What makes India’s growth story incredible? Its young crop of enterprising and ambitious entrepreneurs. Here are five husband-wife duos who, with their keen business acumen and drive for success, are at the forefront of this new narrative.
SWATI and ROHAN BHARGAVA, Co-founders, CashKaro.com
From left, on Rohan: Silk shirt and pants; Suket Dhir. On Swati: Cotton dress, Payal Pratap
They may have fallen in love first, but building something together and sustaining it for years has strengthened their relationship. Meet Swati and Rohan Bhargava, once classmates at the London School of Economics, then friends, partners and now co-founders of Delhi-based CashKaro.com. Backed by a huge population of deal seekers, CashKaro.com is India’s largest cash rewards platform. So, every time you buy your favourite perfume or shop for clothes on its site, you earn instant cash back on that purchase. Sounds too good to be true? Ratan Tata, one of their star investors, thought so too. “After our presentation to Mr Tata, he said, ‘You are giving away free cash to a country that loves saving. Who wouldn’t love this idea?’ It was quite a moment for us,” says Rohan. While this confidence can be encouraging, the journey towards it is not an easy one. Start-ups take time, a lot of hard work, and a sheer amount of staying power. So what about those inevitable low moments? “Rohan has a very special way of motivating me during rough times. He makes me read a poem called ‘Ithaka’ by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy. It talks about how the journey is more important than the destination—it works every time.”
RINA and MURAD NATHANI, Co-founder, FindURClass.com and co-founder, Slonkit, respectively
From left, on Murad: Silk jacket, cotton trousers; Shantanu & Nikhil. Metal watch, Nathani’s own.
On Rina: Georgette jumpsuit, Rina’s own. Silk jacket, Payal Khandwala. 18K gold and diamond ring, Zoya
Mumbai-based entrepreneurs Rina and Murad Nathani run four business ventures between them. It is no easy feat considering that all their projects are unique and equally exciting. Apart from her own start up FindURClass.com, which helps people across age groups find hobby classes like cooking, music and even tattoo art, Rina also heads the retail division at Suminter Organics India. The company delivers high quality organic produce such as cereals and herbs to pulses and spices. Murad runs Slonkit, a money management app for youngsters, and Sepio, an Iot (Internet of Things) platform that helps improve supply chain performance at organisations. Add the responsibility of parenting two young daughters, and it seems like Rina and Murad are master multitaskers. “When we started out entrepreneurial journey, neither of us thought we would end up being involved in multiple roles. But now, driven by passion for our work, we’ve taken it head on,” says Rina. The key to this solid partnership, they say, is the bond between them, nurtured over the years. “Our relationship is based on the friendship that was formed when we first met in junior college in Mumbai. We’ve practically grown up together,” says Murad.
RATI and ARJUN SHETTY, Co-founders, BankBazaar.com
From left, on Arjun: Cotton T-shirt, United Colors of Benetton. Cotton pants, Arjun‘s own. Metal watch, Fossil. On Rati: Neoprene dress, Label Ritu Kumar. Rhodium-plated semi-precious stone earrings, Confluence by Swarovski crystals
Anyone with a keen eye on India’s start-up space is well aware of the success story that is BankBazaar. com. Rati and Arjun Shetty, along with his brother Adhil, started BankBazaar (an online marketplace for financial products such as loans and insurance) more than a decade ago. Like many brilliant start-up ideas, BankBazaar too evolved from a problem and the Shettys were keen on solving it. “In 2007, when we were trying to get a loan to buy a home, we found the process too tedious and time-consuming,” says Rati. Today, not only are they helping India’s young secure a loan with an almost paperless process, but are also aiding entrepreneurs like themselves to be better at money management with a new range of business cards. Just like at work, the couple values each other’s individuality, interests and ‘me time’ at home too. While Arjun likes to unwind with a few hours on his electric skateboard, Rati makes it a point to hit the gym every morning. “The other highlight of my week is carpooling with my kids and their friends. Twice a week, I drop them to school in my vintage ’73 Beetle and we play some spelling games during the ride,” says Arjun.
