InertiaCart's Bharath Hegde on being clueless about career to building a successful apparel brand
After getting his degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering in 2011, Bharath Hegde started a company called FourKubes with his college friend. After making it successful, in January 2015, Bharath co-founded another company called 'Inertia Cart' with just Rs. 10,000 investment. Inertia Cart is a personalized apparel brand which has reached million dollars in sales by selling more than 2 lakh products to 2500+ customers.
In this exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers, we got Bharath to talk about his background, how it all began, how they deal with competition and where they are headed. Read on!
Bharath Hegde, Co-founder - InertiaCart
CE: Tell us about your growing up years and family background. Are you a first generation entrepreneur?
Bharath Hegde: As a child, I always liked to read about mythology and history about planet “Earth”. One of my favorites was the story of “Mahabharata” as I see that it connects so much with the current world.
Speaking about the journey of my schooling, I always loved becoming a class leader and taking the responsibility of the class or task assigned. Maybe this was one of the motivation factors for me to step into entrepreneurship and nurture the entrepreneurship skills in myself while I had a bonus factors which are about networking with people and smart enough to get the work done.
Moving on to my dreams, becoming a rich person and a celebrity someday is my dream and I am enjoying the journey. This means “success” to me.
Last but not least, I am very thankful to my parents for supporting me in things I wanted to do. In my view, Moral support is the best support for one to grow positively and strongly.
That’s my journey in a (quick) snapshot. And yes, I am the first generation entrepreneur.
CE: What made you first think that starting a company is right for you?
Bharath Hegde: Well, for a person who is aware of his / her aspirations is a different thing compared to my story. In short, I did not know what was my path after I graduated. And this phase of my life is called “Numbness”. Due to this, I never attended job placements that were held at my university. Having said that, the other side to the story was → Even my percentage or academic score was numb enough (By this I mean to say that I was not eligible to attend the placement at most of the companies who wanted to give an opportunity for students). Maybe, I was made for something bigger than just being average (some bragging rights here).
Nevertheless, I was very firm and clear about not joining IT industry because I totally sucked at it and I continue to.
I would like to make a point about my childhood aspirations here which may have triggered to become an entrepreneur by starting my startup. Since my childhood, I have always been reading and watching things about how an individual starts a company, or become a millionaire, or their lavish lifestyle, or how they travel and mainly their celebrity status always inspired me to become a businessman and entrepreneur who has the real zeal to make things happen. During my 9th grade when I read an article about Mr. LN Mittal, who became a billionaire by selling steel and doing what he loves, I knew I want to be a businessman but was really not sure about what to do and how to do it as I had my own set of challenges. However, the good news was that I was up for facing challenges.
When I look back now, I just smile at my journey. Every worse condition of my life has turned me into a rare gem and I am on the journey to becoming rarest of the rare. Watch out my moves, I am in the making.
CE: Tell us more about your first startup - “FourKubes”.
Bharath Hegde: After I graduated, I had to wait for long time to see my results and also others (well, I was the odd boy here because I had to never wait for offer letter. You know why ;-)) had to wait for offer letters. And during this period of waiting, my childhood friend Madani and I came up with an idea of doing something in the Advertisements sector. One of the main reason about this idea was my confidence of having contacts of various sponsors that I had met during the university events and also I had enough contacts from the other colleges/universities.
Once the idea was matured enough (In our definition), we named our startup as “FourKubes”. Our first idea was to publish the advertisements on the cover page of the notebooks. We were happy that we successfully executed the projects with some famous brands like Aircel, Yamaha, Uninor, US Pizza, TVS etcetera. Unfortunately or fortunately, the great news was → We never earned a single penny from this.
We also conducted 5 events and sold few thousand advertisement notebooks without earning anything again.
Wait… There is the success as well ;-) The biggest success before we stopped working on Fourkubes was setting up for a meeting with Mr. Kunal Shah (Freecharge CEO) when Freecharge was still a very small company and he had agreed to meet us to discuss things related to advertisements.
CE: When did you first think about “InertiaCart”? What was the motivation behind starting up in this domain?
Bharath Hegde: After the first gig with “FourKubes” which was nearly 6 months, I happened to partner with a friend named Shankar who was already in a business of his own for 3 years. And also I was game to learn business skills along with him.
Time flies freaking fast and one year had passed after my graduation. By this time, I still wasn’t sure about the things that I had to be doing as a business even after trying 4 to 5 businesses (Well, not really well established, but I did the experiment). I built my own shell at home for a month and was hidden from friends due to no financial support even after a year’s hard work. I call this phase of life as “Bankruptcy to Bankruptcy”.
