Website – BULB and KEY
This is the story of the start of a buzzing new company with a quirky name based in Pune which envisions the world as an agglomeration of multiple human settlements (aka villages) with a healthy network of trade both within and between these villages. The advent of Digital meaning that these villages are no longer constrained by geography giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘rural living’. They see the world as combinations of Idea (Bulb) and Solution (Key) incorporating the idea. This the story of the start of Bulb and Key.
Ankita Shroff, Advocate-in-chief, traces some roots to a cold Swedish winter morning enjoying Fika (a Swedish Tradition to appreciate Good things in life, while having Coffee with Friends) with six young leaders from Asia discussing Global challenges in areas of Equality and Economic Development as part of a 48-hour global think tank. This was the time, Ankita along with her team in India came up with the concept of FIKA (Female Financial Inclusion and Independence along with Knowledge Awareness), which was also showcased at WEF and Global Deal Initiative. Ankita had found herself in Sweden pursuing higher education after being a serial Entrepreneur who had just sold her last venture in the manufacturing of instant adhesives.
Raj, who came from a business family, is a process-oriented engineer. A number cruncher and Statistics lover realized that India’s economy traditionally constituted primarily of small and home-based Enterprises. He saw the opportunity to apply easily available best-in-class Digital tools to Empower this significant sector of SMEs and home-based businesses.
Kuntal, on the other hand, a creative and passionate design engineer, whose first job out of M.S. in the U.S. was with a mass manufacturing company. He was wearied of seeing things being mass-produced by machines without any sense of craftsmanship, Innovation, Creativity, Personalization, and Customization. He saw the early signs of a “Custom-made” products market. He dreams of a time when he can digitally order a custom-made heirloom quality furniture piece.
Bulb & Key is an amalgamation of both their goals – A company that empowers Small and Home based businesses by providing them Digital tools to not just organize themselves but to also form 1-to-1 links with their Customers and deliver a highly customized product.
Ankita, Kuntal, Raj and Ravi Gulhane, CTO make up the core team of Bulb and Key which has a team of 23 people with the average age of the company being 24 in spite of the four being in their 30’s.
India’s strength is in her entrepreneurial ability. Making it easy for people to earn a decent livelihood and grow on a sustainable basis while being self employed is a crucial enabler for India to take advantage of the demographic dividend and leapfrog to being a $5 Tn economy and beyond. Today, the self employed creator faces several challenges such as Platform monopolies and intermediaries taking a large share of the value, increasing cost and complexity of doing business, downward pressures on pricing due to mass retailers selling mass manufactured and imported goods at wafer-thin (or unfavorable) margins, etc.
There is a silver lining, though. On the demand side, there is a clear trend toward consumers seeking unique and customized products. On the supply side, digital technologies are making the cost and complexity of running businesses low and also make “small batch” and “zero inventory” production possible. This is an opportunity that also opens up a new lever to fast-track GDP growth – the increased participation of women in the formal economy.
Bulb and Key is an online platform that empowers small and home-based businesses. It organizes and enables Entrepreneurs growth with tools for Order Management, Secure Payments, Inventory and Delivery management, and a marketplace to sell their products globally. It brings your Imagination Alive as the customer can either buy handmade crafted products on the platform or even create their product sharing the design with the Entrepreneur.
Bulb and Key’s mission is to enable small and home-based businesses by lowering the cost and complexity of operations and compliance through automation. By providing marketing tools to the Creators which enables them to engage with their Consumers in a way that mass producers cannot. By having the consumer participate in the production process, thereby reducing inventory and freeing up the creator/entrepreneur’s time to focus entirely on the uniqueness and quality of her product. By enabling Creators to have deeper engagements with the consumer, thereby creating a virtuous cycle that will bring more consumers to buying from independent creators rather than from mass retailing.
The company has a partner program aiming to work with Entrepreneurs everywhere to get Bulb and Key Partners in every locality who provide efficient, cost-effective, and reliable services to the creators in the region. To enable this to work at a national scale, they are also building a Knowledge Partner network of Subject matter experts in each product line who will work with creators across the country to collate and propagate best practices. The goal is to collate and make available knowledge in the fields of marketing, finance, customer engagement, and other areas of business in the context of small, home-based businesses. The company is also launching an Advocacy group working towards educating the consumer of the joys of consuming a product made locally through a process in which he has participated.
The team’s core focus outside of delivering flawless mobile software products to the Creators, is around the creation of Community between groups of Producers and Consumers. As of now, they are encouraging creators on the Platform to share their stories so that they can collaborate with each other.
On the Advocacy side, as FIKA focuses on Knowledge awareness predominantly, Bulb and Key is working with multiple local and international groups to start to collate the various Knowledge resources useful to Small and Home based businesses such as information about different govt Schemes, Upcoming Conferences, and Funding Opportunities etc. They are also working with multiple local consumer groups to work on some of their issues dealing with large manufacturers, distributors and Digital Platforms.
Setting up the Technology Platform was a challenge till the duo met Ravi Gulhane who came on board as CTO. The founders have their share of startup stories to tell like visiting weddings as cake delivery boys and the team has seen multiple ups and downs together, but, every member of the team vouches that the roller-coaster ride they have had so far is totally worth it.
Over the last eight months, since the launch of the platform, the company has onboarded hundreds of creators on the App, with transaction volume and value being processed on the platform growing at 20% MoM.
Bulb and Key’s current product list consists of customized clothing, cakes, bakery and food items, stationery, 3D Printing, and other merchandise. The plan is to explore any product which lends itself to customizability and the hand-made variant is inherently superior to the machine made one. They desire to keep alive every artisan’s skillset and empower these creators across India and globally
Do join us to Bring your Imagination Alive and Regain a better world.