“The best decision of my life!”
Dhruv Jain launched PrintOctopus soon after finishing his Innovation and Entrepreneurship course at WMG and returning home to New Delhi. He took the time to tell us about his business.
“Basically, it’s an e-commerce platform that lets artists showcase and monetise their work through on-demand printed merchandise like t-shirts, phone covers, canvases and gadget sleeves. People can also use the site to create something unique for themselves using its own design tool.”
So where did the idea for PrintOctopus come from? “I thought of it during my undergraduate studies in the UK,” Said Dhruv. “I was elected as the merchandise representative of my halls of residence so I learned about printing. At the same lime, I discovered that there are many artists in India who come up with fantastic quirky stuff but it never gets seen. They want to create, and not spend time and money on the tedious business of putting a merchandising operation together.
“So PrintOctopus pulled the two things together really. I wanted to make it easier for people in India’s artistic community to do what they love, but also get them the money and the recognition they deserve.”
After completing his Bachelors degree, Dhruv returned home with the aim of getting his venture off the ground. It soon became clear to him that he needed to refine his idea though – and learn more about the many disciplines involved in starting a successful business.
“I heard about the Master's in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Warwick and when I looked into it, the course seemed ideal for me,” he explained. “It turned out to be the best decision of my life.”
Real and practical
So how exactly did Dhruv feel that he benefited from his course? “There was just so much I didn’t know. Things like cashflow management, financial modelling, e-commerce processes, transaction management and site optimisation for example, as well as leadership. I took if for granted that I’d be able to handle HR and manage people without a problem. I realise now how completely wrong I was.
“Like many others, I just wanted to get on with it and launch my business. To be able to step back and learn about all of the areas I needed to know was massively valuable. What’s great is that the course can be customised, so I was able to choose elective modules that were relevant to my business area.”
Dhruv also appreciated the fact that his supervisor brought current industry experience: “My supervisor worked as an e-commerce consultant, so what he taught me was real and practical. I could bounce ideas off him and he kept me thoroughly grounded. Also, we had course alumni come in as visiting lecturers. That was very useful – hearing from people who’ve actually been out there and started something themselves.
“Above all, the course focuses on the practical essentials that you need to know. What’s really interesting is how my business plan evolved during the year. By the end of the course, it was completely different to how it was when I started.”
Loving every day
Dhruv worked on his dissertation throughout the year, researching his market so he could be sure that he would be offering the right products at the right price. “I interviewed consumers in India, and also artists so I could be sure that PrintOctopus would meet their needs too. During this time I refined my range down from 50 products to just seven. I also prepared the website so it was ready to launch as soon as the course finished and I returned to India".
So now, one and a half years later, has the venture been a success? “Definitely,” he said. “At the moment have around 17,000 designs and two million products available, as well as more than 400 artists who actively upload their awesome art. We’re also seeing 40% growth month-on-month. It’s done better than I ever thought was possible.
“As clichéd as it sounds, the absolutely unbelievable response we get from our customers each day keep us going, and make us believe that we are on the right path.
“There have been challenges of course", he continued. “But they’ve been the fun type of challenge. The business simulations I did at WMG really helped. If I’m working through an issue, I treat it like a game and get totally immersed in it. I’m loving every day, doing what I really enjoy and seeing my idea grow into something amazing. I have WMG to thank for that and I will never forget my time there.”
Dhruv studied MSc Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 2013-14