Interview: Nalin Goel and eSparSha on Redefining the Customized Merchandise Space
Like all popular entrepreneurial journeys, this one started trying to solve the very problem they were facing – a dearth of good quality customized t-shirts available at affordable prices. When this group of 3 college students went merchandise hunting for their college festival, they returned dejected. And out of that dejection was born eSparSha. ESparSha is an online merchandise store that lets you create your merchandise just the way you wanted in the first place. And beyond meeting your customization needs, eSparSha also lets colleges sell their customized merchandise through their online store.
Started by a gang of three, Nalin, Karthik and Bala, they have come a long way from personally delivering their first order to being the official merchandise partners for some of the best college festivals across India, including IIT Mumbai’s Mood Indigo.
Their Facebook wall is proof of the outstanding product quality Nalin and the gang so swears by! We caught up with Nalin to get to know what makes this trio tick and how have they managed to maintain their high quality standards and amazing customer service, even as the company grew.
Zepo: Nalin, before we begin, tell us a bit about your brand, eSparSha?
Nalin: We sell dreams, we sell imaginations. We give a touch & feel to what you have created in your mind and we inculcate a sense of belonging. Sounds too poetic, isn’t it? But yes this is what we do. It was like a sprout coming out of a seed soaked in water. Abrupt but determined. We started out in Jan 2011 with big dreams with a similar determination to fulfill them. We are a team of three – The TRIO, three monkeys of Mr. Gandhi (not the new one):
Karthik – The daddy of this idea is our Sales King aka Rocket Singh.
Bala Satish – He is the next Jack Welch. He will surely come out with something better than 6-sigma.
Me – The one who loves to dream and enjoys kicking others out of their dreams.
We were scared about the idea, its sellability and sustainability. But as they say “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions”.
Zepo: In your words, what products is eSparSha into?
Nalin: We provide customized merchandise to people having big hearts (pockets don’t matter!!) The merchandise includes and not limited to T-shirts, Sweat Shirts, Key chains, Mugs, Wrist Bands, Coasters and a lot more. We love to be a part of the memories you want to cherish, preserve and relish.
Zepo: The market is already chock-a-block with so many businesses doing the same thing. How do you distinguish eSparSha from that lot?
Nalin: The domain we tried to create a niche for ourselves in is crowded by local manufacturers and the segment is very much unorganized. No standard product. The market segment is very fast moving and dynamic. It’s the quality and word of mouth that can take you ahead and help you punch above your weight.
Zepo: How have your audiences received your brand? Which is your best selling product?
Nalin: As aforementioned, the market is much unorganized. Most of the existing players are selling it like goods while we are selling service. Pre-sales support, post-sales support, product replacement warranty are some of the things that we put great emphasis on. This has actually helped us being identified as a brand that offers a great product with great service. We say our service is our USP and we got great trust of our customers as well. Touchwood!!
We later extended our service portfolio to Free Design Support as well. Our best selling products are College Festival T-shirts, Sweat Shirts etc.
Better ask our customers. They can tell you better. I am just blowing my own trumpet.
Zepo: Apart from your online store, what are some of your other point of sales, say, exhibitions, retail outlets, etc? Which one has worked best for you?
Nalin: During our cameo, we got a great opportunity to associate with iconic college festivals in our segment be it Mood Indigo, Asia’s biggest cultural festival (IIT-B), Antaragni (IIT-K), Chaos (IIM-A) or corporate giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft.
We have participated as partners and set up our kiosks at all these big events. Apart from the same we are regular visitors to Comicon India.
Our Geek T-shirts are selling like hotcakes in Hyderabad’s retail outlets and we have received many franchise queries from Mumbai, Delhi etc.
We believe it’s not about medium, it’s about our customers. They are working best for us. They are our brand ambassadors. We owe everything to them.
Zepo: What made you take the plunge into ecommerce and start your own online store? How has it been setting up an online store with Zepo?
Nalin: Majority of our business was coming via online channels and I believe this was a sufficient reason to start selling online directly.
Our online store has been outsourced to Zepo.in which offered us a cheap and affordable solution with great support. Even today any issue is addressed with 24 hrs.
Zepo: What is the one activity that has worked best for you in online marketing? Any marketing tips for our entrepreneurs and artists?
Nalin: Online marketing is not about CPMs, it is not about Likes as well. It is about customer engagement and value addition. We keep our Facebook page active with our creative content and hence people love to associate to it. Through it we convey our belief in great designing.
In the end I would resonate the words previously used by someone –“There are no magic wands, no hidden tricks and no secret handshakes that can bring you immediate success, but with time, energy and determination you can get there.
So Nalin, that was about eSparSha. On a more personal level, let’s get to know the entrepreneur in you.
Zepo: How do you define success?
Nalin: This is too philosophical a question and I’ll do what various MBAs do – Globe (Don’t consult the dictionary. It’s a slang :D)
To be precise, for me, success is having liberty to do what you want to. Dreaming, executing and dreaming again…
Zepo: Keeping the same levels of enthusiasm everyday is not that easy. What keeps you inspired and motivated every day?
Nalin: We take it as a way of life. As my partner Karthik says,” the sense of fulfillment for people like us (who love our work) comes not from the SMS from our bank at the end of the month – but from the email from a customer saying, I love your product.”
Zepo: What is the one big mistake that you made as entrepreneurs?
Nalin: One is way too less. We are the men of mistakes. Failing, improving, failing again. What I have learnt is important and that being it’s good to be intuitive but don’t be judgmental. Trust people and they will reciprocate equally well.
Zepo: If you could give one piece of advice to would-be entrepreneurs, looking to follow in your footsteps, what would it be?
Nalin: The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. I am inspired by what Mark Twain said –“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
“Don’t follow us if you don’t believe in power of your dreams, if you don’t give ears to your creativity.”
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Thanks Nalin for taking out the time for this. It’s been a complete pleasure. And all the very best to all you guys! You are doing an amazing job! 🙂
Have you every thought of making your pain point a business idea? Well, why not give it a shot? Start your online store with Zepo within 5 mins, and sell your awesome product across the globe.