Startup Tips

Don’t Chase Startup Funding: Startup Tips from Aakash Anand

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Aakash Anand, founder and CEO of Bella Vita Organic, tells young entrepreneurs not to chase startup funding. Watch the interview for marketing tips for startups.

Young entrepreneurs, listen up! If you’ve been thinking of chasing venture capitalists and angel investors for startup funding, you need to watch this interview with Aakash Anand, the founder of founder and CEO of India’s fastest-growing natural skincare brand, Bella Vita Organic.

Bella Vita Organic is one of the most successful startups in India, outselling well-known skincare brands on retail platforms. In this interview, Aakash tells young entrepreneurs why they should not chase startup funding and to stay honest and stay patient.

Watch the interview for some invaluable marketing tips for startups, business tips for success, and startup success factors from the startup founder of one of the startup success stories in India.

Learn startup marketing success tips, and listen to the best startup advice for startup founders from the start-up business advisor of one of the most successful startups in the skincare industry.

Get entrepreneur tips and advice learn why some of the top successful startups don’t try to get funding for startups and learn how to build a successful startup.

Links mentioned in the interview:

Transcript of the Interview:

Priya Florence Shah:

Today I’m interviewing Aakash Anand. He’s the founder of founder and CEO of India’s fastest-growing natural skincare brand, Bella Vita Organic.

A graduate from Northumbria University in MBA – Marketing, he was associated with Qdesq as the Head of Business & Expansion. Previous to Qdesq, he was heading India’s largest channel partner network in the real estate space – SquareConnect (Square Yards).

Bella Vita Organic or ‘The Good Life’ was originally founded by a mother and daughter duo, Mrs Anju Anand and Miss Aashima Anand. And, they have dedicatedly brought into being, handcrafted and organic beauty solutions, inspired by the natural elements of the earth and ancient beauty practices.

At an initial stage, the products were made at home until a manufacturing unit was established in the year 2017. Aakash joined the Bella Vita Organic family in July 2018. And, eventually, the retail front online was brought into being.

The brand aims to bring organic, cruelty-free, chemical-free products and services into being and revive an age-old natural way of life inspired by the most beautiful, unadulterated, and holistic natural elements of the earth. Did I get that right Akash?

Aakash Anand:


Priya Florence Shah:

I love your description of your brand because that is something I am so passionate about myself. I was in the environmental field earlier, and then I started publishing and we feature cruelty-free brands and sustainable brands.

So, we focus on that whenever we feature brands or whenever we do a brand sponsorship or partnership. We focus on that they are sustainable, and that they are cruelty-free, you know?

So I’m very passionate about that myself. So I really like that. So tell me something about yourself and your journey and how did you get into this entrepreneurship?

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Aakash Anand:

Entrepreneurship, I’ve been doing it since I finished college. You know, back in the day, doing my bachelor’s, I was the head of the entrepreneur club at my University of Wolverhampton, which is in Birmingham, UK. That’s how it all started.

And you do two jobs at that time in the UK by training people on how to sell Sky TV, which is Tata Sky right now, with Sky TV in the UK. So I started a small consultancy firm where I was training new recruits, by Sky TV, into how to sell door-to-door. That’s where it all started.

Then I came back to India after finishing my MBA from Northumbria UK. Got into two or three partnerships, started into my advertising field, got experience there, came into real estate, did a startup, got that funded and I sold that startup to a company called Swayaj, and joined them as a VP.

You know, gained good experience and the biggest entrepreneurship venture of my life has to be Bella Vita Organic. So you know, while I was doing my own things, I remember my mother and my sister, started a salon back in 2012. It was called Bella Vita Organic Salon at that time and they were into homemade treatments.

You know, so ladies would come in for a hair mask and they’d do a quick egg in a yogurt combo and they just apply it on the hair, blow-dry and wash it. Around 2017, they got hold of a manufacturer in Hyderabad, who started giving them organic and natural gels, creams, and hair treatments.

So you know, God was kind, lucky enough there were a lot of ladies who were coming into the salon, and started asking my mother and my sister for packaged products. So they were like, “The mask is brilliant. Can you please pack about 200 grams of it?”

And they just started putting them in these plastic boxes and giving them to them for just the production cost. That’s when I said, “If there’s such a demand, why don’t we actually start retailing these products under our own brand name?”

And they were running a traditional business, had no idea of online and that’s where I came into the picture, where I’ve got an experience of marketing and sales and how to take brands online and how to build brands.

