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You Turn The Path Green

Excellence in an off-beat vocation requires flair and, yes, courage. Here are eight such and their pioneers.

You Turn The Path Green
Achintya Anand
Photograph by Jitender Gupta
You Turn The Path Green

Fashion Bloggers: There was a time, not too long ago, when blogging was the “in thing”, when everyone was starting a blog about everything—from how to take care of your hamster, to hair-care, stories from around the world, or just stomach trouble. Penning down a personal blog may no longer be all the rage now, but what blogging did was open the doors to a full-time career, one that many are picking up even now. Combine it with the powerhouse marketing tools that are your social media profiles, and you have a seller. And what takes it to a best-seller? A loyal band followers. And nothing generates a better following than fashion.

Fas­hion bloggers have found a niche of their own—between working for themselves, their love for fashion, and milking the internet and social media for all its worth. Funnily enough, most full-time fashion bloggers chanced upon the career. What started with these fashion addicts posting pictures of their love for style soon became a career when it garnered followers who liked, commented, and even “bought” their suggestions. The traction was enough to invite attention from brands: these bloggers were their local endorsers, and campaigners, who had a personal fan base and connect. Fashion bloggers are now paid well to be the social media face of brands.

One of the biggest names in the industry, Masoom Minwalla, now has brands like Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Tarun Tahiliani, that approach her for a feature. “With soc­ial media it’s all about your follower base,” says Minwalla. “What started as barter, focusing on collaborations, are now monetary business deals.” Rasna Bhasin, a fashion blogger herself, says many bloggers have packages. “It could be putting up a certain number of posts, pictures, or name mentions,” she says.

While most fashion bloggers chanced upon the profession, the career is now a coveted one with at least a few hundred entrants a month, of women and men alike taking it up. But as easy as it may be to enter it, it’s not an easy job to make a name in it, and even more difficult to make money from it. There are even a few online courses one can take on how to become a successful fashion blogger, and innumerable lists that will tell you the dos and don’ts. But like with much else on the internet, it is a great deal of luck.

Custom Crafts: In a time of big brand stores and oversell, there is nothing better than a personalised something. And it doesn’t get better than if you can get your very own spin on something that is in trend. Shivani Rai, owner of Home­grown TM, does exactly that. She has taken the latest trend of patches, and given it the customised spin that her buyers ask for. From your names, to your school badge, favourite characters, even food, Shivani can turn them into patches. “I enjoyed stitching, and seeing the popularity of patches, and the limited designs available, I decided to start customising,” she says. With increasing orders, she is now also doing custom bag designs.

For Divya Bhatia, a cartoonist, customisation started on the request of a close friend. “I put a picture of that out on my Instagram account, and I started getting orders through direct messages,” she says. Divya hasn’t stopped since. And it doesn’t stop at that. You can get your name, or anything else, threaded onto a pair of shoes, or a night suit, or even buttons! And like anything else made to order, custom crafts are exclusive and priced accordin­gly (note, high-priced), and have become an option for many home hobbyists.

Pet Care: First-class air travel, relaxing spa days, on-the-move salons, play dates, gourmet meals, high-end accessories and clothes—and all this luxury for being cute and furry! We all love our pets, and if the memes about having no money for oneself but lavishing on your pets are true, entrepreneurs are now cashing in on it. The categories for pet care are limitless. While the risks can be high (you are caring for living beings), the profits are better.

Take for example, Bella Delivers, in Delhi. The shop specialises in customised bakery products for canines, which can range from anywhere between Rs 1,800 and Rs 9,000. It took two years to get it started, but Akansha Dass hit the floor running. Harley’s Corner in Mum­bai deli­vers gourmet meals for dogs. Pick your package—how many meals a day, what kinds, and the boxes are dropped at your doorstep. Then there are luxuries, like pet grooming, that are no longer about getting your pets’ hair and nails trimmed. From aromatherapy baths, leisurely blow dries, hair colour, massages to manicures and even perming, pet grooming is nothing short of royal treatment for your pets.

Starting at Rs 500, a day at a pet spa can go beyond Rs 30,000. Once all the prepping is done, all that is left is for your pets to party­—it’s no hard task. Pet meets, play dates, and parties are now only a quick call away. And if you don’t have a pet, and still want to cuddle, you have pet cafes where an hourly payment can make any dog or cat, hamsters, guinea pigs, parrots, or even hamsters yours for the while.

Illustrators: When brands like Chumbak and Happily Unmarried surf­a­ced, it was the first many people had heard of illustrations. Merchandi­sing products with designed dailies was a risk. Now, there are countless brands that cater to the same demand, and even more online collaborators bringing small-time illustrators to the product market, and in touch with the buyers.

