A self-proclaimed ‘useless kid’ who wasn’t great at studies, and underwent a series of rejections while applying for internships. Had to borrow Rs 10,000 from his dad to help him expand his business and also pull up new ventures. This was Raj Shamani at 16. Today, at 23, he is worth US$ 10 million, and inspires millennials everyday.
Entrepreneur Raj Shamani may be the founder of Shamani Industries, which manufactures and contracts a range of kitchen care and laundry detergents, but he is more of a brand unto himself. At 23, he is the youngest Indian to have spoken at the United Nations Assembly in Vienna, and has given TEDx Talks and keynote speeches the world over. Shamani talks about entrepreneurial journeys and business successes and failures, and his Instagram is rich with conversations with and content for millennials who want to work for themselves. An extension is his podcast Figuring Out, which is a deeper insight into many different aspects of starting your own venture.
Many would argue that he is too young to be dispensing words of wisdom but there are his more than 300K followers on Instagram who would disagree. Indore-based, Shamani comes from a humble background, and started thinking of how he could make it big from the age of 16. “We were not financially abundant. My father was making about Rs 45,000 a month for a family of 12 people, and that wasn’t a lot. I wanted to start early to make money so that my family could live a financially abundant life. I wanted to give them a lifestyle where they didn’t have to sacrifice their wants. Plus, I wasn’t great academically.I had no choice but to take up entrepreneurship, start something of my own, and get money home,” says Shamani. Self-admittedly, all Shamani knew was how to sell and build a network. So that’s what he did.
We caught up with Raj Shamani to know more about his roadmap for success.
You are a second-generation entrepreneur who scaled up the family business and started your ventures. What’s the shift in business strategies that a millennial like you adopted and the challenges you encountered?
Speed and willingness to take the risk. When I compare myself to my father, the difference is that I am willing to fail and learn, hence I am in a position to take more risks, make quick decisions, and execute them. My father plans for a good 4-5 months, comes up with an amazing product investing his life savings, and launches it on a large scale. My approach is the opposite — I start with a bare minimum, test the product on a small scale. If it works well, great; if not, I move on to something new. I am very fast with execution. The one thing that the former generation has not realised is that speed in today’s world matters most. You have to upgrade yourself if you want to stay relevant.
You are a millennial entrepreneur, influencer, brand builder, educator, social media strategist, motivational speaker. How do you finding a balance among entrepreneurial plans, family business, and social media?
Everything is interlinked. It’s not about finding the right balance but about how you merge yourself in all these different shoes. I try to synergise everything by playing one role of being an efficient communicator and selling. I am the customer acquisition head in the personal branding agency that I run. I oversee sales in both my family business and my personal ventures. Talking about my public speaking journey, again all public speakers sell themselves on stage to grab the attention of their audience. So, there is no balance but only one link connecting me to everything.
Are you an influencer providing social media content catering to the needs of the youth or do you seek to change the mindset/attitude of the youth through your inspirational talks and informative videos?
My motive is to seek change. I want people to realise that life is all about figuring it out. It’s okay if you have not figured out life yet — you don’t have to come up with definite answers. People have been over-focusing on 5-year goals, 20-years goals, 25-year goals. I understand all of that is important but over-focusing will ruin your present, and there is confusion of not being relevant in the future. There is a sense of self-doubt. So, I want to seek change through my inspirational talks and informative videos. That’s why I have this entire segment of ‘figuring out’, where I tell people to figure out their today, earn money, acquire relevant skills, and figure out a better tomorrow. And the only thing that matters is happiness.
What was the impact of the pandemic on all of your businesses/plans in 2020 and how did you cope with it?
2020 was definitely a difficult year for everybody. We had plans to expand the business in seven cities, and due to the pandemic we had to drop the plan. When the lockdown was announced in March, it was a difficult because I had the responsibility of 400 people working with Shamani Industries. If I shut my company, I take 400 people and their families down along with me. I couldn’t let that happen. I sat with the team to brainstorm, and started looking for opportunities to help people. We launched new products which were the need of the hour — we launched sanitizers, disinfectants, floor cleaners etc. We coped up with the uncertain situation by adapting and being flexible about it.
Many small businesses suffered in lockdown — what’s your advice to rise from setbacks?
If you look for opportunities and work hard, you will see positive outcomes. And plan for one thing at a time instead of planning for 10 years down the line. Plan for something which is more relevant for the short-term, something that will give you cash liquidity to survive uncertain situations.
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Going by your Instagram videos, what are the three things you have planned as goals for 2021?
- Complete the book I am working on, which will be launched by mid-August. This will mark an important milestone in my life.
- Reach millions of people in terms of reach and engagement by adding value to my audience with informative content and building a strong personal brand community.
- Help more people build their own personal brand
Images: Raj Shamani