Sramana: What was your next step? Was your first store a proof of concept to raise more money?
Manish Sharma: I had enough money to do something else, but not enough for an entirely new shop. I decided to put up a smaller shop inside a larger store. I clearly identified the demand and need and that shop was very successful. That second shop gave me a huge amount of flexibility in Bangalore.
Sramana: What did you do after you had your second successful shop?
Manish Sharma: At that point, I knew I had to raise money and scale the store. It took me about a year and a half to open the second store after I had opened the first store. I started working on the business plan in March of 2005. I finalized my business plan in about 6 months. Within about a year and a half of starting the business plan, I raised my first seed money.
Sramana: When it came time to raising institutional funds, how much money did you raise?
Manish Sharma: We raised 2 or 3 crore rupees. It was not a big round because we raised the money from Seedfund and it was not a big fund. It was a $10 million fund and they could not invest more than 5% of their portfolio into a company.
Sramana: How many more stores were you able to open? What did you accomplish with that funding?
Manish Sharma: In reality, I needed a lot more money than was available but I was able to put up a couple of more stores. As soon as I had the next two stores up and running, I started looking for more money. We had a hub and spoke model concept where we did a lot of the printing at a central location. We built our team at that location. Within a year, I was able to raise money from Sequoia.
Sramana: How much money were you able to raise from Sequoia?
Manish Sharma: We raised $4 million.
Sramana: What kind of scale have you achieved now?
Manish Sharma: We are still a small company. We have 16 stores now, 15 of which are in Bangalore. We have been cash flow positive for three years. Last year was my first tax positive year as well. We are now preparing for our next phase of growth.
Sramana: This is a very interesting story. I imagine at this point it should be relatively easy to get capital to scale your business and I am sure you are in the process of doing that. I am looking forward to following your continued success.