Devita: Unfolding Her Father’s legacy
It is quite fair to say that entrepreneurship shows its early glimpses right from childhood. This month’s Brand Story proves this notion. Let is read about Devita Rajkumar Saraf, who has established her brand in the digital products industry.
Devita Rajkumar Saraf is a young woman, who in a very brief time has firmly established her brand VU televisions in the digital products industry. After completing her studies in America, she preferred to return to her motherland rather than continuing in the industrial land of California. She left her father’s very prosperous software business to launch her own venture. All this was because she had asked herself some fundamental questions. Such as: While an entrepreneur’s child aspires for the first rank everywhere else, why should they settle for a number two position in their father’s company? After their education, why should they make peace with an executive position in their family business rather than building their own business?
Devita is the daughter of Rajkumar Saraf, head of Zenith Infotech Limited – a software solutions provider company. Devita in her college years began attending Zenith’s press conferences, and dealers’ conferences. At 16, she had already joined Zenith’s office. After getting a commerce degree from HR College in Mumbai, she went to Southern California university for a degree in business administration.
Her brother, Akash, took management lessons under his father’s guidance along with Devita. They named this training program as MIS in a lighter vein. MIS – Marwadi Induction System. Devita used to say, my father’s approach is the same. Young people should work at the topmost levels of management while continuing their studies. He felt that his children should work as top management even though they were still studying. But Devita never liked this idea. She went further by saying I was born to be the boss.
Born on 25th June 1981, Devita began her higher studies in California at the age of 18 in 1999 and returned to India in 2003. In these four years, the nature of Indian industry and market had changed dramatically. The Younger generation born and brought up in the liberal economy regarded money as supremely important. Still, their attitude had changed – preferring a hedonistic lifestyle with easy cash flow over a secure job. They were primarily attracted to high-end products that made life more comfortable.
Devita sensed this change and presented her idea to launch a business delivering innovative digital products to her father. He never resisted her thought, however when their dealers got the inkling of her idea, they began to voice their suspicions. Some said this Marwadi girl would start up a business and in a few years would return to the US after getting married. Then how would we manage to deal with the after-sales service or spare parts required for the products she has launched? Who would we turn to then? Hence it is better to avoid her and her brand as well.
But Devita represented the young generation. Her stay in California had made her familiar with the SMS language of the youth. She laid the foundations of her company while still in California. She returned to India in 2003, only as a precaution to keep Zenith out of the way if at all her business of high-end digital products failed miserably. Within two years, she completed the designing, direction and strategic planning of her proposed company and started production. She gave a befitting answer to those who ridiculed her project.
Her idea was to build smart TVs, digital photo frames, 3D cameras and Bluetooth speakers. She had also finalized the company’s name in the US. It had to be connected with the audiovisual industry and resembling the English word VIEW. She reduced this spelling to just two letters VU, as would popularly be written in the symbolic mobile language. Rajkumar Saraf, who had regarded Devita’s venture as nothing more than a hobby, was astonished to know that in its first fiscal year Devita’s company had a turnover that crossed a thousand crores.
Devita was spellbound by the persona of Steve Jobs, as she had been a resident of California, as well as an avid user of Apple products. Hence she began by building a smart TV. She created VU with the idea that all the apps like Netflix, Youtube, Amazon should be available to the customer at the touch of one single button. She has also tried to maintain the prices of these products between the International brands and the Indian brands. That doesn’t mean that she never built expensive TV sets. A year ago, she launched a 100 inch VU 100 high dynamic TV set in the market which costs up to Rs. 20 lakhs.
Devita took the utmost care to keep the ownership of VU televisions all to herself. No investors; no bank loans. An idea of selling the shares of VU televisions in the market to raise capital had crossed her mind a few times, but she could never settle with the idea of curry favouring the shareholders. She chose not to fall into the trap of managing the shareholders. She also complains that the government, on the one hand, encourages entrepreneurs but on the other never stands by them.
During the initial years, Devita sold her products to customers through retailers. But after considering the retailers’ approach and their limits, she chose e-Commerce for her business. This happened around 2014. eCommerce was still in its infancy. She selected Flipkart and in the last five years sold products worth rs 2- 2.5 crores on an average. She was proud to become the biggest television brand purchased via eCommerce. Forbes magazine chose her as India’s model CEO in their 2016 issue.
As mentioned above, when Devita envisioned to make available Netflix at the touch of one single button, she placed a full-page advert in the newspapers. For this advertisement rather than using a celebrity face, she used her own face with her brilliant eyes. She bluntly says, what good is a cricketer or an actor? She says, if your product is right then your own face will do. She doesn’t stop there. She says, being young, being a woman, and a techno-savvy CEO is a sure way to success. Unfortunately, the people we choose as our role models have barely passed their class 12th exams.
She had probably decided to be the brand ambassador of her own brand in America as her inspiration came from Apple’s Steve Jobs. She had also talked with Richard Branson about this when an opportunity presented itself. She had asked him what the pros and cons of becoming the brand ambassador of your own brand are. He had answered her by saying, I would have been more successful if I could get your face for my products.
Along with her face in a full-page advertisement, her most eye-catching advertisement consisted of her photo with the American president Donald Trump. She had deliberately had that photo captured when she had visited him to congratulate him on his victory in 2016 elections. The most notable feature of this photo was that she had held in her hand a book called Business Czarinas. This book had an article on her. During Pranab Mukherji’s presidentship, Prem Ahluwalia had published a book called The Captains of Industry. It included influential businesswomen in India. Devita was the youngest amongst all of them.
But Devita did not meet Trump only for this photo – op event. Before contesting the 2016 election, Trump had visited Mumbai. Devita knew that Trump’s daughter Ivanka was also a businesswoman like her father. She had asked him about his view on the father-daughter duo in the business. Devita had read the book ‘The Trump Card’ written by Ivanka. She had met him with the request to give Business Czarinas – a book that showcased her achievements as a trophy.
She had called herself India’s Ivanka. She was mesmerized by the fact that a simple chai wallah could become India’s Prime Minister. In contrast, an entrepreneur could become the president of the most powerful country in the world – America. Her expectations are simple. That a father should make his daughter the legal heir of his business. She says I am surrounded by the fashion world, and I live in style. I don’t want to become a saree clad Indian housewife. She says that if next-generation women do not change their visual representation, they would be more entertainers than entrepreneurs.
There are so many examples where people have expanded an inherited business. But there are also some businessmen who would rather have their children seek jobs than let them face the challenges in business that they came across in their career. To turn down an established business and to refuse to work as an employee in order to begin one’s own business, you need ambition and confidence.
Originally Published in Yashashwi Udyojak. Subscribe Today.