It has been a while since I revisited the old days. The endless nights and the dreadful coffee. It has been aa while since I glared the screen for endless phone numbers that yielded no return. It definitely has been a while since I have been economically, to put it in rather blunt terms, bleak. Gone are those days of my last business startup.
It was a failure. Not by a long shot, it was rather just ahead of it’s time. After all, India has a rather conservative approach to living in constrained spaces. So why would Indians go out and buy themselves an ultra luxury shipping container cabin, just because it was environmentally friendly. I told myself that it shall take a little time for the consumers to get educated, and when they do, I will be ahead of the curve. However, the learning curve of customer awareness bundled with the cost of customer education and acquisition were just a few of the burgeoning costs that I was blissfully unaware of.
A shipping container, being inherently modular and rigid in nature is quite an advantageous building block. All over the world architects and interior designers have taken to it and built unimaginably amazing spaces with it. All I wanted was to take a few of these amazing spaces and replicate them for customers at a location of their choosing, across the country.
Sure, I did get a lot of traction. News agencies picked up on the “Hot New Thing” and marketed for me. But the initial surge turned into my worst enemy. Unaware of the additional costs involved with transporting containers to far end hard to reach places, I.e., the Himalayas, etc. I ended up taking orders at a loss. While my clients were supportive and were willing to adjust. I couldn’t bear myself to make a substantial profit from those who were accommodating enough to pay more in the first place. I made just enough in the first month to keep the lights on for another six. But that was it. That was the highlight of my startup. I completed three projects using shipping containers that were mostly vacation homes for the uber rich who wanted a talking point amongst friends.
After capturing the first three clients with the help of the unpaid for publicity in the printed publications, I was forced to approach more customers using traditional methods like cold calling potential clients and using social media as a base to approach. I do still get random calls even after all these years from clients looking to create their own versions of environment and ego friendly spaces, but it’s mostly limited to those who are looking to educate themselves, not otherwise.
The short-lived nature of my project has taught me several valuable lessons. Whichever industry I may apply myself to in the upcoming future, I shall be wiser to have learnt those lessons. There are still several things that I wish to have done differently. But, tomorrow is a new day and maybe you’ll find me glued to a screen with a coffee in one hand and a phone in the other trying to educate a client with the versatility a block of steel may have. You may find me on a completely different mission altogether as well. But whatever field I may enter, I’ll make sure to do my complete homework on the product before I begin a practise around it.