Women Entrepreneurs : Sonali Agarwal (Ketki India)

Sonali Agarwal has an MBA in Marketing and she recently started her venture, Ketki India. Being from Jaipur, she brings beautiful blue pottery products handmade by different artisans to you.

Instagram : ketkiindia

1) How would you describe yourself?

I am an average simple girl from Jaipur with many dreams in her eyes with an urge to make her parents feel proud about her and close ones too. 

2) When and how did you start creating Ketki India? 

Ketki India was established last year (2020) during the pandemic. I send Diwali gifts to my digital marketing client every year. Last year, I made a few candles for them and to my surprise it got a good response. I immediately got orders for the candles. Initially, I started taking few orders as I already work as a full-time social media manager. Simultaneously, I started researching upon various type of jars. While researching, I came across Jaipur blue pottery jar and this struck me with the idea of the candle wax, an eco-friendly solution – soy wax. For the next couple of months, I worked on finding more about candles and fragrances and zeroed in on Jaipur pottery, soy candles and 15 fragrances in March.

3) What inspired you to start this business?

The initial order before starting Ketki India and few samples that I sent to some of my friends, got an amazing response. I wanted to support the local artisans through Ketki India. The feedback motivated me and inspired me to venture further. I connected with artisans who made Jaipur pottery. My basic motto is to support people who create art. That is how Ketki India was born. I started mixing the traditional Jaipur art with the modernity of soy wax candles so it will help artisans work reach your doorsteps through Ketki India.

4) How did you come up with the name for your business?

My father gave this name for my brand. Ketki India is my childhood name and I have never used it officially or publicly before this. My grandfather kept this name for me when I was little. Ketki means fragrance. Ketki is a flower which was going with the idea of scented candles and Jaipur blue pottery is related to Indian art. That’s how I kept the name ‘Ketki India’

5) What are the challenges you faced during the pandemic? 

Pandemic has been tough on businesses. As a small business owner, I faced many obstacles too but I took them as a challenge. This pandemic was a blessing in disguise. The lockdown during the pandemic gave me time to create Ketki India. There were some issues initially because I had already invested in new stock and there were no sales. Even deliveries weren’t happening as couriers were shut. The artisans had to be paid for the stock, the balance between production of stock and payment of the artisans was a real challenge. But with patience and determination I was able to deal with these.

6) What do you love most about running your own business?

I have the freedom to add the product and fragrances without any restrictions. People appreciate my work and like my products and I have been getting positive feedback.

7)  What platform/tools do you use for marketing your business?

I use social media only; I haven’t got any paid partnership with anyone yet. 

8) What role does social media play in your business? What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media for your business?

Social media is the only hero of my business as it is the only tool I use for marketing. The support from friends and customers through word of mouth definitely helps me gain more customers and expand my business. The advantage is that I can promote and get instant feedback from my customers. It gives you a marketing platform. The disadvantage is you have to keep your account active to keep the business going. Staying connected for customer orders and queries, creating posts and reels, doing photoshoots, etc is time consuming. I need to be available online and reply promptly to any order requests. This creates social media anxiety.

9) Which scents do you find are the most popular among your clients? 

Fragrances like musk amber, mahogany, firdaus, lavender, vanilla and night blooming Jasmine are the most popular among my clients.

10) Tell us about a day at work. How does it start? What do you do?

Working from home and being a small business owner, everything depends on the number of orders. If there is a bulk order, I will be running for raw materials and working on completing the orders in time. Balancing work and personal life is a task. I am the only one working so I have got to perform all the roles to run this business. Many will relate to this as I am at a very initial stage of my business. There is no fixed schedule or timetable. I start my day from keeping an eye on the social media orders, then manufacturing, packaging and keeping the stock ready for dispatch. All this requires balancing, managing and handling everything. Every day is a different experience. 

11) What are the three most important values you follow at work?

As a person I believe in honesty, I don’t fake things, I am punctual and disciplined. I like to complete my work before the deadlines. Lastly, I believe in giving value for money to our customers.

12) How do you handle bad reviews, if any?

Honestly, I have got bad reviews related to damaged products only. I deal in fragile products and sometimes this happens due to mishandling of the parcels. When the customers inform me about receiving any damaged products, I try to replace it with new products as soon as possible.

13) What advice would you give women small business owners?

Follow your heart and do what your heart feels is right. If you want to start your business, start it with passion and then make it a source of income. When you are passionate about your work people can see it. If you are enthusiastic about your work, it does attract more people towards you. Put your heart into your business and everything will fall into place.