I’m a petroleum engineer from IIT Dhanbad. I first started working in a top IT company, but the work there was not something that I found very satisfying. I felt that I could do better; the work didn’t seem to take into account all my skills. At this time, I was in touch with one of my seniors from IIT, Tarun. We would talk quite often and he would tell me all about the start-up that he was working on and give me details of what work was involved. Once he asked me if I would want to work for me. I was also looking for something different. I found it quite interesting and eventually made the decision to move.
I was a little apprehensive at first. The company I was working for offered me security; start-ups, on the other hand, can go one way or the other. But the way I saw it, you can take risks until you’re 30. It is a question of opportunity cost. At my company, I was only a small cog in a small project; I had to take approvals for everything. Growth was out of the question there. However, at MCaffeine I was in on the ground floor. I was part of building the whole business up and the decision making and growth would also be exponential. I started out in operations and went on to take charge of the new product line when we first started out with the personal care products as part of a pilot project.
Moving from being a petroleum engineer to being part of running a start-up wasn’t as big a shift as many might imagine. In college, I had been very active in extra-curricular activities, especially when it came to organising cultural fests and so on. I knew I could manage people and events; in fact, I felt that this was something that I wanted to do, organization and management. As for the rest, well, college doesn’t really expose you to the industry. In Wipro, what I was doing was a core job, IT-related stuff. However, at MCaffeine I got the chance to explore my management and organizational skills and I haven’t looked back since.
I find that working here is a learning experience. People don’t take you to task for making mistakes as long as you learn from them and don’t repeat the same mistake. What I really like is that you’re allowed to make a lot of mistakes so long as you learn from them. So make new mistakes; just don’t repeat old ones. In addition, I get the opportunity to move around a lot and meet a lot of people.
When we started the company, we were very clear that it would be a lifestyle brand. We were going to focus on solving actual problems, such as dandruff, for example, rather than perpetuating societal attitudes about fairness. When we started creating awareness about our products and our philosophy, I felt that we are doing something right.
When my cousin was to get married, I realized that the only criterion my relatives had was that the girl should be fair. Ever since we are children, this concept of fairness is drilled into us by society. If someone is fairer, they are better looking and automatically, they are more confident, whereas someone who is darker may lose their self-confidence. Even in college, someone smarter might get ignored, simply because they didn’t look a certain way.
Primarily, I think that the whole fairness issue is something that women have to face a lot more than men do. I know that there are fairness products for men out there, but I believe that that is something that manufacturers are trying to create a need for, since the market for women is pretty saturated. I believe that even today, the pressure is more on women to be fairer. I’m not saying that men don’t face this issue, but it’s more their own insecurity about themselves rather than society’s expectations. Women, on the other hand, get told upfront that they aren’t fair enough and, therefore, good enough.- Saurabh