On top of this, there was a pressure from my family about me not earning money and support myself financially. And for Indian parents, it’s a bit tragical moment when their son is not working (in their words, it means no work that generated money) even after 1 year of graduation. And then, I thought about an idea and starting up in a very stringent way on the 23rd day of July during 2012. I would sell “Customised Clothing” and then came up with the name as “InertiaCart” (Inertia = Push. And I needed something which always keeps me pushing to do great things with InertiaCart. This was the simple enough meaning behind the name. Simplicity is the best like they say).
The motivation part exists, but I shall like to leave it empty as of now due to my own personal reasons.
Currently, the Inertia Cart is officially a private limited firm and is known as “InertiaCart Apparel Private Limited” and it was incorporated on the 12th day of January in 2015 along with another co-founder Darshan Desai.
Some bit of background about the collaboration of Darshan Desai and myself and then creating a private limited firm of InertiaCart. Darshan Desai and I had a similar way of doing things in Apparel after our college days and then we got connected somehow (thanks to the universe) and thought of collaborating as we were doing the similar thing in our own unique ways. Fortunately, we collaborated to bring the greatness of two brilliant minds and today we are rocking with our work. We both did make our own profits individually before collaboration. And now with collaboration, we are making more profits. That’s the beauty of this partnership which can be cherished always.
This is how “InertiaCart” was born and someday it will be VERY BIG and I can envision it.
Also, I would like to add here that Mr.Jayanth Kumar and Mr. Mohan Kumar are integral part of Inertiacart Apparel Pvt Ltd from the beginning and without them we wouldn't be where we are.
Darshan Desai(left) & Bharath Hegde(Right)
CE: Tell us the end-to-end process of how InertiaCart works.
Bharath Hegde: Customer browses the products on the website → Designs a product → Adds the design to cart by with specifications → Orders are received by the Inertia team → Inertia team gets in touch with the customer → Understand the requirements in detailed way → Helps the customer to fine tune the design that they created with the help of in-house creative designers → Mockup sent to customer → On approval of the design, the sample print is done and shown to customer → Once approved, the final production is done → Goes through quality check and packaging → Shipping and Delivery.
Now you know the end-to-end process, but I would like to say that it’s very challenging to follow the process and keep changing the process to suit the context based on the requirements. It’s a context-driven approach that we use in our process-driven system. Isn’t it interesting?
CE: What makes InertiaCart different from its competition in the market?
Bharath Hegde: The biggest value that we add is, “We help our customers from getting what they want”. We make this happen with a passionate in-house team that includes, people stitching, creative designers, operation folks, customer support folks, delivery boys who are dedicated and every team member treating human values as the highest form of doing any business.
InertiaCart is not just about tee-shirt printing company, but a brand that breathes greatness in the work that it does by helping the customers build their brand for their company by making their products/merchandise stand out from the crowd.
CE: What makes InertiaCart different from its competition in the market?
Bharath Hegde: Every company looks the same when we try to see it from the high-level. Having said that, there is a microscopic level which is never noticed by most of the people. It is always hard to convey this microscopic level as it keeps changing its state every now and then based on the context.
Without much ado, here are some things which I think differentiates us from the market.
- Our Products - We have 15+ product types with 10+ color combinations and various sizes of these product types.
- Our design services to support customers: We support our customers with our in-house designers if the customers have a concept. We do this to bring a smile on our customers’ face. We don’t say, “That’s your headache”. Instead, we say “Let’s help you achieve your results”.
- Individual brand enablers: Be it individual or a company order, we make sure that the brand value is increased with our services. When they wear our products, we want them to feel proud of their brand and we don’t bullshit with any brands. We understand what brands mean to our customers.
- All customers treated equally: It has happened that we received 1 quantity orders and we never felt like saying “NO”. We value every customer and in the end, all we want to see is that “Ting!” smile.
- In short → We are not just a t-shirt printing company, but happiness enablers.
CE: How did you get funded or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Bharath Hegde: We bootstrapped. We were just like an Apple company in Apparel where we started in the garage and then we now have a great office with amenities. When we (Darshan Desai and myself) look back, we have a smile on our face with the progress that we made and makes us happy. This is because we believed in what we were doing (Well, critics were part of the journey. Without critics, there is no fun).
Speaking about creative strategies, we had none. All our advertisement was through word of mouth. We are happy about this because, with word of mouth we could make good enough profits; and what could happen if we really structured our marketing, advertising, branding process? It shall be a “Tsunami” of good things. Well, I am not saying we won’t do that. We are just executing things one at a time.