That’s when we actually started retailing products into proper packaging. We got inspired by a lot of famous brands that are already there, did our packaging ourselves, procured containers to start with, and that’s what the journey began.

And now you know, I’m proud to say we’re one of the top 10, you can say, national wellness companies in India, and we enjoy a great ride.

Priya Florence Shah:

Wow, that’s great! Do you retail on Amazon and other retailers?

Aakash Anand:

We retail on every platform available globally, from Amazon, India to Amazon, UK, Amazon America, our own website, Flipkart, Nykaa, Purple, you name it, we’re there now. Online is the dominant point of sale.

Priya Florence Shah:

Right, great to know that, because I was not really familiar with the brand. I’ve never used it. Because, I try out all sorts of products, being a woman, you know.

Aakash Anand:

So, I think I think you’ll receive a big bag of goodies soon.

Priya Florence Shah:

Oh, thank you! That’s so sweet! So, how have you gone about building, not only the brand but also your personal brand in India, in terms of being an entrepreneur?

Aakash Anand:

So very honestly, I’m a bit of a shy guy. I’ve never been out there in media, talking about myself, writing about myself, or introducing myself to various journalists.

It’s only now that the brand has grown a little that we’ve got people in the company who are managing our PR, and they’ve started growing me as the face of the company as well, because of all the ideas of new product developments, I’m the one who is behind them.

So apart from growing the brand through various channels and talking about them, that’s what I started doing now. So, I think you must be the third or fourth person in the media who I’m actually speaking to when we started doing this.

And well enough, we’ve got about 20 to 25 interviews lined up over the next 15 to 20 days, to actually build my brand and tell my story in this environment.

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Priya Florence Shah:

That’s awesome. That’s a great initiative because that’s how you get the word out, right? Not only about your brand, but about yourself and your goals and your mission, and whatever you’re aiming to do.

So what are the plans besides these online interviews? Do you have any other things planned? What has worked for you so far? You know, when it comes to building a brand?

Aakash Anand:

Yes, I do. So I’ve recently hired this company who’s building my own website by my name, That’s what we’ve been able to get and my main aim in that is I want to be speaking to a lot of young entrepreneurs.

So coming straight to the point, 99% of the entrepreneurs you’ll meet in today’s world, just have one dream and one vision, okay? I want to launch something, I want to get it funded, and I want to enjoy my life, right?

And that’s the myth that I want to break. So I’ve been in a position where I’ve had an organization, I’ve had a startup, got it funded, sold it to a company, made a lot of money.

But trust me, the fun that you have, and the value that you achieve by running your own company in a bootstrapped way and making it profitable is far better than getting an investor on board.

That’s one myth I want to break for all the young entrepreneurs who feel that achieving a fund is achieving Nirvana. But what they don’t understand is that getting funded is actually where hell breaks loose for you.

The biggest problem is that if an investor invests in your company, more than you focus on your work, development, on innovation, you only focus on creating graphs, Excel, and forecasting expenses.

And that’s where 90% of your time goes away. And that’s why a lot of great companies who were doing really well, and a quick growth was happening before they got funded, actually lost the plot.

Because, then, the company does not get run by you, but it gets run by the people who are controlling it. So that’s my vision. So, once my website comes on, I think I’ll be available every day from 7 pm to 9 pm, about three to four times a week, talking to entrepreneurs, telling them that guys funding is not everything.

Grow your company, like your father or your grandfather would have grown it back in the day. Imagine it’s a shop, right? Just because you’re online doesn’t change anything. Imagine running a shop.

It’s all about getting your customers in it and treating them well. and managing your expenses and making ends meet. That’s how the journey should be.

Priya Florence Shah:

I can see a book topic coming up in my head for you. Because I’m an author, so I’m always thinking of new topics. So I can see that you have a book in your future.

Aakash Anand:

I’m just lazy to write but I’ve got plenty of material if you’d ever want to do it.

Priya Florence Shah:

Some ghostwriters can do it for you, so I can put you in touch with them if you want to do it, no problem. So that is not an issue, but I can just see this idea because this is like a contrarian idea, right?

Because everyone thinks that, like you said, funding is the Holy Grail of entrepreneurship, and you’re taking the contrarian view.

So I love that and I think that’s an amazing topic for a book and podcast, you know? Your podcast and your book. And, that can be the platform on which you build your brand.

