Meet, a 24 year old, who has her own start up, which customizes APP for its customers. Disha Selarka is a graduate in Bachelors in Information Technology and hails from business background. She started working on her start-up, when she was fresh out of college.
Can you tell us about Giftract?
Giftract – Gifts that Interact, is about creating personalized gifts in the form of mobile APPs and games. The idea is to use the phone to do what it is actually made for – to bring people closer.
So How will an APP help people?
In an age, where we spend more time on the phone instead of our loved ones, we wanted to create personalized APPs that not only hold a special significance to its recipient but also encourages an interaction between the person gifting the APP and its receiver. Our APPs are designed to be used as individual gifts or even to add some excitement to offline gifts that people usually give (In the form of treasure hunts or maybe as a reward at the end of a game). But each APP is designed to ensure that it brings people closer and makes them interact with each other. So you actually INTERACT with your gift and the person who is gifting it you, which is where we get our name from – GIFTRACT.
Can you tell us about your Journey ?
I started the venture fresh out of college with a bunch of friends. Funded it initially by taking up commercial projects and also adding personal funds to it.Our first client was a friend who needed an APP for a birthday. It was a thrilling experience and definitely taught us a lot on how to plan the next orders too.
What did your family say about your venture?
My parents have always been very supportive of whatever I wanted to do in my life. When I told them that I wanted to start something up on my own, they were more than happy because they understand what it’s like. My father has been running a successful IT business for over 25 years now.
Having gone through the journey of setting up his own business and having the business experience he has, he has been a true mentor and role model. Initially, when he heard the idea first, he thought I was being ridiculous. It was unusual and new and he wasn’t sure I’d even get 10 clients. But even then, he never discouraged me.
He and my mom always say that there’s a lot, or probably more to learn from failure or failed business too. Having said that, give it your best shot and do it to succeed.
Today when we already have more than 1500+ customers at Giftract and tie ups with several brands and websites, my parents are proud of me and my dad always says that he’s happy I believed and stuck to my idea even when he didn’t, and proved him wrong. And he couldn’t be any happier. He continues to mentor me on how to grow further and plays an active mentorship role in my company.
As a startup what is the biggest challenge you faced?
Our biggest challenge was product validation. The idea being unusual and unheard of, was very difficult to explain in the beginning. We had to make a lot of changes and had to go over a lot of iterations and re-branding before we got it right. Even then, the initial few sales were not enough to know whether this was a product that people understood and wanted. But once we got it right and people understood what we were offering, all it took was word of mouth to get the next orders rolling in. We also have our products listed on several gifting portals and partners, which really boosted our sales.
These days everyone is trying to reduce screen time to strengthen relationships. Considering this how is your product helpful to people?
I feel that we have lost the essence of what our phones were meant to do – bring people closer and not pull them apart. When we design APPs at Giftract, we do so keeping exactly this in mind. We want our gifts to interact with the receiver and also make the sender and receiver interact with each other during this process. We try to make the process of GIFTING, more interactive, memorable and fun! We have a very simple product that’s actually one of our bestsellers too – it’s called Guess Who. We take the concept of people sharing video and text wishes for a birthday/anniversary, etc. And we hide each message behind a question.
For example – The question could be: ‘I am the friend who always has your back and loves to eat pizza. I am..’
And till the recipient doesn’t guess the name correctly, they can’t see that person’s message for them!
We have had so many clients who have been left guessing for hours and at the end of it, they became experts at their own family and friend’s lives and interests, and also found out things about them that they did not pay attention to earlier! And that’s the whole idea – to bring people closer and to help them create unforgettable memories.
People say to us, that they cannot forget the experience because they remember their loved ones and Giftract each time they look at their phone.
Can you share details about a few of your products?
We also have an amazing range of products designed especially for gifting long distance. In today’s world we have our children, friends, husbands, cousins, etc. living in different parts of the globe. And with Giftract, you get free shipping and delivery to any part of the world within 24 to 48 hours!
In fact it’s that time of the year when we have our RakshaBandhan special APPs being rolled out and it’s overwhelming to see what we can do with our product even in cases where siblings are continents apart. Our APPs are packed with games, videos, photos and even passwords to create the perfect mix of fun, nostalgia, emotions, traditions and a little bit of mischief. We even add a Rakhi at the end, within the APP as a final surprise.
How do you manage work life balance?
It’s difficult in today’s time, especially as an entrepreneur trying to grow and establish your brand, to know when to take a break. This is something that my team members and I have also been working on for quite some time now. A few simple things that I follow are –
- No looking at my phone immediately after waking up. I take my time in the mornings to do other things instead.I often don’t check emails or messages until I have left the house.
- I take out at least 1 hour in the day for myself – to do whatever I might like to and another hour for my family.
- No work or even work discussions on Sundays and holidays.