Illustrators are the new fashion desi­gners. They are cool, they have style, they have skill, and for a bonus they usually also have a sense of hum­our. “When we began finding an audience,” says Rajat Tuli, co-founder of Happily Unmarried, “it was quite a task to find buyers who would want to spend money on curated products instead of the run-of-the-mill merchandise.” He admits that the audie­nce has now warmed up to the style of illustrated products.

Photograph by Kashif Masood

Illustrator Alicia Souza believes her growth has been organic, with help from followers on social media. Last year, she launched her own store.

No longer are illustrators limited to books. Illu­strator Alicia Souza, for whom the career came out of necessity to earn, has managed to sell her everyday musings through her daily sketches on her social media profiles. So popular are her characters that she is now being hired by The Times of India to do the newspaper’s masthead. “I have been able to grow organically, with a lot of help from my followers on social media, and launched my own store last year,” says Souza. The products on her online store have increased manifold.

From cards to dog collars, mugs, magnets, notepads and cushion covers, Souza illustrates everything. Everyone enjoys a little sprucing, and illustrators add just the spark that people want. And that is why they sell!

Micro Farming: As long as you have a terrace or a garden and fairly green fingers, micro farming may be a good career for you. Everything organic is all the rage now, and with people willing to pay premium prices for anything that has a lower chemical content, entrepreneurs are cashing in on the demand.

Organic terrace gardening, or OTG, is especially popular in Bangalore, where urban farmers grew vegetables and fruits on balconies, rooftops and even terraces. For many of them, what started as a part-time hobby, growing for themselves, has now become a full-time business supplying to the surrounding community and even restaurants. Take, for example, Nitin and Hansa Sagi of Growing Greens. The couple started growing micro herbs in their garden, and cater to private ord­ers. The two have now bought land on the outskirts of the city and are supplying to chefs not only in the city, but also around the country.

Achintya Anand of Krishi Cress continues to farm in his farmhouse but has grown from only microgreens to vegetables and fruits. The chef took to farming in order to understand the ingredients he was cooking with, and has not looked back. “I have always wanted to create an integrated, self-sustaining farm that can provide the consumers with good produce,” says Anand. The career is only a few years old, but has picked up to such a great extent that ancillaries like micro farming equipment, courses on micro farming have also picked up and become full-fledged businesses.

Specialised Holiday Plann­ers: If you’re considering a holiday, Goa, Kashmir, Thailand, Paris, New York are now passé. You don’t want to do what’s been done to death; and that is where specialised holiday planners come in. From children’s holidays, to solo trips, or all-women’s getaways, these specialised holiday planners can chart anything you want. It could be as specific as a kayaking holiday in Bhedaghat, a thangka painting escape to Himachal Pradesh, or a spa retreat in Bora Bora.

Tai Bose, Founder of Girls on the Go, quit her career as a lawyer to become a specialised holiday planner for girls, who increasingly travel on their own. This was in 2008. “Since then we have done tours to Antarctica, to the Head Hunter’s village in hilly Nagaland, and a trek in the mountains of Mon­golia,” says Bose.

Travel is something everyone wants to dip his or her toes in. In such a time, something new is always wanted, and while traditional planners are helpful, increasingly people want to do their planning, and in such cases the travel social network is also gaining momentum. Brands like TravelUR do not only plan holidays, but also provide a platform for travellers to exchange experiences and gain insight about destinations. Others like Inspired Traveller, more innovatively, are focu­sed only on travel exchanges among members that in turn become travel ideas and plans. Their large social network followers are their USP.

Food photographers: Going back to the power of the social media, yes you can earn money on it, and all it takes is a sizeable follower base. One such group is of food photographers, who began like most of us, clicking pictures of food they eat and putting it on their social media, until an increase in followers brought with it opportunities for collaborations with brands. Of course, there are those photographers who have specialised in the field, and work with the media, but more sizeable are new food photographers who have used social media to create their own brand of food photography.

Like in the case of baker and food blogger, Shivesh Bhatia, whose food shots have earned him his big 87,000-strong following. He recently partnered with HP to promote the IT giant’s new laptop, and with Xiaomi doing food photography for them while promoting the brand. “My motto is to never do anything you’re good at for free,” says Bhatia.

Toy Design: When the National Insti­tute of Design started Toy Development and Design as a new discipline in 2002, there were few who even understood the field. Today, the number of takers of the field has increased substantially. The Indian toy market has grown dramatically in the last few years, given the incr­ease in Indian television content for kids, and the number of toy designers has also inc­reased although it remains to date a fairly unpopular career.

One of the few well-known names in the industry is that of Suhasini Paul, founder of PinkElefant, India’s first dedicated toy design studio. Suhasini has a long client list including Disney, Hape, Kinder Joy, Royal King, Esselte Corp, Nokia, Plan strategies UK, Frank, Playgro and Ediots, to name a few. She regularly conducts seminars and workshops about the possi­bilities in the Indian toy industry and its potential with characters such as Chhota Bheem, Hanuman and Suppandi.

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