Hi! My name is Archana Suresh Daga. I was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand and belong to a fairly liberal family that always emphasised on following my dreams but making sure I was the best at it. I was a studious child back in school and college. After completing my school education in Bangkok, I moved to Chennai, India to pursue my Bachelors degree in Finance. I was mentally prepared for the culture shock, but what I found rather difficult was that I was suddenly pitted against kids who were school/district level toppers in Accounting, whereas my background on the subject was absolutely nil. With rigorous tuitions and concentration I managed to not only pass all the subjects but also with first class.
Soon after college, I got my first job with Ernst & Young (E&Y) one of the reputed Big 4 financial firms in the world where I worked before I realised that Finance was not my forte. So after careful evaluation, I went ahead and got a Masters Degree in Advertising and Public Relations. This was a subject I thoroughly loved and thought I could be really good at. I subsequently got a job with 2020 MSL, a European PR company that has branches across India. I really loved my job, made some really good friends, but had to quit when in 2016 I decided to get married to my then long time boyfriend, now husband. Before the marriage, I quit my job and moved back home to spend some quality time with my parents.
Post my marriage is when I faced several issues on a professional front. I was constantly in a dilemma about whether to go back into a corporate job or to start a company of my own. Considering I got married into a business family, my husband encouraged me to start something on my own and always said that I had the potential to run my own show. Starting a business of your own requires a lot of hard work and brainstorming. I came up with several ideas for a business which I initially thought might be very lucrative, but ended up scrapping. Several times, I got so caught up in my emotion and almost went back into a corporate job, only because I couldn’t relate to being just a housewife. As someone who had been working from straight out of college, I was used to having an extremely independent and productive lifestyle. This feeling almost made me consider several corporate job offers that I received during that time.
When I was so close to giving up on my dream of starting something of my own was when I conceived the idea of my startup, ‘The Kind Earth’. At The Kind Earth, we manufacture a range of eco friendly products. We started out with making Bamboo Straws, and that’s when we realised that the demand for products that cater to a more sustainable, minimal lifestyle is vast. Post that we went onto developing several innovative products that focus on being zero plastic. My whole motto with The Kind Earth was to reduce the carbon footprint on the planet, and I had always been leaning towards a sustainable business model. It was a difficult endeavour in terms of setting up the whole manufacturing unit, putting a team in place, and the whole logistics part of it. Our manufacturing unit happens to be in a very remote village in the northeastern part of India. We went in with the idea of hiring only tribals and artisans in a way to provide them with an employment opportunity and also help empower a sect of our society that is rather unrecognized. To set up a seamless logistics channel from our manufacturing unit to our office in Bangalore where all the orders are packaged and sent out was an absolute nightmare. These challenges were overcome with a lot of meticulous planning and a lot of trial and error.
After a year of being in the eco friendly industry which is just in the nascent stage in India, I have had to manoeuvre through a lot of issues that other industries haven’t experienced, since this is a brand new industry. The most difficult challenge has been to educate people about the concept of reusability with regard to bamboo straws and other eco friendly cutlery. We constantly have to teach people about how you need to treat bamboo cutlery the same way you treat other cutlery and how it is perfectly reusable.
It has been an extremely rewarding industry to be a part of considering that we are actually contributing to the betterment of the planet and to actually reduce the amount of plastic waste that is being produced and strewn. There will be challenges in absolutely anything that you pursue in life, but it’s about how you tackle it without getting perturbed. You also need to switch off from your personal grievances when you tackle issues with regard to your business. I would say this is extremely important as you need to go into it and tackle it with a fresh mind.
I would always advice other women who are looking to pursue a career and start a business of their own to go for it and to never give up. The idea that you’re looking for is just around the corner and you just need to pursue it a little longer. At one point I never believed I could do anything on my own, but I tried hard and strived hard to get where I am. Though it’s still a small business today, I have a lot of aspirations towards growing it, adding lots of new products and making it big. All it takes is perseverance, belief, and a little bit of hard work.