From Almost Nothing This Kolkata Entrepreneur Built a Graphic Designing Business That Employs 100 People Today
Pankaj Maloo, a young entrepreneur from Kolkata, attributes his astounding success to his burning desire to make it big.
The 39-year-old owner of Kreative Group — that runs the design firm Kreative Fingers Pvt. Ltd. and the digital marketing firm Kreative Machinez — has carved a niche for himself in graphic designing and online marketing.
Starting with one founding member and an order of only US$ 10 (Rs 650 approx) in 2005, his patience, hard work and dogged determination has led his company to an annual turnover of Rs 8 crore in 2016-17, with a staff strength of over 100.
With a loyal international client list of over 500, he has his eyes set on doubling that turnover in the next two years.
However, success wasn’t easy to come by for Pankaj.
Born on June 2, 1978 in Kolkata, he is the eldest of three children, with a younger brother and a sister.
“My father, (late) P.M. Maloo, was in the construction business,” narrates Pankaj.
Growing up in an average Indian middle class family set-up, Pankaj would dream big, and it is his belief in himself and his dreams that has led him to where he is today.
We sit in the spacious headquarters of Kreative Fingers at Bhowanipore in South Kolkata, talking about how it all started.
Pankaj completed his schooling from Shree Jain Vidyalaya in 1996 and went to Bhawanipur Education Society College, from where he graduated in commerce in 1999.
“During my school days, around 1995, I started to work as a trainee in a private CA firm in Kolkata,” recounts Pankaj. “I earned a stipend of Rs 300 per month which was enough to take care of my personal expenses. From early on, I had made up my mind to stand on my own feet and not to depend on my parents for any extra expenses.”
He could juggle between his job and his school as his was a morning school that got over around 11 am.
Later, while doing his graduation, he also enrolled himself for a CA course at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) in 1997 and completed it in 2002.
That year he also got married to Shashi, who is a homemaker. "Her support has been instrumental to my success," says Pankaj. The couple have two children, a son and a daughter.
In 2003, he joined a private firm as a CA at a monthly salary of Rs 12,500 but worked there only for six months.
Always looking to be an entrepreneur, in 2004, he set-up his own CA firm, called DPSV & Associates, along with four of his friends.
“We worked together for a year but then I realized this CA business was not my cup of tea and I decided to part ways,” says Pankaj. “I had noted that things were moving towards the IT sector and I thought it was better to try my luck there.”
After mulling over options for a few months, he decided to start a graphic designing firm. He always had a knack for good design and trusted in his ability to guide any designer he works with to produce quality work.
His decision came with one caveat: he would only cater to International clients.
“This was the time when outsourcing was really picking up,” explains Pankaj, “and I came across an online bidding platform called Rent A Coder that made me feel excited about exploring the opportunity of catering to international markets.”
He launched Kreative Fingers on March 1, 2005, along with his friend and sole founding member Nitesh Thapa.
“We had no cash,” laughs Pankaj, remembering the old days. “We didn’t even have the money to buy a computer, which was the basic requirement to start our business, but I was determined not to take any financial help from my father.”
Instead, he approached a computer seller and asked him for a computer on credit. “He trusted me and agreed,” says Pankaj, “and we purchased our first computer for Rs 25,000.”
Next, they needed a space to work out of. “My friend Vikas Choubey came to our rescue and offered a small room of 8 x 6 ft at his office in Bhowanipore,” recalls Pankaj. “He didn’t take any rent. So, my company started from that small room. But I was now the sole owner of a company!”
His dream had come true but business was hard to come by. His first order came within the first week but it was only of US$ 10.
“We had done extensive online promotion,” says Pankaj, “I still remember spending sleepless nights with my laptop always on. I immediately responded each time a customer approached us even during the night and we accepted the first assignment for 10 dollars - the task was to design banners.”
He was very clear from the very beginning that he wanted to work for international clients only. To achieve this, they participated in online bidding and contests through platforms like Upwork, Design Crowd and 99 Designs, and did extensive marketing on search engines like Google and Bing. Kreative Fingers still does work only for international clients.
“Reasonable rates and good quality of work helped us clinch more orders,” says Pankaj. “And soon, we started growing.”
Kreative Fingers achieved a turnover of Rs 4 lakh in the first year, 2005-06, and built up a client base of almost 100.
The first thing Pankaj did was to get a proper office: a 600 sq ft space at Ekbalpore, for a modest rent of Rs 4,000.
Then, in 2006, came the big break. Pankaj found a client based in Cairns, Australia, who in turn started outsourcing design work from other Australia-based clients to Kreative Fingers.
Soon they become partners and began receiving 8-10 orders per day and the monthly billing shot up to US$ 10,000-12,000 (Rs 6.5 lakh approx).
“We do logo designing together for a large number of clients,” explains Pankaj. “Till date we have designed more than 5,000 logos for his clients.”
In 2007, Pankaj shifted to a bigger office of 1600 sq ft at Tollygunge, at a monthly rent of Rs 15,000.
Then, as his business expanded, in February 2009 his brother Pramod Maloo, an MBA, joined the company and they launched their new wing, Kreative Machinez, a new firm that focused exclusively on digital marketing through social media platforms.
Kreative Machinez is a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) firm and together with Kreative Fingers, their turnover reached Rs 4 crore. They purchased their own office - a 2,500 sq ft space in Bhowanipore.
However, after this high came a sudden setback. In 2009-2010, the world economy crashed.
“We faced difficult times in 2010 and that continued for almost two years,” says Pankaj. “Because of the recession in the international market, our turnover dipped, though our expenses on staff and maintenance remained the same. It became a bit tough to run the company.”
The business started to pick up again after 2012 and they registered a 25 percent growth in 2014-15. The young entrepreneur says that he is now aiming at a turnover of Rs 20 crore by 2020.
For his achievements, Pankaj has been felicitated with Indian Leadership Award for Industrial Development by All India Achievers Foundation in 2015.
Pankaj has a rare blood group of 0 negative and is a regular blood donor, having donated blood over 40 times. He also organizes blood donation camps in the office twice a year, where his employees donate blood.
Today, Pankaj takes out time to mentor budding entrepreneurs and helps them realise their dreams. He wants to start graphic designing schools in the city to impart quality knowledge to budding graphic designers.
His mantra for the young generation: “Work hard, work smart. There is no shortcut to success.”
This Article is Part of the 'Amazing Entrepreneurs' Series
More Amazing Entrepreneurs