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'Don't hold back, give it your all'

 

...This is what Ankush Khera has to say about becoming an entrepreneur. In an interview with Kalyani Majumdar, the founder and CEO of Fox My Box shares his unique business idea to be the one-stop destination for customising and personalising lifestyle gadgets, and working with big names such as Sennheiser and Xrig.

 

Q. How did Fox My Box come about? Tell us about your journey.
I have always loved art and design. During my graduation, I came across airbrushing. It is basically a process through which you can make very intricate designs with a small pen on automobiles. This caught my imagination and then there was no looking back. When I spoke to my parents for the first time about airbrushing as a career, it was a resounding no! But since I had already made up my mind to start my own company, I started digging into the core of  the customising industry involving paint and printing industries. After my graduation, I completed my postgraduation in Advertising and Public Relations from Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi.
Starting a company is easy, but maintaining it is difficult. I knew I had to focus on understanding not only the design and creative aspects of my company, but also understand marketing, public relations, brand management and technical skill. So I decided to focus on each aspect of the business for one year each. I spent a lot of time researching on material and surface behaviour.  In the meantime, I wrote to DuPont to train me with their experts on surface paint processes. After the training, I enrolled myself as a proprietor, and thereafter, into a private limited firm.

Q. Was Colorware an inspiration for you to get into the customisation industry?
Colorware is the first company in the world that customised electronics. When I say electronics, I mean mobile, laptop, iPhones and so on. I started doing my homework. I realised every electronic gadget can be customised in hundreds of permutations and combinations of colour, design and techniques. I asked them if I could come and work with them. Unfortunately, I did not have the skillsets that were needed and was quite disheartened. It was then that I decided that since there weren’t any other companies customising electronics, I would build a company of my own. And I started planning from that very day.
Q. Were there any major hurdles you faced while starting Fox My Box?
I wanted to build something from scratch. Clients were difficult to acquire, as nobody really understood the concept. My finances were limited and I had no team. But I never had a backup plan, and so I put everything into my business. Now things are settled and are smoother, and yes there are challenges every day. Hurdles will always be there. It is very reasonable thing to have them and they keep you sharp. Whether you are running a multinational company or a start-up, it is the same thing. Businesses will always have some challenges.

Q. How did you come up with the name Fox My Box?
To be honest, I thought of close to 40 or 45 names, but as it was very close to me, I was unable to take a decision. I wanted a catchy name with three words in it. Fox My Box was mentioned by my cousin in a very casual manner and I heard it and said,“Done!”

Q. Tell us a bit about your team. You were working alone for a long time before you had a team, right?
Yes, the team came very late. I started getting interns. In India, I feel the interns are not given a lot of responsibility, just kept on the sidelines for the first few months. During the start-up boom, these firms did not build a lot of trust for the interns. And a lot of good interns would not work with start-ups. So it took me quite a bit of time to filter out and find the right interns for my company. It was a good learning for me, as it helped me understand the kind of interns I would like to have. I have interns with different skill-sets and educational background; for instance, I had a very good intern from the engineering background with an excellent hand for sketching!

Q. What kind of products do you customise?
When I started the company, I was very rigid and thought I would only customise electronics. Gradually, I realised that there are so many products that can be customised and it didn’t make sense to limit my skills to electronics. So that brings in every consumer durable product, making Fox My Box a Boutique Colour Customisation Service provider for all things under the sky!
So, other than electronics such as phones, laptops, headphones, music systems, helmets, we also customise refrigerators, air purifiers, cycles, original Zippo lighters, microphones and so on. In the future, we are looking at cameras as well. We recently customised Farhan Akhtar’s microphone as a bespoke partner of Sennheiser. Also, another segment I am planning to cater to is high-end furniture, but only tables for now. However, I will not bring cars under Fox My Box. I would like to take up something which is very adventurous and find a way to bring new technologies, new designs and concepts we see all over the world to my clients.

