An Interview with a Serial Entrepreneur, The Karpinter

Can you introduce yourself to our readers? 
I am Rajesh Bhandary. I run a furniture & furnishing store named Karpinter. I am an entrepreneur, a photographer and a person with a great sense of humor. 

How long have you been an entrepreneur? How did you become an entrepreneur?  
I am an entrepreneur for the past 14years. When I quit my job as an Area Manager from a leading furniture company I saw a lot of prospect in this field of business so I wasted no time venturing into it though I was 24 years old at that time. 

Did you have to convince your parents about this transformation, from an employee to entrepreneurship? How was their response to your decision? 
Yes, I had to. But I couldn’t convince them to till date. Because they feel that running a business is a very stressful job. So I started without their support. 

Was it your sole decision or you had friends who encouraged you to get into this furniture business? 
It was my sole decision. I have always been deciding things on my own. Either good or bad. If things fail I always accept my fault and take responsibility.

Is Karpinter your first business venture? 
No. It wasn't. Naveen Industry was my first business venture where we manufactured sofas, in Madurai. It was a partnership concern.  

What are the main factors that are to be considered before choosing any business? 
I would see the market for that particular product and the return on investment 

Are you the sole owner of Karpinter or is it a partnership business? 
It is a partnership business. 

How many partners are there in Karpinter? 
One apart from me.

What is the best business ownership in your personal opinion? Is it sole-proprietorship business or a partnership business? 
It varies from business to business /person to person. It also depends on the investment and profits. 

In your personal opinion, what businesses can be run by a single person? 
There are many businesses that can be run by a single person. Photography, website designing and any business that can thrive on the skills of an individual person can be run by a single person.

What personality traits of a person would you consider before making him your partner? 
Many. The two main things - I would see WHY he wants to do this business. And whether he has the patience to wait for the business to roll.

You said a business should be chosen after considering the investment and profits. Can you please explain us more? 
If the return on investment is too less, then either of the partners is going to lose interest in the business. So the returns should be good. In my opinion, splitting small profits among partners is not a healthy practice. 

How did you get into this business of making, selling and repairing furniture? 
Having gained great experiences in the furniture retail industry for the past 9 years I found that none of the retailers provides good after sales service for the furniture they sold. The reason is mainly because most of the furniture are imported from China and some are of poor quality. So providing an after sales services are either difficult or very expensive. So I found a great business opportunity in the after-sale service of furniture retail industry and I set up a service centre for furniture. And it is running very profitably. 

Would you be willing to guide someone if they want to start a furniture business like yours? 
Sure! I have roped in a lot of people into furniture business and been a mentor for some. I would really be happy to help. 

How would you like them to contact you? 
They can contact me at 

How is your business journey so far? Tell us the story, please  
It has been a fantastic journey so far. I have learned a lot from this entrepreneurial journey.Learned about life, about people, about relationship, finance, etc 

I started my business with just 25,000 rupees. I quit a job where I was paid 40k a month, to pursue my passion. It was a struggle to start off with. It took us (me and my partner) 2 years to break even. 

Are you talking about your first venture, the Naveen Industry? 
Naveen Industries was a factory in Madurai. Elita was my first furniture showroom in T.Nagar, Chennai to display the products that we manufactured. It was a great success. Money started coming in. After 2 years we had to close the store due to financial losses/bad debts.

You said it was a great success and money started coming in. And then you had to close after 2 years. Would you be willing to share your mistakes that you did with our readers? It could help a business person to avoid doing those mistakes. 
There was a major change in the market that we didn't expect. We failed to keep up the changing trends in our furniture models. We weren’t able to provide something unique to our customers.

During that period I was offered a business opportunity by a friend that wanted to get into the retail industry. We started our store in Velacherry in the name of Deccan Furniture. It was running successfully. The lessons that I learned from my past mistakes helped us to open 3 more branches in the city. We ran those stores till 2014. There was a steep increase in  the space rentals and lot of furniture stores sprung up all over the city and the competition was too high that we had to wind up our business and end our partnership. 

Do you feel sad about the way it ended? 
No, I don't. I knew this is always a part of the game.

