Forty-one-year-old Pankhuri Gandotra confesses to being a workaholic. She revels in being productive, working hard and being passionate. However, after fifteen years of being a techie, monotony crept in, and Pankhuri no longer felt challenged at work.
Pankhuri then took a bold stance and quit a stable job at 37, as she decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge by founding home decor brand Writing on the Wall in 2018.
The entrepreneur is now tapping into India’s online home decor market, which is expected to increase by $ 3.75 billion from 2021 to 2026, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10.24 percent, according to MarketResearch.com
Starting up wasn’t so simple though. To build something of her own, as first steps, Pankhuri and her brother began researching new and upcoming businesses. They noted that drop shipping was trending in the US.
With little initial investment focused only on marketing, drop shipping allowed businesses to thrive without maintaining a lot of stock and inventory. For Pankhuri, the idea looked promising considering what she had in mind – tapping into the talents of closeted artists and painters whose artworks were remarkable but barely reached the market.
With Writing on the Wall, Pankhuri wanted to find a way to provide market access and customer reach for such artists.
Incidentally, the first artist she worked with was a homemaker and distant relative who had returned to painting after years of tending to her children’s needs and household work. “It was fun for both of us to see how they would sell,” Pankhuri says.
Motivated by the success she tasted in the first couple of months, Pankhuri was inspired to adopt professional skills to do even better. She learns all things marketing from Facebook and Google Ads, and strived to get brand visibility and positioning right.
“It was actually fun to come across so many people because I feel like I am artistically challenged; I can not draw but I know how to sell. So, I can at least use my skill to help those who have the artistic gift,” she tells HerStory.
Having worked with about 12 artists so far, Pankhuri says most of them are homemakers including two mothers with austistic children. Pankhuri leverages social media platforms and her network of friends and family to spread the word and connect with people who paint for hobby.
“Most homemakers who paint have many paintings lying around and do not know how to sell them,” she adds. Most of them are monetizing their work for the first time with the help of Writing on the Wall.
Specializing in wall decor products, the platform selects artists who have a collection of products for sale and chooses different types of artwork based on the engagement and customer data on its website. In addition to tablewares and furniture, its most popular wall decor items include large wall clocks, abstract wall hangings, and different kinds of painting.
While abstract art is the most popular choice based on data, the platform tries to maintain a variety of options so that there is something for everyone.
The artists have complete autonomy to decide the pricing and are not charged anything to get featured nor a commission on sale, and Writings on the Wall earns from taking a margin – over and above the artist’s pricing.
Scaling as a home decor brand
Bootstrapped so far, Pankhuri is now on a mission to build a holistic home decor brand and stand out with unique paintings and products by catering to different communities like rural artisans and homemakers. Currently, she is reaching out to people who are promoting rural art because “that will help my brand stand out,” she says.
Started with an initial investment of Rs 3 lakh, the platform became profitable in the first year of operation, and clocked a total revenue of Rs 2 crore in the last three years including the peak pandemic period.
While COVID-19 did slow down the business, Pankhuri ensured that her team of five people were paid salaries on time and the business remained self-sufficient, she claims. In July 2021, when the second wave began to taper and logistics issues began to settle, demand picked up.
Pankhuri now wants to build a complete home decor solution in both B2B and B2C markets by exploring both online and retail markets. In the coming year, she is targeting to achieve 10X revenue.
Being a ‘woman’ entrepreneur
Pankhuri is no stranger to gender stereotypes, especially as a single woman in her forties with robust career growth.
She chuckles as she recounts how vendors would tell her, “Sir se baat karenge (We’ll talk to the sir.)”
While Pankhuri makes sure to present herself as a strong person in the first go, she says, “One can not change somebody’s thought process instantly, but you can choose to follow your path and not be disturbed by these things.”
To aspiring women entrepreneurs, she advises that if one really wants to do something, static factors like age, gender, and status do not matter. “But be very clear on where you are headed,” she said.