortgage your home or sell your jewellery to start a business,” says Tanushree. So start out with a safety net in place. Keep an emergency fund at all times. 

Grow from small to big

“Start small. Even if you have a huge idea, start small,” she says. Her second business, Salvaterra Home, came into being after she exited the advertising film production world. “As advertising evolved, I realised that my kind of film-making would soon become outdated. So either I would have to evolve or fall behind the next bright spark. So after 20 years in the business, I accumulated my earnings, invested them and went on to my next venture which was home furnishings,” she says. 

Before she launched her second business, she had secured a source of regular income from two rental properties. Also, she did not put all her savings into the business – only a part of it.

It was here that she learnt a lot about how not to do business.

“I had tasted immense success in my ad career. So when I walked into home furnishings, I did so with a lot of confidence – or rather overconfidence. I created a lovely brand and we did well enough. We did not make profits, but we broke even. I did not factor in common-place things like weather. In a place like Mumbai, where it rains for 4 months of the year, I had lean periods of no sales for one-third of the year. The rents at the address where I wanted my store to be, were phenomenally high. I was paying rent but making no sales. So even though I had stock to last me out for more time, I pulled the plug on the business after two years. Losses have a habit of accumulating and before you know it a ₹ 5 lakh per month becomes ₹ 15 lakh in three months and soon all your capital goes. So rather than wait for things to get better, I very pragmatically took the decision to move on,” she says.

“I learnt more from failure at 40 than I did from success at 23,” she sums it.

Lessons well learnt

So now when three years ago she started her sustainable clothing label, Shorshe Clothing, she put the Selva Terra experience to good use. 

  • “First of all, I started small. I did not set up a store. I am retailing out of existing branded stores like Ogaan and Good Earth. 
  • So I am saving on retail space rentals and salaries for sales staff. I have further kept my real estate costs down by slowly scaling up my operations. 
  • I started with an 800 sq ft office in a not-so-high-end address and now have grown to 4,800 sq ft only after I could sustain it.
  •  I have grown my employee roster to 30 now, but will not go to 50 unless I have the business to support it,” she says. 
  • Slow and steady is working for her. Just last year, the Textile Ministry presented her the Innovation Award for her showing of Jamdani garments at the India International Garment Fair. 

You work 25 hours a day

“Entrepreneurship is hard. Payments do not come in on time. Cheques bounce. You have to work 25 hour days. And you don’t get to spend it all!” she says.

“For the first three years at least, you have to have the will-power to not dip into your profits. You will be tempted by so many things, but resist temptation and put back your earnings into growing your business. Once your business has grown, invest in funds to secure your future. You will not have PF or pensions to fall back on. Put your earnings into long-term investment funds for maximum growth. Before you even start out, have your emergency fund in place. Protect yourself. Have enough liquidity to see yourself through the incubation phase. And most importantly, enjoy the journey. After all, you are getting to live your dream is not something everyone can do,” Tanushree says.

Incidentally, Shorshe Clothing is not Taushree’s full-stop. “Once this business is independent enough to run as a sustaining operation, I will do something with my first love – film. Maybe something for the OTT platforms,” she says, signing off in the true style of a serial entrepreneur with the belief the 2-3 businesses can co-exist.

We celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship in women, get started on an emergency fund on the Basis app, before you start your business venture.

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