Do you think you could have done things differently to still stay in the furniture retail business? 
I don't think I could have done anything differently to stay afloat. The changing trends were very fast. So, I decided to take time out. I took a break.

How many years did you take a break from your entrepreneurial journey? What did you do during that time? 
I took a break for one year. I  had a passion for candid photography. So I started a company called "Clicks n Flashes".

I have clicked 20 weddings, over 15 birthday parties and loads of kids' portraits along with other events in a span of one and a half years. Parallelly I set up a small office at Keelkatalai for my KARPINTER business which was in its budding stage. I wasn’t making any money from KARPINTER then but I was willing to wait since I had believed that there was still scope in the furniture business.1 year after Karpinter started to function, we set up a small touch n feel store at Harrington road. It has been a rollercoaster ride for me but I truly enjoyed the journey. 

Would you mind sharing a couple of experiences from the rollercoaster ride? Your experiences may help others as well. 
When I went into financial losses I had hardly few people to support me at that time.That was the most difficult situation and getting out of it.

So, you mean it was very difficult to clear the remaining stock? Was it very difficult to pay the rents? Was it very difficult to handle customer queries? Was it very difficult to pay your employees? 
Clearing stocks wasn’t an issue but paying rents and salaries were tough.

And you found that nobody was willing to help you come out of that financial crisis! How did you feel during that period of transition?   
I felt very low. I just couldn't concentrate on anything. I felt very lonely.

Do you think that there should be a back-up for your kind of business or any business for that matter?  
Yes, Definitely. Because business trends keep changing. It is tough to run a business for 25 or 50 yrs now. The is always changes in the market within a span of 5 years. Products keep changing. So every business owner SHOULD have a backup.

 Don't you think an experienced Business owner should be able to make a forecast about the changes? So that he can safeguard his business from any loss as well as keep his business floating along with the changing trends?  
In any business, things keep changing very fast and we, the business owner should be financially sound to adapt ourselves to counter those changes.

What word of caution would you like to give to a new entrepreneur?  
Don’t listen to other people's words. Keep a watch on the market, ALWAYS. Choose a business that you are an expert in. Make sure to have control over any sudden changes/ difficulties.  

What is most important trait an entrepreneur should have in your opinion? 
Never give up attitude. Honesty. Faith in the good quality customer service. 

Is it easy or very difficult to set up a business like yours in this city, Chennai in India? 
It is easy provided you have adequate knowledge and funds. 

What knowledge should one have to set up this business? And how much should one has in his pocket at the starting and for the back-up? 
One should have a good knowledge in accounting and marketing. I would say 60% from his pocket and the balance can be borrowed funds. Starting a business with 100% borrowed funding will end in a disaster.

How do you choose the brands for your furniture showroom? 
I chose the brands depending on my past relationships with those companies and their reputations. 

Imagine if one is new to the business, then what should one consider to choose the brands?  
Marketing. Reputation. Reference.

Do you find enough time to spend for yourself and for your family when you run this business?
Yes, I do. 

How could a busy person like you can take time off from his busy schedule of running a business? 
IF we have the right people to do the right job then you have no job. 

Are you talking about your employees? Partners? 

How do you choose your employees? What qualities should one have to work in a furniture company like yours?   
Business can be taught but dedication cannot be taught. I choose persons who are dedicated and fire in their belly to grow in this field.

Did your business take you to places that you wished to visit?  
Yes, it did. I love travelling. So I enjoyed my business trips.

Which places did you visit? Did your visits help your business? 
My business took me China and Malaysia to look for new opportunities. Every time I went to China, I gained good knowledge in manufacturing techniques, new products and designs. 

Visiting China was an experience that cannot be forgotten. I like their culture, people were very friendly. It is so amazing to see the way they handle competitions in business. I have learned many business tricks from Chinese business owners. 

How do they handle competitions? What was that you learnt that could be implemented here in India, to handle competitors? 
This is what I learned - Saturate your area first, earn a reputation for yourself and for your brand. Keep your eyes wide open for new products and technology. Social media marketing is a must 

Thank you so much for your time. We wish you to have a very successful business at Karpinter and Clicks n Flashes.

For Your Growth :)
Uma Mahi.

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