Dubai: Like many small business owners, UAE-based Indian expat Sunita Anchan had been working a full-time job in India for more than a decade before venturing into the highly competitive world of entrepreneurship in Dubai.
However, the lessons that have led her to explore business ownership not only teach her how to manage the day-to-day challenges of running a startup, but also motivate her to keep investing, both financially and personally.
Anshan, who worked in public relations and event management in India before relocating to the UAE revealed, “A career spanning more than 15 years with many twists and turns has taught me the fundamentals of managing finances for the future.”
Long before taking the entrepreneurial path, Anshan remembered starting her career as a newly graduated PR executive, after which she climbed the corporate ladder and took a management position dealing with five to six client brands.
Learn to earn, save and invest at a young age
“Belonging to a middle-class family, saving a small portion of the salary was a priority as well as mandatory due to childhood status. When I was about 16, a medical emergency with my father was an eye opening, as his savings came in handy,” she revealed.
“I lost my dad a year later when I was 17 and he was the only income-earning member of the family. After that to run the family, my mom and I started doing small, weird jobs like sewing, tiffin services and tutoring for young kids. We used to budget for all the groceries and expenses. profits and what to reinvest in our home run small business.
“It made me understand the importance of earning, saving and investing,” added Anchan, who in 2014 co-founded Arpan Flowers, an online retailer that provides artisanal flower arrangements and fresh flower subscriptions across Dubai.
What is the initial investment for an online flower shop?
Anchan revealed that the initial investment wasn’t much, as her husband and wife started out as a purely online portal with limited services and products.
She explained, “We started with an initial investment of approximately $50,000 (AED183,649), which was mostly used to create the e-commerce portal, initial back office and IT infrastructure.”
How was the company’s initial investment financed?
The company’s initial investment was from Anchan’s personal savings. “I invested everything in this and after two years when we had a good understanding and a good client base, we raised a small fund of $200,000 (AED 734,597) for expansion.
“For expansion I needed additional support and so I took my old friend as a business partner. Currently, we have also reinvested more of our personal savings to modernize our technology setup. We are now ready for major expansions within the UAE and GCC regions and we will look again other strategic investments.
Do you face challenges when starting a decoration business?
When Anchan started working with her husband in 2014, the market had a few flower shops.
“It was not an organized market. I wanted to bridge this gap and offer the convenience, in a more organized way, to buy fresh Indian flowers and custom event decorations. We knew the future would be driven by technology, so we developed our website, offering Indian flowers and cut flowers side by side. With home delivery option.
She added that the site also offers a subscription to flower home delivery, a concept that was not available at the time. “The challenge was to find the right vendors and suppliers, as I am a woman it was difficult to get them to trust me in the male-dominated business sector.
“Within a few years of work, I also realized that the market did not have many options for budget-friendly decorating services, and I wanted to bridge that gap as well… This is how decoration services were born. Once again, the challenge was to find the right resources to deliver them in high quality.” .
Overcoming the challenges of a business woman
Anchan also revealed how difficult it was to be an entrepreneur when she started her business, given that there weren’t many people who were immersed in entrepreneurship at the time.
“Being a woman in a male-dominated company, I have always had to overcome barriers and achieve successes with clients and event companies. One of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs is balancing work and home life, and I made no difference, as my two children were small children when we started.” “
How much does it cost you to run a business on a monthly basis?
On average, the current monthly operating cost is just under $10,000 (AED36,729), Anchan noted, but added that during peak seasonality, costs are relatively higher.
“We understand the need for funds to manage the right cash flow to run an online business or a traditional business, so we have always held cash reserves for at least two to three months of operational cost and have been able to rotate it.
We keep our focus on receivables [amounts owed to a business, regarded as assets]Keep our stock as low as possible, especially when it comes to perishable goods. Since it is an online business, we know our requirement in advance and this helps in planning our products and stock respectively. With five to six years of maturity in this business, we have a good understanding of demand and supply, and that helps us plan better.”
5 quick business tips to help other entrepreneurs start a business themselves?
1. Focus on ideas that create value and satisfy a societal need, while being a scalable model (which can be easily expanded or upgraded on demand)
2. Raise sufficient capital to start and sustain the business for at least two years.
3. Seeking full-time commitment while studying and researching the market in detail
4. Good marketing is the key to increasing sales revenue and growth
5. Invest in talent recruitment and/or value-added resources and hard work
Do you invest the money you earn in your personal life?
“Personally, I focus and invest in the flower business, and therefore I am not looking to invest in other aspects but yes, my husband is investing in other technology-based businesses and in some assets as well,” Anchan added.
“When we have the right funds, I will look into investing in a business that is in the DNA of my current business. We have plans to create our own brands and would like to offer organic or eco-friendly décor options. We are currently looking at various options in décor service, which can be economical.”