When you meet Ritika for the first time, you’ll be pleased with her friendly smile and soft speech. As and when you get to know her better, you’ll find in her an able entrepreneur with strong business skills. Ritika, along with her husband Deepak Gupta and Neha Bhatnagar, runs a unique ‘kids focused company’ by the name of Friendly Toyz that is driven by mothers and has its network across Delhi/NCR, Hydrabad, Kolkata and is fast expanding elsewhere.
Friendly Toyz offers for kids toys as a service, customized wallpapers and return gifts. It also conducts talent workshops. The concept of Friendly Toyz is interesting and unique enough that intrigued me to discuss with Ritika her journey with it so far. I thank Ritika for being supportive and being a part of Guftagoo. Following is the conversation with Ritika, the Chief Smile Officer of Friendly Toyz.
NaSa: Ritika, you’re title is as uncommon as the concept of Friendly Toyz. How did you reach at it?
Ritika: Our main focus is kids and their happiness. We want to see their faces smiling and shining and we see our aim fulfilling when we deliver toys at their door steps. That’s why we thought of not keeping the clichéd titles and trying something that better explains our business.
NaSa. Ritika, you are an entrepreneur, something that is considered one of the parameters of women empowerment. Did you always aim to be an entrepreneur? If not, how did you happen to be one?
Ritika: Being an MBA in finance, empowered with close to 7 years of rewarding corporate experience with Yes Bank, Goldman Sachs and Kotak, I didn’t really think then that the entrepreneurial bug is going to bite me soon! Sometimes things just happen suddenly. Never really aimed for it but it just happened! Friendlytoyz.com was a result of a combination of a great founding team (Ritika Gupta, Neha Bhatnagar, Deepak Gupta) coming together, the birth of a great idea and the tenacity to keep pulling along.
NaSa. What is Friendly Toyz all about and when did you start with it?
Ritika: Friendlytoyz.com started as a first of its kind ‘Toys as a service’ in 2012 with the objective of providing children with the right toys at the right age for their skill development. We wanted to make the whole experience hassle free and easy on the pocket for parents, while keeping children productively occupied. What started as a local service in Faridabad, very soon became the service of choice across Delhi/NCR. Be it free home delivery, automatic exchange of toys without you having to take the onus to call/visit us, flexibility of service postponement, detailed instruction sheet with every toy delivered that helps you understand how that toy is going to help your child, customized toy jackets that keep our toys safest and cleanest or easy to understand & economical subscription plans, we strive to make your experience truly memorable while providing best value for money. In 2014, we took over our biggest competitor in Gurgaon – Toypedia, to become the largest toy library in Delhi/NCR in terms of subscribers as well as toy collection. In less than a year’s time we acquired another Gurgaon based toy library – Khilona. As our member base kept increasing and so did the pats on our back for offering a great service, we ventured into providing some amazing return gifts for birthday parties, customized wallpapers for kids rooms and interesting workshops for children. To add to that we got into printing of wrapping papers and party balloons too. All these products are available all across India today! We have recently launched Play Zones for Parties where we set up a play zone of big and bulky toys for birthday parties or any other get together. In the course of this exciting journey, we have come to work closely with Moms who have taken the bold decision to quit their jobs to stay at home with their little ones. We salute their focus & dedication towards their children! It’s our ongoing endeavour to build a Mothers’ Co-operative Network where Moms can utilize their talent & skills with flexible, entrepreneurial work options. Some stay at home and write for us, some create unique products for us that are sold on our portal as return gifts, some push sales & marketing and so on…We started our multi city operations in Kolkata and are now in talks with several Moms across India to take up franchisees and become FT Mompreneurs. Our first franchisee went live in Hyderabad (2015Q3). Our vision is to build a company that brings together the coolest products & services for kids, provides best value for money & saves time for parents, and is run by Moms. And who knows kids better than a Mom?
NaSa. Who conceptualised Friendly Toyz and named it so?
Ritika: By my husband, Deepak! The concept of subscribing to toys like we do a magazine or a newspaper was really the starting point. The name perfectly fitted the concept which is skill-development friendly, time friendly, pocket friendly, space friendly and eco-friendly.
NaSa. The idea of renting a toy is unique in the society we live. Was it accepted and welcomed at its onset? If not, how long it took to be popular?
Ritika: Everybody appreciated the idea as it is unique. This is the future of the world where a lot of products will be consumed as service through a pay per use model. Yes, it was challenging to find early adopters but as the concept is growing, we are entering into the early majority phase.
NaSa. Off late, we see a lot of business is happening on social networking sites and even Friendly Toyz have a significant presence over there. Was it always like that since the beginning? If not, tell us how did you go about marketing Friendly initially? Also tell us what medium of marketing proves to be rewarding practically?
Ritika: We started with a lot of offline marketing but we have toned it down significantly and have invested in online marketing (social media). Within online too, we focussed quite a bit on inorganic growth(paid promotions) earlier, but now our focus is on organic growth (blogging, online events, articles etc.) to get better quality of likes and high engagement levels rather than just the numbers.
NaSa. I am aware of the fact that you are a mother. Is being in the business of toys same as being in any other business? If not, how is it different? And does it make things easier or tougher for a mom?
Ritika: Not sure if I can compare my business with any other. I can surely say that it is great to be a mom and be in the business that is focussed on kids. Actually, it really helps if you are the consumer of the product you sell. Your understanding of the customer is far deeper and helps you make the offering customer friendly. You can empathise and make improvements accordingly.
NaSa. Though, I am no entrepreneur but know that setting up something new takes a lot. The Tatas, theBirlas andthe Ambanis all have one or more interesting incidences of their struggle period. It would be great if you share any interesting experience or the one that taught you something important during the initial days of Friendly Toyz.
Ritika: Our business is very customer focused. Timely delivery of toys (as children wait for the toyman every week) and toy cleanliness are top priority for us. Managing manpower issue is probably our biggest challenge! To have back up plans is very crucial in this space.
NaSa: After having this discussion about Friendly Toyz, let’s talk about some friendly (read casual) things. Which movie did you watch lately?
Ritika: Bajirao Mastaani 🙂
NaSa. Who are your favourite Bollywood actors and/or Hollywood actors?
Ritika: Shah Rukh Khan – my all-time favorite!
NaSa. I am sure you wouldn’t find much time to watch TV but when you do, what do you like to watch?
Ritika: Educational DVDs (ETL English Time DVDs) with my son!! That’s what I enjoy most these days 🙂
NaSa. Somehow, your personality suggests that you like reading books. What was the last book you read? Also, suggest 3 of your all-time favourite books to us.
Ritika: The Secret (my favorite) by Rhonda Byrne, Every Business is a Growth Business by Ram Charan, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
More information on Friendly Toyz can be fetched at www.friendlytoyz.com