“Do the work on time, maintain quality and don’t cheat your customer, someone will follow you”–Sumangal Pugalia. In an exclusive conversation with Start-up Story Media, The Founder Sumangal Pugalia talks about his Kolkatta based venture, Pacific Designs. It is India’s first brand that provides customized Tissue Napkins and is creating headwinds in the hygiene product sector.
Passionate about business, Sumangal was always inspired by entrepreneurs of India who contributed towards the economy. He thinks of them as the “Heroes of India” and always wanted to follow in their footsteps. With this conviction of doing his part for his country to make a difference for himself and everyone he collaborates with, he founded Pacific Designs.
How it all began
Sitting in his college cafeteria, Sumangal Pugalia was thinking about his college days coming to an end and all the responsibilities he had to shoulder. Choosing what to do and which path to embark upon, were questions that filled his head. “Find what you are good at”-says Sumangal. He didn’t think he was good in studies and had no funds left as he had invested all his money in the business that he was trying to set up during his college days. All this left him wondering what the next course of action should be for him post-college. So, in a conversation with his friend, he decided to pursue marketing since he was always inclined towards business, his rationale was “everything needs it”. His idea was indeed novel as it involved marketing via Tissue papers, never seen or heard before in India. “Why don’t we advertise things on tissue paper? Well, it requires a large investment”-explains Sumangal. He knew he needed a good team to start. “I don’t know how I will manage, but I’ll manage for sure” is what Sumangal thought, and so began his journey as an entrepreneur.
The Silver Lining of the Website
He found support in his friend, but he was warned by his Dad on account of a non-existing market. To convince his father, he gave himself an ultimatum stating, “let me do business for a year, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll do an MBA”. 5th August 2019 marked the start of his business. He conducted thorough market research and surveyed to find out an acceptable rate. He wanted to differentiate his product, so he decided to cut down his profit margins and dive into the ocean. Clients and revenue followed soon after. The initial response was excellent as it was a unique idea. But, from 2020 began a struggle as NRC happened followed by Covid-19. It was a setback for sure, but Sumangal decided to see the silver lining in all of it. He noticed that the hygiene sector had the potential for market tapping, and it was an excellent opportunity to create a website. Pacific Design’s Website enabled transparency for its clients. They could find what they needed, whatever they wanted to advertise, create their tissue designs and move on to check out. The Website also offered rates lower than the standard market rate. Thus, post-launch the Website created a lot of buzz.
The Main Crux of the Business
Modern marketing tactics sit well with the millennial. In a world with ever-changing marketing trends, there’s no other brand like Pacific Designs. Sumangal hired interns from reputed colleges to form a team, “when you bring intern, you get their connection, and at a low cost you can do more market analysis”. Post-September, awareness established for tissue paper market in India in the hygiene conscious people. Talking about why tissue paper marketing works Sumanagl says, “Pamphlets often go in dustbins, billboards fail to catch attention more than once; posters have posters put on them. All these marketing techniques are short-lived, cost-inefficient and fail to retain the customer. A tissue is cost-effective and provides a high customer retention rate. Even if you read one piece, just one piece you will be aware of what it intends to advertise.”
The CAT Conundrum.
During Covid, Sumangal wasn’t finding a lot of clients. So, took a turn for the corporate life and started to prepare for cat. He was getting a good percentile on his mock tests. “IIM jayenge seedha”, he thought. Few months before CAT, he dropped the thought. The opportunity cost of leaving his venture to join a college and starting from scratch didn’t make sense to him in the end. “Ultimately when you are in the business state of mind it’s not easy to persuade yourself to study. You don’t know your destiny. I am a Marvadi guy, and I am more into returns”.
Talk to Build Trust
The main challenge Sumangal faced in the initial days was grabbing market. Only 22 at the time of setting up his business, Sumangal would get judged for being too young and with a new idea in his business meeting. To counteract this issue, he thought people who can’t understand you give you negative vibes; you need to build a positive vibe. “We still face this problem, but we have to get the deal done no matter what”. The whole project is self -funded by his own money. Pacific Designs has no manufacturing units to save cost and conducts operations via job work, which helps revive stagnant demand for factories. The customer experience for Sumangal has been fantastic, and all of his clients are recurring. “Once they experience our product, they come back.”
Sumangal has a vision to spread his business’s wings to every part of the country and make tissue paper idea famous along with increasing hygiene awareness. He wants to establish credibility for his company. Sometimes his buyers flaked. But, unfazed, Sumangal went on to builds trust. Operating with a team of twelve members, the website is handled by a digital marketing team, and business development team offline team looks after client acquisition. Sumangal is more focused on the offline team as he believes in the human interaction element of selling. It helps in initiating and building contacts, connections and awareness. The founder believes “Website is for people who already know about the company. But, In India, people talk in-person to build trust.”
Don’t wait for others to validate your idea and don’t expect support. If you know, you can do something go for it.