Entrepreneurs should not become egoistical with success, says Tanya Khanna

Epistle Communications
Tanya Khanna, Founder and Director, Epistle Communications

Mother of two young boys, Tanya Khanna founded Epistle Communications in the year 2011. Bridging the gap that exists between design, practice and business, Epistle Communications has created a niche in the Indian design industry where nothing like this existed and is proud to be furthering the cause of good design in the sub-continent, bringing the design to the forefront in an otherwise latent industry.  With a master degree in architecture, Tanya holds over a decade of global experience in Corporate Communications and Strategy within the AEC, real estate, design and media domain. She has helped design practices to garner worldwide media attention for key projects, new business acquisition, win awards and improve internal practices for sustained development. 

Here are a few excerpts from the interview where Tanya unfolded her Mompreneurial journey with HelloPost Team:

Tell us something about yourself and your company.

I am an architect, with a masters degree in architecture. I come from within the design industry and help design brands, studios and large practices alike. Through my role at Epistle, I have attempted to lay the foundation of what is a one-of-its-kind agency in India, facilitating the good design and bringing it forth on a global platform.

I have been instrumental in the field of design education in India and have written extensively for Indian & International media, with academic insight and communicative breadth alike. I have been the Editor for the FensterbauFrontale India Tabloid, focused on Facade and Fenestration Design in India, from 2014-2018. As a communications partner for GREHA, I have helped the urban design think tank promote disparate research works from architects and urban practitioners by successfully positioning them through the ‘Architecture and Society’ series, a renowned forum in New Delhi. Most recently, I have been advocating “Reading & Talking Architecture”, part of a lifelong investigation that will hopefully find fruition soon.

What inspired you to start your own venture?

Indian design practices have traditionally shied away from communication activities, persisting instead, in reclusive brilliance. However, in today’s globalized markets, creating opportunities for design as a business and facilitating it becomes crucial. In the current scenario of information overload, originality & creativity simply gets lost in the deluge of data produced globally. Securing visibility for good work greatly helps in fostering public appreciation, and the challenge was to change the notion that good design still speaks for itself. It was within this milieu, that I setup Epistle Communications, providing strategic communication consulting for design, architecture, built environment and allied industries.  By working closely with them, we create opportunities to showcase their work in appropriate forums and bringing Indian design to global platforms.

How has been your entrepreneur journey so far?

I belong to a service-oriented family —running a business was not something I knew. Taking baby steps forward, I was fortunate to be able to start a business that did not need huge investments —just my time, efforts and honesty. After six months of no work, I found my first client. I started from my living room, all alone, working day and night, and soon moved to a seat in a shared office. I never had to worry about office space, infrastructure and finances. However, I did face my share of impediments. From recruitment to payments, to deliver a good quality of work —it didn’t come without tears and heartache. But at no point, did I stop. The journey has been great —personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course, there have been ups and downs, and moments of heartache, when you wonder why you are doing it all. Looking back though, I don’t think I would have it any other way. I was lucky to have found mentors and garner support from friends and family, who helped in getting clarity and allowing me the opportunity to delve into this domain whole-heartedly and continue to do so. This is the reason I wake up each day, excited about the day ahead.

What were the initial challenges that you have faced in your journey?

I started Epistle in 2011 — It took about 6 months to get the first project. The early challenges have been to convince the design community in India of the value that we bring on board before we start. Once they start, of course, there is no looking back and we work in sync with them. Occasionally we have had moments when the clients don’t see the value in the financial investment that they are making. The nature of the industry is such, that the benefits of the cross-disciplinary, professional approach that we bring on board do not get recognized. As an entrepreneur, the struggles have been numerous. From setting up processes to HR to space —the logistics take over the bulk of the time. There was a time when I even operated out of my parents’ home while they were out of the country and there was no place for me to sit in my own office. Many a time, it becomes too much — when one doesn’t get an opportunity to take a single day off, it is hard, and one wonders why. But faith in the overall commitment to an individual journey is what has kept me going. Also, in tough times, talking to people helps — there is a lot to learn from people around us.