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Aakash Anand:

And trust me, Florence, out of the 10 companies, or the top 10 companies that we come under, 8 of them are funded and 2 of them are not, and we are one of them.

And every day, I get these two or three messages on my LinkedIn by, maybe a small-time venture capitalist and angel investor, a big VC saying, “You know what, please send us your pitch deck.”

And my reply to them – and I’ll send you some screenshots as well, it’s very simple – I say, “Hey, I’d love to send you a pitch deck.

But with the amount of time it’s going to take me to prepare a pitch deck the graphs and the forecasting for you, I’d be able to launch 4 products in that time. And taking someone else’s money just to grow yourself and enjoy the luxuries is never the end game.

Priya Florence Shah:

I agree, actually, because I’ve been bootstrapped for the longest time and I’m okay, chugging along. I would like to grow, but I’m not sure funding is the right option for me and you’ve kind of put your finger on the button as far as that is concerned.

So, I think if you write a book about that, I’m going to read it. And also, I’m gonna watch your podcast if you come up with one. But you know, those are awesome tips, because I think young people need to hear that. And they need to know that they can build a bootstrap enterprise and do a good job of it like you’re doing.

Aakash Anand:

Exactly. Yeah.

Priya Florence Shah:

So what’s in the future for Bella Vita?

Aakash Anand:

So Bella Vita Organic, we’ve taken a very different path where all our competitors are focusing on selling shampoos, selling face washes. We do very niche-concerned, relevant products.

So the motto of our brand is very simple. We say if you’ve got dark circles, don’t hide it with a concealer. Use a product, use it regularly for four weeks, improve your diet plan, improve your sleep, and make yourself look good, with the hashtag #nomakeup look.

And with Bella Vita Organic, that’s what we’re doing. So you know, a product like Nico Lips that we launched about a year and a half back, and we’re beating big companies like Nivea, Himalaya, we’re the bestsellers, you know?

We actually beat them in sales online and the whole reason for that is that we say that we’re not telling you to wear lipstick and hide your stains, we’re telling you to actually use a natural product and clear it off.

And you know, what we’re doing is we’re doing concerned relevant products, which make you look good and are good for your skin, as well. And the whole plethora of products we’ve got, our focus is towards looking good naturally.

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Priya Florence Shah:

I love that because I don’t wear makeup and even today, like on podcasts, I don’t wear makeup or anything. I put on a little moisturizer because, in Pune, it’s a little cold and dry. That’s all I need, basically, but I love that approach because women need to embrace their natural beauty, right?

And that’s something we promote greatly on and I promote that on my social media as well, that we need to embrace our natural beauty and give up all these chemicals products which have a lot of harmful chemicals that we have no clue about because we don’t read the label.

So, they have an option. And of course, the whole shift is towards natural products today, that’s why you’re doing really well because people don’t want to buy the Nivea’s and the chemical stuff.

I’m always looking for vegan, natural products. When I’m reading on Amazon, it has to be cruelty-free or vegan or something like that. So, I have certain favorite products, but I’m going to try out Bella Vita. Definitely.

Aakash Anand:

I’m gonna make sure that our team sends you a few samples for you to try.

Priya Florence Shah:

Yeah, sure. I’d love that. So, tell me a little bit about what you plan for building a personal brand. Of course, like I was suggesting you should write a book. Because you’ve got a great point of view.

Aakash Anand:

I’m going to get in touch with you for a ghostwriter.

Priya Florence Shah:

Yeah sure, like I said, it’s a very contrarian point of view. And people love that. It makes people think.

But do you think that today’s audience and today’s young generation actually end up reading books? Don’t you think they’re more inclined towards listening to podcasts or watching a YouTube video?

Priya Florence Shah:

You should have all because you should be on all platforms, not only a book. You should have a podcast, and you should have a YouTube channel. So you should be on all platforms like Gary Vee.

Of course, Gary Vee is one of the biggest personal brands around when it comes to entrepreneurs, but you should be on all the platforms that you can be on.

Don’t necessarily be on platforms that your audience is not on. You don’t have to cater to those platforms, but you’re catering to young entrepreneurs, of course, so you should be on LinkedIn. Right?

Then, if you’re catering to young people for your products, you should be on everything – on Facebook, Instagram, everything, right? If you’re selling Bella Vita and you’re talking about Bella Vita and you’re talking about organic products, you should be on every platform.