Q. How was your experience customising gaming cabinets for XRIG?
Actually, Hot Wheels was the first one that came out with a car that could change colour. They are called thermo-pigments. They’ve been around for a long time, but in India, nobody tried exploring this. The client I had was XRIG, based out of Kolkata. They manufacture PCs, gaming cabinets and so on. They wanted exclusive gaming cabinets, so I suggested Tesseract themed glow-in-the-dark gaming cabinets, and they agreed to experiment. You can have different glow-in-the-dark colours like red, blue, yellow and so on. The thermo-pigments react to the heat at a certain temperature. If it is cold, it will go black, transparent if it is hot or even change colour. Once the system is switched on, it generates heat, and the cabinet is heated up to a certain temperature and starts to glow in the dark. It is the world’s first gaming cabinet that reacts to heat and temperature. It is yet to be launched officially. It is the first gaming cabinet that has a functional paint job done.

Q. What is the next step for Fox My Box? Do you have any new and innovative projects in mind?
I am working on a project that I would like to launch through Fox My Box. About ninety percent of homes don’t have fire extinguishers. And even if they do, you will find them lying around in some forgotten corner or storage area. They are ugly and red and no one wants to keep it in the kitchen or the living room!
After doing some research, I figured out that there really is no rule that fire extinguishers need to be red in colour. So by next year, we will start customising fire extinguishers for homes, where they can choose designs like marble finish texture and so on. They can keep it at the bar or in the kitchen. The idea is to create an art piece that also extinguishes fire, and looks good at home!

Q. What do you have to say about design and aesthetic knowledge in India?
I’m actually trying to change the perception of aesthetics here in India. It is improving now with maker’s spaces coming up in India in a big way. Aesthetic knowledge in India is very theoretical.We have one of the strongest educational systems and a very strong base, but we are not well versed with the latest technologies. So when designers graduate from colleges, they understand only the theory of design, not the practicality of it. This is what I’m trying to change, and it is a long journey.

Q. You worked in corporate firms and now you are an entrepreneur. Any differences?
When running your own business, you understand how hard it is to manage people. I understand my boss now. I understand now why my boss would shout at me when I couldn’t deliver something on time.

Q. As an entrepreneur, what is your take on the concept of work-life balance?
Ethically speaking, there should be a balance, but let’s face it, saying it is always easier than doing it. It never happens. Even when I have consciously tried not to think about work, my mind is constantly engaged.

Q. As an entrepreneur what is your learning when it comes to managing a team?
When you are working alone, you get everything your way. But everyone cannot function in that way. You get used to doing things in a certain way and with a new person on board, the way of doing things can get disrupted and that can get uncomfortable. Being a boss, you have to be very open and give your workforce a chance to experiment. If you don’t, you’re not a good boss.
Being rigid hampers the functioning of a business. And everybody cannot perform the way you want them to. They will have a different speed, a different view and a different vision to execute a plan. I learned the hard way that you have to give them a chance to make mistakes, so that they learn from it and improve how they work. They may be better than you or worse, but at the end of the day, you can only know which after you delegate the responsibility.

Q. What is your take on management education? Do you think it is essential in running a business?
Management education is important. I come from an aesthetic background and as an artist we don’t think straight! We don’t think business, profits and so on. We think of spending 40 paisa and make sure it comes out beautifully.
I have a theory that a management student likes to figure out and organise everything into a structure, without making mistakes, but we as artists love to make mistakes and innovate.Thus, I feel a company should always have one risk taking guy and a management guy who is going to ask questions on every spending and functioning of the company, and that is how a beautiful relationship develops where founders can explore different fields together.

Q. What advice would you give to future entrepreneurs?
Start something of your own only if you are dead sure of it, and always be sure of what you really want to do, and who you will involve in your venture. I have seen many people giving up, and many others keeping backups. They think they will try for a year and do something else if it does not succeed to their expectation. Let me tell you: It doesn’t work that way. You have to dive into the pool and that’s it. That is the only way that you can get something done. If you have a backup, then you know you won’t jump. Don’t hold back, give it your all. You have to give part of your life to it, so that the rest of your life is sorted.