In Episode 5 of the Make Space for Growth Podcast, I virtually travel to Singapore to meet Pridhee Gupta. We talk about her business and life as a part-time entrepreneur, her day job as a teacher, and how it got affected by the lockdown. Out of the many lessons Pridhee took out of the last 6 months, the one she leaves me with is to just do it. As opportunities open and shut at the mercy of Covid-19 starts and stops, Pridhee is pursuing the windows of opportunity without hesitation. Her business is nimbler than ever!
The story of T4Tales
Pridhee has a PhD in Plant Molecular Biology and is a teacher in an international school in Singapore. However, our conversation was focused on the business she founded in 2015 – T4Tales. T4Tales was born in Bangalore, almost out of a joke in a party as one of her friends told her she should solve the problem she was complaining about!
In her journey as a first-time mom, Pridhee quickly realised that there were not enough interactive and board books in Indian languages to read to her toddler. She could find an abundance of English interactive board books but not enough in her own mother tongue! This was the genesis for T4Tales. The company helps Indian parents living in India and abroad introduce Indian languages to children in their early years, through interactive storybooks and rhymes.
There is never any time
Pridhee is a “part-time entrepreneur”. That means she has a day job as a teacher, she reserves the end of the day for her 2 children and, when they go to sleep, her T4Tales business begins. In her own words, “there is never any time”. I can’t explain how much I relate to that!
Pridhee has a chalkboard by her bed which is always full of stuff to do. Her side business happens any time after 7.30 pm, going as late as she can stay awake. I haven’t tried the chalkboard idea yet, but I must say I am tempted! I guess I will stick to my journal for now!
Times of Lockdown
At the beginning of lockdown, there was a dip in sales that made the team wonder how this year was going to be. They worried that selling mostly online they would face troubles with shipping and distribution. Even though they tried to secure extra copies from their printers ahead of lockdown, they were too late. The suppliers were already trying to finish ongoing projects before they would get shut down themselves. Had they missed the opportunity?
As lockdown kicked in, everything stopped – there was no shipping and no distribution. Nothing could go to customers. At that time, they feared sales would just not happen. However, in parallel, parents had a desperate demand for their books. Through that time, T4Tales started providing storytelling sessions and audio files as a way to help parents entertain children while they were home. So during the first month, even though they were not selling, they even employed more marketing people, in order to cope with this increased online demand.
The team celebrated as books got placed into the essential goods category and then they started selling again! I can’t imagine not being able to buy books through the lockdown. Any sort of arts and crafts, school supplies, and kids entertainment ranked as high as food for us during the lockdown times!
A new way to connect with customers
During lockdown many parents were trying to implement their mother tongue at home. T4Tales spotted the opportunity and used more social media marketing, but more importantly, connected with customers very often and very personally. Pridhee does not think they would have gone this way had it not been for lockdown. People had the time and they were coming to look for their content.
In fact, at some point, their clients became their content providers! T4Tales ran a campaign for nursery rhymes in different mother tongues. As a community, everybody came and shared their nursery rhymes in languages Pridhee had not considered publishing in before. Now, they are expanding the number of languages and have a new database of customers and content they did not have before.
Did you know that more than 340 million people in the world speak Hindi?
T4Tales’ team was already used to working remotely. The social media manager is in Bangalore, the illustrators spread out in India, the music composer in the US. So there was not a practical change to the way the team operated. However, there were a few mental barriers that got dropped. Pridhee used to be hesitant to connect or bother people in different locations. But not anymore.
Moreover, the team became ever more supportive of each other. As they all struggled with families at home and having some days more difficult than others, they had an open communication that allowed them to really be there for each other. And that changed the way the team connected with each other.
Grabbing the window of opportunity
Given how many starts and stops they have had, it has been hard to plan. As and when shipping can happen, they hit the go button. And after, they always remember to celebrate the small wins. Pridhee has become fast as grabbing a window of opportunity as it shows up and they need to be fast to react given how quickly the situation with shipping and distribution sometimes changes.
As Pridhee reflects back on her learnings throughout this time, she wishes she would connect more with other people, especially other women entrepreneurs. There were lots of people willing to mentor and help. And there was a lot of feedback that came through from everywhere that helped her business flourish.
Don’t lose sight of your vision.
When asked for advice, Pridhee gave us a good reminder to remember who we are and why we are here. There are lots of people doing different things but it is key to remind yourself of your own why. That is what can keep you going and that is how you need to connect with people because then they will also get your vision.
Double Home Learning
Most parents have grown to appreciate teachers more in the last 6 months. But what if you are a teacher and trying to keep your own kids going, your class of 25 engaged via zoom and your “side” business growing as well? Pridhee and her husband decided one of the kids would not learn much and they would try and focus on having the other learning and doing his lessons. They approached the home as a TAC team and managed the schedule and the family accordingly.
They also took the opportunity to start doing different things as a family, including getting their kids to speak in their own mother tongue. Furthermore, they did meditation, exercise and even danced together. More importantly, there was a lot of gratitude. They did not overthink the situation too much and decided to just do things and celebrate the wins.
Finally, the fact that her kids bonded made Pridhee feel like things would be ok at the end and helped her keep her sanity throughout.
More opportunity, but no limits
Pridhee struggled with not having boundaries. There was no transition between work, family, entrepreneurship. There was no switch off button or schedule. Everything was happening at the same time in different places. This was her greatest challenge.
Pridhee’s Lockdown List
- Book: The Wishing Chair, Enid Blyton
- Sport: Cycling
- Technology: Zoom
- Lesson: Connect
- Word: Grow Grow Grow
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