NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Chennai resident Lakshmi Narayanan R has grown about a thousand cacti in his terrace garden. You would think Narayanan, all of 24, is a professional gardener. He is, kind of – he’s sold several of his cacti, but Narayanan spends the better part of his day selling software to clients in Europe as part of his day job as an account manager with a major Indian software company.
Narayanan started selling cacti during the lockdown, when he found himself with about four hours of spare time in a day as he didn’t have to commute to work anymore. He isn’t the only one who’s turned entrepreneur on the side.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant extended lockdowns in the country have given birth to a whole new breed of professionals who now have a “side hustle” – something they’re passionate about but also makes them money on the side.
What is motivating them to take the plunge? For one, corporate employees suddenly found themselves with extra time due to reduced commute time during work-from-home. For others, a slew of job cuts within their friend circle raised questions about the long-term stability of their jobs.
For instance, Palak Garodia, a 23-year-old communications professional said she was spooked by a number of her friends who got laid off, some without even a notice period. Garodia launched her own nightwear brand in March with her mother. The idea had been in the works since last year, but it’s only after Garodia went back to her hometown of Siliguri before the lockdown that it took off.
Business has grown 60% since March, and Garodia now has plans to create a website and start selling on e-commerce platforms in a few months. “I never thought I could be an entrepreneur,” she said. “Having my own business has given me a lot of confidence.”
It’s not just (relatively) mundane products like cacti and nightwear. Digital marketing professional Saloni Jain makes resin-based coasters, trays and mantle pieces that combine her love of art along with crystal therapy and Reiki healing. Jain customises the pieces, which can cost between Rs.400 to Rs.1 lakh, based on a person’s zodiac and claims they have therapeutic benefits.
These professionals say that family has played a huge role in encouraging them to take risks that are both financial and mental.“I have been an art fanatic since childhood. I was getting restless during the lockdown, so I tried to understand with my dad how to create art and mix healing with it,” said Jain.
Narayanan, who sells not just cacti, but also takes orders for custom wall art and hand-painted trinkets like pendants and fridge magnets, says, “I was very anxious and doubtful about whether it would work – family said just try it.”
Many said they would be open to doing this full-time if it turned out to be lucrative enough. There’s also the joy of being able to monetise what they’re passionate about.
“When I got the payment for the first painting I sold, I was happier than even when I got my first salary,” says Srishti Singh, a 25-year-old Bilaspur resident who recently started selling her paintings through Instagram. Singh landed a job as a product manager with a leading phone manufacturer after her MBA this year, and has even run a start-up earlier, but it’s her hobby that gives her the most satisfaction. She’s even starting a YouTube channel on art now.
It’s not just youngsters in their 20s who are interested in a side hustle. Paromita Biswas, a 35-year-old human resource professional, recently registered her venture, through which she sells hand-painted clay objects like pots, planters and lamps. Singh says that she’s looking forward to leaving her job and doing this full-time if the venture is successful enough in the next 2-3 years.