India’s GDP continues to grow at a fast pace, outpacing major world economies. One of the key drivers behind this growth story are India’s small businesses. More than 100 million people, or 40 percent of India’s workforce, are employed by a small or medium-sized business.
In honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we sat down with some of the most inspiring small businesses we work with across the globe to hear how they got started, what obstacles they’ve had to overcome and what advice they have for other aspiring entrepreneurs.
For the fourth in our series celebrating entrepreneurs and small businesses, we spoke with Neelam Pasad, the owner of her namesake small business based in Mumbai, India, focused on custom, luxury footwear.
Bill Ready: What inspired you to start a custom footwear business?
Neelam Pasad: Shoes have always been my favorite accessory, even as kid. My business began as a hobby, but it became more serious when I took a footwear designing course. It was fascinating to me that I could actually make my own shoes, choosing my own design, color, size and material. In addition to my own personal interest in shoe design, what really drove me to focus on customized shoes -- my core business -- was meeting people who couldn’t find shoes to fit their big, small or problematic feet.
BR:Did you ever imagine, when you were growing up, that you would be an entrepreneur?
NP: No, I didn’t. Even now, my job seems like magic. It never really seems like work because I love what I do. It is still overwhelmingly humbling to see my happy customers and the referrals they send our way.
BR: What was the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as a business owner?
NP: If you have the technical know-how and are constantly open to learning and adapting, you can overcome any challenge. If I had to name one challenge, I would say finances -- such as getting bank loans, securing private funding and investors. That was challenging at first. But that has become easier over time as my business and sales have grown. And with PayPal, I know that I’ll get fast and secure access to the money from my sales so that I can reinvest it back into my business.
BR: What inspires you about running your own business?
NP: Realizing that people really do value hard work. They notice and appreciate real, unique work and will pay for that hard work. I own a small, humble manufacturing center that is always a mess with no fancy showroom, yet people pridefully tell other people where they bought their shoes. That’s an inspiring feeling.
BR: Do you have any tips or advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
NP: Be thorough with your basics, constantly evolve and be open to learning, especially from artisans, since they know all the insider secrets. You won’t be taught that in school.
You can read more entrepreneur stories this Global Entrepreneurship Week from PayPal Stories here.