Which your most memorable experience with your venture
The best part about working on Giftract, is the fact that our success is measured literally by how many people smile because of us each day. And the feeling of a client calling and crying out of happiness on the phone is something that I cannot explain. I remember how it felt the first time that happened. And it’s that feeling that keeps me going. And I see my team experiencing that so many times. We see our team members often smiling in tears over a phone call because they’re so overwhelmed by the reaction they’ve received, and it’s just beautiful to see that and feel that every single day. And to be able to do that and multiply that feeling every single day, is something that really drives me and is probably the most wonderful part of doing what I do. The stories we get to hear about people, the excited screams on the phone when we make a delivery, the tears we receive while getting a feedback and just the fact that we manage to touch someone’s lives and make their moments more memorable is the biggest reward we have experienced so far.
How has your journey been from the day you started till today?
It’s a very thrilling and exciting process to be an entrepreneur, specially a young woman entrepreneur. I remember when we started initially; I used to code the APPs myself. And then very soon when the orders started increasing, I started recruiting a team for the first time. And I would go into the interviews and a lot of the times, I would get reactions like – ‘oh so you really own this business? You will be taking the tech round? You actually know how to code? ‘ And I didn’t know how to react to that apart from saying ‘Yes! I do’.
What did your venture teach you?
There are a lot of things you get to learn. From the basics of business, or developing other skills for your brand to even things about your own self. You discover a lot and learn a lot. You start with an idea and a lot of uncertainty and excitement. And there’s nothing more amazing than seeing your idea come to reality and to see people being touched by it. I remember there being days at the start when I would go and sit at office with barely any or no work. And all I was doing was trying to figure out how to start selling or what to do to kick this off. But even then, I turned up. Every morning and I sat there all day trying to figure things out. There were a million times when I felt like maybe I should give this up and at 1 point I almost did! But something in my gut said no! And I decided to give it one last final shot just because I really really had to. And guess what? It worked!And that’s what mattered. Because today, I’m not alone, we are a team of people and even then there are days when I’m so busy that I don’t have the time to even sit down and eat a proper lunch! And that’s exciting because it gives you a sense of fulfilment and just – Okay I did it! I got here and now there’s only 1 way to go – forward.
The key I think, is to believe even when nobody else does. And to give it all you have and not give up. We live in a time when we believe that it is easier to replace things rather than to fix them. And I think that that’s exactly the difference between success and failure. At Giftract, there were a lot of mistakes in our approach, product, pricing, website, etc. There probably still are a million things we need to change to grow even further. And there always will be. The key to where we are today, was that instead of giving it up, I chose to repair it as and when we needed to. I changed the website more times than I can remember, re-branded the entire brand, re-created the products, fixed them and more importantly developed skills that I did not possess, till we got it right.
Entrepreneurship is a lot of work. It’s a never ending process of these things. It can get very taxing and tiring because your work never stops. Even once you’re home, you do think about work because you’ve put in so much to get things where they are today and that’s tough. It’s easy to not have a social life or any life at all! But that’s also what makes it exciting because you have to learn to strike that balance. I understand this better because I have grown up watching my father do it and I continue to learn from him every day. He has taught me the importance of this journey and has also helped me surround myself with the right mentors who guide me constantly. And learning from so many experienced professionals, while making my own mistakes and learning from those too, is a combination that is invaluable.
What would you like to tell parents who’s children want to do something unusual
I think it’s very important that parents do not discourage unusual ideas. Most famous personalities would not be who they are today, if they or their parents were scared to do the unusual thing.
I know that as a parent it could be very tough to hear your child say or do something that you did not plan for or anticipate. But I think that rather than stopping them, teach them how to do things the right way. I say this because this is something I was taught and I know that it has helped me a lot. I was taught how to make my plan B first. So when you’re going down an unknown or unusual path, you’re not left without any backups. For example, get a good degree in whatever it is that you like, so that if your entrepreneurship dream doesn’t work out to be true, you at least have another path that you can take. This way, it’s a win – win situation for both the parents and their children too!
I know that not every unusual idea is going to be big or a success. But you can’t know unless you try! We just have to make sure that we minimise the losses, in case we fail. And that’s what parents should teach their children! To be brave enough to try something if they really believe that it’s something they should do, even if it’s unusual. And at the same time to know that you can’t always win and not every notion or idea is always a success so learn from failures too and have plans in place to still keep you going in one way or another.
It’s easier to do things when you know that your parents and loved ones are supporting you. And rather than stopping your child from doing something they really want to, if you support them and stand by them, you can show them the right path and reach their goals faster and in a better way.
Not too many people have unusual ideas or even the guts to take the offbeat path. But if you think that the path is not going to harm your child or anybody else on the way, support them and help them be brave and do something unusual but wonderful! There’s no better feeling than looking at something and saying – there, I did that. People said that I was being silly and that I couldn’t do it. Probably cause it had never been done before. But I still did it and I think it’s beautiful!
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