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Female Entrepreneur: Manisha Rao | Founder, Luxe cafe

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Manisha RaoTheLuxeCafé.com is India’s leading online luxury lifestyle magazine with curated content on fashion, decor, travel and leisure, motoring and gadgets, personas and ideas for connoisseurs of fine living. Designed to be a virtual cafe, it is poised to be the one-stop hangout for luxury brands and consumers. Our endeavour is to shatter the traditional notions associated with luxury and reinterpret them for the truly passionate.

Why did you set up the company?

My first job was as a journalist with the Financial Chronicle newspaper where I would write about luxury. That was a time when nobody cover luxury as a beat. After this stint I worked for a while with a German luxury consultancy in India. I wouldn’t claim that I gained immense knowledge after working with these two firms about this prestigious market, but it was ample enough to shape my thoughts so that I could contemplate starting my own venture with a view to further inform and educate both the already discerning customer and the new consumer of luxury brands.

What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?

Though Indians are warming up to the idea of luxury products and services, the market is still in it’s nascent stage in India. The duty on products is high because of which many people shop abroad. At the same time, technology is fast evolving too. Bringing the two together has been challenging to be a digital company in the luxury space. A major challenge was building a website design that matched the brand architecture. A lot of research and finesse went into designing the website to make sure it manifested as a seamless, non-obtrusive interface that allows a reader to get his/her fill of visually appealing, text-rich digital content. My team of experienced designers and content strategists helped me realise my dream of creating a beautiful space which is mobile-friendly and smartly curated for modern consumption patterns, which is also unique in the Indian context, and which is tailored to keep the readers occupied with a range of content on-the-go.

It’s a man’s world and in the start-up world things are always a little more challenging for women.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Our numbers narrate our success story. In less than a year we have achieved a strong user base and the growth rate is also better than our expectations. We have been able to create a brand that is helpful, user-friendly and fresh. Many new associations with luxury brands and fashion designers have happened in the last year since the website’s inception. Every such association can be billed as an achievement. Many financial investors have come calling on us to invest in our enterprise as they see a huge growth potential in our business model. That is also an achievement. But I think our greatest achievement is yet to knock our door, which could be a landmark tie-up or a top dollar investment. It could be anything.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

There are a few friends, who are also my close confidantes. I often turn them to for their advice whenever I have to make a very critical decision.

How do you balance your work life and home life?

Frankly speaking, balancing work and home has not been very difficult for me as my husband has been supportive right from the inception stage. He plays a big role in my family dynamics. He is a media entrepreneur himself and understands what it entails to start your own venture. He has helped me whenever I have needed some help, be it at work or home. He has also been a constant motivation and inspiration. There has never been a moment when I have found maintaining work-life balance challenging.

What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?

It’s a man’s world and in the start-up world things are always a little more challenging for women. But don’t let that bog you down. Believe in yourself and your ideas and go all out to implement them. But at the same time always have a life beyond work and maintain that work-life balance.

Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?

While we have used social media extensively for The Luxe Cafe, personally for me its small private networking groups that have proved helpful. For instance there is a whatsapp group of entrepreneurs that I am a part of. Being an ex-journalist, networking was not an issue. Having said that I highly recommend StartUp Saturdays, Startup Delhi and other groups on Facebook.

If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?

It would surely be long-term funding from an investor who has faith in our model and forms a long-term view on our business. Our enterprise is not for those investors who invest to reap returns in a short-haul. Having said that, funding is not the sole propeller. Our prized associations with brands and our equally prized employees will always help us cruise through after the propelling.

What does the future hold for you?

Well with The Luxe Cafe soon launching a shopping option (e-commerce) on its website, the future is promising for us. At the same time we will only be getting busier from here. Many new brand associations are underway. The diversification into e-commerce will add a new dimension to our business. It is to be seen how our readers and future customers embrace a mix of knowledge and shopping on a single platform. The work is on to create seamless synergy between the two prior to the launch.

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This article was provided by WeAreTheCity Delhi Committee Member Ashish Bhardwaj.

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