LIZZIE CHAPMAN and GAUTAM MAGO, Co-founder, ZestMoney and general partner, A91 Partners, respectively
From left, on Mago: Cotton shirt, Tommy Hilfiger. Silk suit, Mago’s own. Velvet shoes, Christian Louboutin. On Chapman: Cotton T-shirt, Chapman’s own. Cotton pantsuit, AND. Leather heels, Dior. 18K diamond and ruby ring, Jaipur Jewels
For Bengaluru-based entrepreneurs Lizzie Chapman and Gautam Mago, many of life’s big lessons come from their favourite sport—marathoning. While Chapman has participated in some of the biggest races in London, New York, Amsterdam, Mumbai and Antarctica, Mago has four 21-km races under his belt. Being a marathoner takes gruelling training, endurance, and most importantly, it makes you step out of your comfort zone.
For Chapman, that involved moving to India eight years ago and starting ZestMoney, a platform that helps users get instant credit for online shopping. A brilliant idea for India’s exploding ecommerce market, right? “India is a great place to build any business,” says Chapman. “There is an abundance of good talent and a healthy ecosystem that supports audacious goals.”
Mago, who has spent over a decade at Sequoia Capital and now runs A91 Partners, an investment firm, agrees. “India is a great place to grow an idea into a business. You can go from zero to `200 crore in revenue in less than five years; this was unthinkable a few years ago.” And Mago’s work as the general partner at A91 Partners, involves looking for these big-ticket ideas to invest in. As a former managing director at Sequoia, Mago was instrumental in the growth story of companies such
Sawantas MobiKwik, OYO Rooms, Urban Ladder and Ola. With such busy careers, how does this new-age, power couple find time for life’s little joys? “Earlier we would make a conscious effort to connect over a home-cooked meal and a glass of wine in our balcony. Now it involves taking our two-year-old son to a park every Sunday. It’s a ritual,” says Chapman. “As entrepreneurs, it’s hard to not think of work all the time. But now, we’ve just gotten better at managing it,” adds Mago.
ARCHANA KHOSLA and VINAYAK BURMAN, Founder partners, Vertices Partners
From left, on Khosla: All clothes and accessories, Khosla’s own. On Burman: All clothing and accessories, Burman’s own
When you are a new parent, no two days are similar—and you have to be ready for the worst. Archana Khosla and Vinayak Burman know the drill all too well. They learnt it first with their three-year-old law firm Vertices Partners, and now as parents to a newborn. And they are of the opinion that entrepreneurship is actually a great training ground for parenthood. “A lot of people ask us how we switch between work mode and parent mode. But in my head, there is no construct of a switch,” says Burman.
As a firm that specialises in venture capital and merger and acquisition, Mumbai- based Vertices has been a part of sizeable deals such as Zydus-Windlass Healthcare merger and the Nexus, SAIF and ILFS investment in LifCare, a health start-up. For now, the high-power couple seems to have seamlessly merged their different roles by prioritising tasks and designing schedules and working arrangements that best serve their needs. “Most of our mornings at home start with conference calls. And there maybe times when we are at work, but the baby needs us, so we’re there for him. To us, the balance comes naturally and is effortless,” Khosla says.
PHOTOGRAPHS : MANASI SAWANT and ABHISHEK BALI
STYLING : RAHUL VIJAY
HAIR: DELSI MODY (RINA NATHANI, MURAD NATHANI, RATI SHETTY, ARJUN SHETTY, LIZZIE CHAPMAN, GAUTAM MAGO, ARCHANA KHOSLA AND VINAYAK BURMAN)
MAKE-UP: BHAGYASHREE VAID; HAIR AND MAKE-UP: BLOSSOM KOCHHAR COLLEGE OF CREATIVE ARTS AND DESIGN (SWATI BHARGAVA AND ROHAN BHARGAVA)
ASSISTED BY: AKSHITA SINGH, AKRITI BINDAL AND SIDHARTH MEHTA (STYLING)
LOCATION COURTESY: WEWORK, BANDRA, MUMBAI
— SPECIAL THANKS TO AABHA BAKAYA