cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Pioneer of the Week: Kuljit Thiaray from Desi High Street

Thought Leader

Pioneer of the Week: Kuljit Thiaray from Desi High Street

1.PNG

Tell us 3 important things we should know about you.
• I am a mum to three amazing boys.
• My Leeds based business Desi High Street is looking to disrupt the UK’s ethnic niche retail market by bringing retailers and customers together on one sales platform
• I am on a mission to support the small UK based businesses that sell ethnic niche products (such as sarees and spices), in the same way that Not On The High Street does for small creative businesses and ASOS Marketplace does for independent fashion boutiques.

Tell us about your business. How did it start? Did you set it up alone or with a team?
I founded Desi High Street out of my frustration at not being able to easily shop online for Asian food products, clothing and accessories in the UK. Very few traditional UK based community retailers had websites, and their social media pages told me that I wasn’t allowed to return items after they had been delivered. Desi High Street is an online marketplace which supports retailers in this sector to build their shops and upload their ethnic niche products onto our website as well as making it easier for shoppers to buy securely and confidently.

What do you love most about running your own business?
I love Desi High Street and what it stands for in terms of supporting small businesses. I also love online shopping! It doesn’t actually feel like work which is a huge benefit but this also means it can become hard to switch off sometimes. There is huge sense of job satisfaction in helping traditional community based retailers who have limited digital skills to take their first steps into ecommerce. I love meeting them, working with them and being able to support them, it’s the best part of my role.

Tell us about a challenging experience you’ve faced in the process of starting up your business and how you overcame it.
Founding a tech business with no real technical skills has been challenging. I hired a developer to build the site and quickly it became clear that the beta site had problems and glitches galore. The launch date kept being pushed back and in the end I had to make the tough decision to ask the developer to focus purely on the functionality of the site. This meant the cosmetic look and customer journey of the site was neglected. We have continued to tweak the beta site and it has since been rebranded, refreshed and relaunched - but it is still work in progress.

What advice could you give to other startups about starting up in your industry?
Online marketplaces (also known as multisided platforms) are notoriously difficult business models for a number of reasons. One of them is getting the balance right between customers and retailers. With a standard ecommerce site, your strategies focus on gaining and retaining customers and importantly sales conversions. With an online marketplace you still need to do that, but you also need to bring retailers and products to the site at the same time. My advice would be to validate your business idea and to do your market research thoroughly beforehand to ensure that an online marketplace is the best solution.


Can you share an experience that really helped you take your business forward?
When I first considered my concept in 2012, I spoke to a number of community based retailers and garnered their opinions on selling online. At that point very few of them saw ecommerce as being a suitable fit for their business so I shelved the idea. When I revisited the business idea in 2015, their thinking had begun to change and many recognised that they would need an online strategy. Those conversations gave me the confidence to go ahead and build Desi High Street as an online marketplace to support retailers and to make online shopping easier for customers.

 


Many people start their businesses at home, where do you work? W2.PNGhat do you love about it?
As I am a part of a business accelerator programme, I have access to free office space with Wi-Fi, phone lines, printers and unlimited coffee. That’s all I really need to run my online business. But the best part of being in a co-working space is meeting other start-ups that are going through a similar entrepreneurial journey. Although I benefit in so many ways from hot-desking, I do also enjoy the comforts of working from my home office. It’s where I feel I am my most productive - although I do tend to work much longer hours at home.


What are three things you know now, that you wish someone had told you when you first started?
• Online business shouldn’t be faceless and you can’t hide behind your website. I am a fairly private person so this one for me has been the most difficult and one I am still learning.
• Things don’t always work out the way you want them to, even with thorough planning. Acknowledge the things that go wrong, learn from them and move on.
• Plan time into your day to engage in physical activity such as a walk or going to the gym. It’s not only good for your heath and a great stress buster but ultimately you are investing in your most important business asset which is you.


Is there anything specific you’d like to ask or share with the Virgin Media Pioneers community?
We are considering crowdfunding as a route to raising investment. I would love for the Virgin Media Pioneers community to share their hints and tips with me on their experiences of crowdfunding and/or raising investment.


If you are a retailer with products interested in joining us – please get in touch.


To be an entrepreneur… is not easy! It’s about being passionate, persistent and consistent in a continually stressful environment but it’s also very satisfying and hugely addictive. It’s not for the faint hearted, you must have an entrepreneurial mind-set and you need to own it each and every day!

Comment below to connect with Kuljit or you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

Comments
Ultrafast

Dear Kuljit,

 

In answer to the question: 'Is there anything specific you’d like to ask or share with the Virgin Media Pioneers community?' above, you answered,

 

'We are considering crowdfunding as a route to raising investment. I would love for the Virgin Media Pioneers community to share their hints and tips with me on their experiences of crowdfunding and/or raising investment.'

 

I thought you might like to know that I am in the process of writing an article for the VMP blog on the subject: 'How effective is crowdfunding for raising start-up costs?' I work as an executive at CrowdPatch, the crowdfunding platform for social entrepreneurs.

 

If you have an specific questions now, I'd be delighted to help you.

 

Kindest regards,

 

Chris

 

CHRISTOPHER NORRIS

Head of Crowdfunding

CrowdPatch CIC

e. cnorris@crowdpatch.com

w. http://www.crowdpatch.com