So, it depends on your audience. It depends on where your audience is. Then you have to spend more time on the platform where your audience is. But, if you have a message for entrepreneurs, I would suggest YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter, which are the major platforms for entrepreneurs.

Aakash Anand:

TikTok, maybe? He’s all over TikTok, I believe. Who’s the guy you were talking about?

Priya Florence Shah:

Gary Vee is all over Tik Tok. Yeah, he’s big on anything new. Because the fact is, it’s very cheap. When anything new comes out, it’s very cheap. And it’s free to get on and build an audience there, right? So he’s all for that.

I’m not necessarily into that, because it takes time and effort to create content specific for each platform. So I try to focus my efforts where I think I will get the best kind of return.

So, you have to think of that also. But if you have a team, then you can focus on a bunch of platforms and be everywhere.

Aakash Anand:

I think that’s what we’re doing. So, we’ve hired some more people now, with Divya’s leadership. I think she was in touch with you as well.

And now she’s getting people who will be talking more about the brand on different platforms and building me as a brand, building my sister as a brand, building the brand in itself.

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Priya Florence Shah:

Of course, yeah. The people behind that, like your sister and mom. That would be really wonderful to hear their story and get the backstory of Bella Vita and the brand and all that, put that up somewhere.

So that would be very interesting to read also. So great talking to you, I mean, if you want, we can go on for a little longer.

Aakash Anand:

I’m game for it, anything, I mean.

Priya Florence Shah:

Let me know anything that you have to share on your journey because you’ve had a very interesting journey, so if you have any tips for young people when it comes to sales when it comes to marketing themselves.

So, if you have any tips for young people when it comes to starting out, young entrepreneurs just getting started, how do they build their personal brand? Not only a personal brand, how do they build their company brand? And the two are interlinked, of course, but what advice would you give them?

Aakash Anand:

The only advice that I would give them would be two pieces of advice. One would be honesty, which means truth. Whatever you’re selling, whatever you’re developing, make sure you’re very truthful about it.

So, I fund companies myself as well. I’m an angel investor now, with people who just need very small funding from 25- 30 lakh rupees, to get them started.

The biggest problem I see with them today, is they’re not really honest about what they’re building. So, for example, if someone is building a tech platform, if they have to build 100%, the moment they reach a 40% build, they claim they’ve done the job. Right?

And that’s, that’s something which comes and bites them in times to come. That’s one – you’ve got to be very, very truthful about what you’re building, where you’re at, and what the traction in it, you cannot be making up numbers just to get in the investor’s rooms.

I’ve got a lot of people who end up getting appointments and meetings and a lot of VCs, but once they start pitching to them, as the VCs actually before they invest, they see your numbers, they see your build, that’s when they realize, No, the guy’s been lying to them.

And that’s where they lose their personal credibility. So, one bitter experience, one lie, lasts you for a lifetime. So they should be very honest about where they are at. And that’s what people appreciate.

The second one is patience. The biggest problem with entrepreneurs today is they want to do everything quickly, want to make a product tomorrow, and want to build tomorrow. They develop a tech platform with hundreds of glitches, just because they want to win the race.

But, what they don’t understand is something that is built with patience, at the correct time. You know can have a baby in nine months, you’re not gonna do it in six months, right?

So something that has a gestation period should be done that way, it should be done right. You do something right for the first time, it lasts you a lifetime.

As I said, you do something in the short term, once you’ve built it, you have to go back, revise it, put in triple the amount of money, and that’s where potential investors, even your customers, lose trust.

And that’s what I’ve seen with brands in skincare as well, you know? In so many companies who just launched a product, they’ll just lie blatantly about what the product does. And once it’s picked up some traction, they’ll stop the product, go back, try to redevelop it.

And once they’ve actually done a good job redeveloping it, the sales are lost, you know? The customer trust is gone, right? So people have to be patient.

So, companies like us, take six months, eight months, a year, to test our products, look at their efficacy, and then actually launch them in the market. And so, you know, patience and honesty is the key to any entrepreneur, any startup. Anyone wants to grow in life, in the right way.

Priya Florence Shah:

So have integrity and patience, right? They need to remember. Well, that’s great. That’s awesome advice for anyone who’s in business, you know? Not just starting out, but even at any stage of business, I guess.

So I’m looking forward to seeing what you put out in the future and I’ll be in touch. I would love to try your products and maybe recommend them also to others.

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