CE: How big is the InertiaCart team at the moment? How do you go about hiring? What are your expansion plans?
Bharath Hegde: Nearly 31 people work at InertiaCart at the moment and this number keeps changing every now and then due to various circumstances. However, we have reached a better stage where we have made this variable to vary in a very small way.
We have four departments that include manufacturing, front-office staff, delivery executives, part-time workers. Our hiring process is simple enough and we don’t make it unnecessarily icky for our candidates who appear to be hired. By simple, I mean → Getting the job done, good enough attitude towards the work, no bluffing, knowing to communicate efficiently with customers, respecting the co-workers and also knowing what it takes to do a great job.
Sometimes, the hiring is done by some of the folks on my team and at times I love to take the interview based on the position a person is being hired for. I love to a strike a conversation with the candidate and make the candidate feel comfortable enough and just speak like friends who are sipping coffee in a coffee shop.
No big deal, this is it.
Currently, we cater to PAN (Presence Across Nation) INDIA and the entire operations and marketing happens from Bengaluru (Aren’t we cool? ;-)). In parallel, we are also working on expanding InertiaCart to New Delhi and few other eminent places in India in the coming months.
InertiaCart Office Inauguration
CE: How did you make your first sale?
Bharath Hegde: This phase of my life is called as “Happyness”. I call it so because I made 8,000 INR profits during my college days. During 2009, I organized a college fest and the students from the neighboring colleges visited to witness the fest. During this course, they happened to connect with me to get the custom printed t-shirts just like what I had got printed for my college fest. I agreed to it and the order was of 80 t-shirts and I was very happy.
The first sale still makes me smile and motivates me to just keep adding more 0’s in front of that number 8.
CE: What is the best part about your job? And what is the worst?
Bharath Hegde: The best part is always about executing the tasks as an entrepreneur and running the company smoothly. Handling the challenges that I come across in the journey of running a company and facing these challenges head-on gives me an adrenaline rush.
The worst… I am thinking… I got it…
The worst is when I see my Chartered Accountant calling me to pay taxes.
CE: What are the biggest challenges you've had to face while running this company and how did you tackle them?
Bharath Hegde: Well, I have been in various roles like Salesman, Delivery boy, Janitor and what not. I enjoyed doing these things because it was my dream and when it comes to dreaming, you don’t hesitate or step back. With your dream, there are other things that come in a package.
Some of the challenges that I would like to highlight include →
- Late-night deliveries
- Begging vendors for the product types
- Printing mistakes/errors in the last moment (Argh!!!)
- Customers not paying on time (Cannot complain, I was amateur and I needed them)
- Rejection of the order due to the faults in the product
- And much more…
During these challenges, I happened to meet a person named Darshan Desai who was also an entrepreneur in the similar business and who faced the same challenges. And he was my competitor (GRINS). We met a couple of times in order to learn more about each other and each other’s business.
Partnering with Darshan Desai, a competitor to a co-founder of InertiaCart Apparel Private Limited was one of the best things which happened to both of our lives. We tackled the problems together and created InertiaCart which is a Private Limited Company with more than 4 crores in turnover in the last 3 years selling close to 2,00,000 products.
Both of us knew how to solve problems in all the departments which we have learned in the process by doing it ourselves has helped us in tackling any situation within our business.
CE: What are the most important traits and talents to have in starting and running a business?
Bharath Hegde: Believe in yourself and believe in what you are trying to create/sell/build. That’s because no one else is going to, and you are unique by default. Doing some groundwork in the area of your startup is a good idea and adds value. As an entrepreneur, one needs to work and know finer details about the business and should be in a situation to solve the problems that keep bumping into you.
Also, having an understanding between the key people is one of the key aspects of running a company in a smoother fashion. Having said that, the best things is to enjoy the journey and you shall see failure, success, mixed feelings and what not. Just enjoy them and follow your heart. These are just my views which work for me, maybe you need to what your heart beats for.
CE: Any message for young engineers and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Bharath Hegde: Do not settle for some jobs that give you a paycheck and then you just be happy. Remember that, being happy or being content are two different things. You can be content when you do what you love. Also, it is easier to break-down in the journey. However, the good news is: You can get up and rock things again, it just (The just is not just easy though) takes the attitude of a rockstar.
Follow your heart, and filter the critics. Pick those opinions which help you and filter those which do not. In the end, just shine brighter like the universe. Because you are the UNIVERSE.