Saturday, November 20, 2010

Interview With Sima Thakkar, GoodIndianGirl.com

Featuring Woman Entrepreneur

Sima Thakkar, GoodIndianGirl.com
www.goodindiangirl.com

[Category: Home-Sprung Business Models
Connect Gen-Y With Culture]


GoodIndianGirl.com is an engaging how-to website that educates second generation audiences on age-old cultural traditions and nuances in a fresh fashion. This ingenious idea was conceptualized by Sima Thakkar, who experimented with her first entrepreneurial stint when she was in colege. Read more about this interesting business concept, in my interview with Sima.






Q. First of all I would like to start by knowing more about your background – your education and past work experience. Do you have entrepreneurial roots?
I grew up in the Midwest and basically have been working since I was 14 years old. While most of my jobs required working for someone else, entrepreneurship was always on my mind. My educational background was in Advertising at Indiana University, so it did allow me the space to be creative. When I was in college, my friend and I had attempted to start our own juice bar at the campus gym, but had to go through too many legal hoops and dropped the idea when it was time to graduate.

Q. Is this your first entrepreneurial venture? If no, then which were the earlier ones? Are you still involved in them?
This is my first full-blown entrepreneurial venture.

Q. What market segment and industry are you addressing now?
My videos are really geared towards diasporic Indian women in efforts to bridge cultural and generational gaps. Our audience is predominately female and we seem attract those in their late 20's and early 30's. We expected most of our videos to appeal to women who grew up or emigrated to the United States at a young age, however our site has been equally interesting to women in India, so that has been a very pleasant surprise to us.

Q. You started Goodindiangirl.com by targeting the NRIs in the US and in other countries. But with the changing lifestyles and influence of Western Culture on Gen-Y, urban Indian girls could also well be your target audience. Your views on India as a potential market for such services as offered by Goodindiangirl.com.
We are very pleased with the fact that is videos are resonating with the "Gen-Y" Indian girls. Because I don't live there, it's really hard for me to pinpoint some of the cultural changes that may be taking place with this new generation, but judging from our audience base, the characteristics of American Indian girls and Indian girls are starting to blend together, perhaps more so than ever before.

Q. What inspired you to start Goodindiangirl.com? We have quite a few ‘how-to’ websites addressing different things of day-to-day life. How did you spot/understand that a ‘How-to’ website for imbibing age-old culture to second generation, is a gap to be filled?
Well, I was browsing through a South Asian magazine that had just been launched and realized it was pretty similar to all the other South Asian magazines I've read. They talked about the rise of Padma Laxmi, Jay Sean, and other South Asians who have ‘made it’ in industries that are tough to break into. While it's great to hear about their successes, I didn't find it really useful for my everyday life. I was joking with a friend about how I should start a column in one of these magazines called ‘Good Indian Girl’. The idea pretty much snowballed from there. I wanted to help our generation preserve certain cultural traditions without having to confine themselves to being traditional.

Q. How did you validate your business idea before formally starting your entrepreneurial venture (Goodindiangirl.com)?
I am my perfect audience! I grew up in a pretty homogeneous small town in Indiana, so I wasn't really exposed to many cultures including my own. A lot of my friends grew up with a similar upbringing and the idea seemed to resonate pretty well amongst my own friends so I felt pretty certain there was a need for goodindiangirl.com

Q. Which part of your entrepreneurial journey did you find the most difficult – Spotting an opportunity, validating your idea or executing it?
The validation part was easy, the execution part was a bit more challenging. My paycheck was unable to keep up with the pace of my ideas so I had to pick and choose what I wanted to do first. I think the hardest part is being strategic while being quick. I was accumulating an audience rapidly and I didn't want to lose momentum so I had to loosen my grip on some of the production aspects so I could get the content out the door.

Q. Goodindiangirl.com is a portal. Did you face the chicken-and-egg situation for this type of business model? Did you first upload loads of content or did you start marketing? How did you deal with this condition?
Absolutely. I couldn't decide if people would get excited about the idea without any videos or if I should produce a bunch of videos and release them all at once. I decided to risk it and just put up a simple page with a 3 line description and the opportunity to sign up for our email list. Our graphic designers did a good job creating a visual that said so much about who we are without really saying anything which got people curious about the idea. We were able to attract quite an audience even before we produced our first video, which was a relief.

Q. Did you start this venture alone, or with a co-founder?
I started this venture alone.

Q. How did you manage all the work of a startup on your own? When did you hire your first employee?
It's definitely a juggling act right now since it's just me.

Q. Did your education and past work experience help in any way to be an entrepreneur?
I think for me it has more to do with geography. I interact with such bright entrepreneurs in my city on a daily basis so being around that sort of inspiration has been the most instrumental in me deciding to start my own venture. As for my past work experiences, they haven't really taught me about entrepreneurship, but more about work ethic. Looking back, I can see I've been fortunate to have bosses who had really high standards who taught me about the importance of details.

Q. What are your plans for the future? Do you see scalability in your venture?
Good Indian Girl is a subsidiary of Good Girl, LLC which will expand across several other ethnic markets, for example, Good Chinese Girl, Good Japanese Girl, etc. We will be providing lots of rich content that will allow people to learn more about their culture, in addition to understanding other cultures, that will be useful for lifestyle choices, business travel and much more.



Thank you Sima for your time.