What has been your biggest achievement in this journey?

Very often when I walk into office, I wonder if all this is a dream.

As someone who has been at both ends of the spectrum, the employee and the employer, my first instinct was to establish a culture for the organization which respects people first, even before clients. This has been of great value and we have managed to sustain great relationships, with people and clients. Through my role at Epistle, I have attempted to lay the foundation of what is a one-of-its-kind agency in India, facilitating the good design and bringing it forth on a global platform. We are a unique consultancy, catering to architects and designers pan-India — there is no one else in this domain. On a personal note, the fact that I have managed to sustain Epistle, and make it grow while having 2 kids along the way, is I think a big achievement.

What are the things that help you to stay organised?

The intent to stay organised — I know that my life cannot function if I don’t organise myself. My phone, laptop and a shared calendar with my husband are basics to the smooth functioning of our life.

What are your strategies for creating a work-life balance?

Taking one day off —for me, Sundays are sacred. I only address and plan for the week ahead on Sunday evenings, which makes me feel a bit relaxed. Also, I try and not worry too much about me-time; As long as I can balance work and life, I don’t have very high expectations. It’s okay if I haven’t seen a movie or followed the most popular TV show — I am content with what I can achieve, daily.

What keeps you motivated through ups and downs of both motherhood and entrepreneurship?

Small successes, a kind word from clients/family or when clients win awards and achieve success — and of course the success of the children — all demonstrate the fruit of my hard work. It’s enough to keep me motivated.

Who is your role model?

The people who I have worked with, current and old clients are all mentors, who have guided me, and continue to do. I learn from people around me — Be it my team, my family or ex-bosses. The real lessons of life come from the people around us, from experiences and from each other.

Please share some tips on how to achieve success as a mompreneur.

It is easier said than done- I would like to enforce lesser guilt and more flexibility —but if one is not hard on themselves — and focuses on getting a good job done — success cannot be far. Also, don’t say no to support; I don’t think we would have achieved half of what we have if I did not get the support from both my mother and mother-in-law, as well as my father and husband. It does take a village to raise a child and to run a business — which is as good as raising a baby.

Coming from essentially a services background, and no insights into entrepreneurship —it has been a huge learning curve — with multiple heartaches, sleepless nights and literally no holiday — even while expecting, I have not had a single day of maternity leave. But if I am honest to myself, I know it is only those hours of work that have resulted in success. Moving out of the comfort zone with no sight of success or monetary goals ahead is what entrepreneurship is.

What’s the one thing that you want your children to remember about you?

I think we cannot determine what our children will learn from us — The idea is to do the right thing so that even subconsciously, they imbibe values from us. That’s what I have learnt from my parents.

Life today, no matter at what juncture or domain we are in, allows us more exposure than our parents’ generations — opening up a multitude of opportunities. The pressure to succeed in our generation was immense —it made us resilient and hard-working, even if it was at the cost of not having as much fun. The learning, of course, has been immense too. Today, it is crucial for us to not overprotect the younger generations, and in our efforts to help them lead better lives than ours, allow them from sometimes learning the hard way.

Any recommendations to mothers who dream about being an entrepreneur.

Just start — don’t worry about how it will happen, and start on a yesterday basis. The world will make it work for you, while you gather all the support you can.

Entrepreneurs should not become egoistical with success, stay grounded, stay willing to learn. The learning never stops. The market is always changing and to believe that you have perfected it all simply through indicators of monetary success would be the biggest deterrent to growth. Believe in the value — add that the service is providing, and focus on the quality, rather than the tangible success of the business. Money is a by-product; if the business is successful and the clients have faith in your offerings, success is natural. On a more spiritual note — honesty and a focus on quality are what brings us trust from clients and more work. A good word always goes a long way.

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