The sibling dairies: Chronicles of start-ups founded by brother-sister duos

Vowing to always love and protect each other…this is the very essence of Raksha Bandhan. SME Futures is celebrating it this year by bringing out the stories of partnerships, start-ups and business enterprises helmed by brother-sister duos.

   
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72,993 is the number of start-ups that India is expecting to have by the end of 2022. With the rate of growth that the country is experiencing, one thing is certain: India’s entrepreneurial culture is thriving. Certainly, there is no dearth of ambitious and innovative founders and entrepreneurs here. Many of these companies are founded by siblings or cousins. With their innovative business models, many of these new-age start-ups founded by brother-sister duos as partners are disrupting the markets.

Meanwhile, there’s another aspect that we can’t ignore—business partnerships among family members. Doing business with family members has its own set of benefits, such as comfort, understanding, transparency and trust. However, it has a few disadvantages as well, such as conflicts and resentments in relationships.

On the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, SME Futures spoke with a few sibling founders to better understand the dynamic between brother-sister business partners and to bring their fascinating stories forward.

From running together to running a company together 

Neha Mathur from Lucknow never imagined that one day she would hold the title of a “founder.” Her brother Prasoon Mathur, older than her by two years, was a professional photographer and used to regale her with stories from his event shoots, which piqued Neha’s interest. She began managing events at the age of 17, and in 2019, she co-founded Eventlope, an events company with him.  

Now 23, she believes that God had planned all this. “We had never considered starting a business or pursuing a career in the events industry, because we both come from completely different academic backgrounds,” she reminisces.

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However, as she participated in many events during her college years, she gradually discovered her interest in event management. But still, entrepreneurship in the same field was not on her mind.

It all started when Neha organised a social event for senior citizens on Elder’s Day at the Aastha Old Age Home, which was followed by her first big event, which garnered her more fame and brought her in contact with a lot of celebrities. These programmes were successful. At that time, her brother was working with Star Plus as an assistant director in Mumbai, she tells us.

On his return home, the sibling duo decided to collaborate and run an events company together. Which gave birth to Eventlope: Unfold the Magic—their events start-up. “I thought, why not open our own events company, after successfully organising so many events. As we both have different capabilities, expertise, ideas, and experiences. At that time our mother was also not well, and our father was posted outside Lucknow. So, we decided to start from our own city,” she tells us.   

Their company has grown multifold since 2019. According to Neha, the company’s turnover has risen from Rs 5 lakhs initially to around Rs 25 lakhs currently.

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Talking about the challenges that they face; Neha says that people often do not take them seriously because of their youth. Also, people not understanding the difference between event planners and decorators or even tentwallah’s, is another challenge that the Mathur’s have been facing.

“We have heard a 100 no’s and one yes, many times, but that one yes still makes us happy and satisfied,” she says.

As the sibling co-founder, Neha says its 50-50 when it comes to work ethics. “Yes, it’s both difficult and easy to work with your sibling. We do fight, but at the same time, we know how to work together,” she asserts.

Neha believes that they have a different dynamic together, as she feels that it is not only a brother’s responsibility to take care of his sister. “In our case, I’m like an older sister to him, as it’s in my nature to come forward and take care and take responsibility,” Neha shares with us.   

Everyday feels like Rakhi 

Sanya Goel and Mayank Agarwal—this Delhi based sister-brother duo have redefined diesel retailing with their disruptive doorstep diesel delivery service—Humsafar India.

They both followed in their family’s footsteps, just like the three generations before them did—into fuel retail. Having observed the fuel-retail business closely during their growing up years, in 2016 the siblings began ambitiously with loyalty programmes for customers who were visiting retail outlets for fuel. They tried to explore the various ways in which technology could bring about more efficiency in their operations.

In 2017, an amendment to the petroleum regulation gave them wings. In 2019, in line with safety commitments, they launched Bowser Fabrication services to help create a safe environment for the transportation of fuel with Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) certified bowsers, Sanya Goel, Humsafar India’s co-founder tells us. “We then developed our proprietary mobile app that made it easy for customers to place orders for the doorstep delivery of diesel,” she says.   

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Sanya further informs us that Humsafar witnessed remarkable growth during the pandemic period. Their start-up earned Rs 3.8 crores initially and reached Rs.18 crores in 2020. In 2021, it registered a revenue of Rs. 28 crores. The company is completely bootstrapped since its inception and has plans to establish a pan-India presence. Currently they have a presence in 25 states and are looking at entering the non-metro cities and smaller towns along with raising venture capital to achieve 10x growth, says Sanya.

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When it comes to the bond between them and working together as entrepreneurs, Sanya describes her brother and co-founder Mayank as a business genius. “He is great with numbers and knows the ins and outs of the business thoroughly,” she says while anointing herself as the more creative one. Even though they have different mindsets, this sibling duo claim to have a very amicable relationship and barely any conflicts.  

“Since we spend so much time together at work, every day feels like Rakhi. It’s truly a blessing to feel close to your sibling and be able to build something together,” Goel declares as she speaks about one of her favourite festivals, Raksha Bandhan.  

Enjoying entrepreneurship 

The next sibling duo are first-time entrepreneurs. They have co-founded MuLive, a start-up that provides co-living spaces. Wherein the residents do not have to worry about anything from food to housekeeping to Wi-Fi to fussy landlords.

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It was the brainchild of two siblings, Aahat M. Sharma and Akhand Mehta, who were staying in a luxury co-living space in London and wanted to bring that luxury to their home country.

“So, the idea was pretty simple, to provide a space to the residents who are moving base. An accommodation, facilities and services that we as the founders would be comfortable and happy with,” says Aahat M Sharma.   

As first-time entrepreneurs, they also faced challenges while trying to take their venture off the ground. To begin with, they didn’t know where to begin because there is so much that goes into building and launching something from scratch. Aahat tells us that scouting for appropriate properties that met their standards, finding employees with zeal and dedication, and managing the finances, especially during the pandemic, were some of the challenges that kept them sweating.  

However, they always had each other.

“We loved the hustle of looking for appropriate properties, doing them up and hiring staff members that shared our mindset. It was truly a ride that we enjoyed and learned a lot from,” Aahat reminisces. 

MuLive has recently formed B2B housing partnerships with several institutions and corporations. “A B2C mode of operations will always be on the table, with extensive footprints in Delhi NCR by next year,” says the co-founder.

Aahat tells us that she enjoys working along with her family. She says that working together to build something from the ground up and seeing it flourish is a surreal feeling. “We are grateful to be there to witness it,” she says. However, because all siblings have a few differences, they all need one common ground to stand on, and for this pair, that ground is their mother. “Our mother, Ritu D. Mehta, is a pillar of strength in both our personal and professional lives, ensuring that both of us are always cordial and focused on the bigger picture,” she tells us.

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Unlike others, this brother-sister duo prefers to cherish and uplift each other throughout the year rather than just on one specific day. “Raksha Bandhan is just like any other day for us. We’re very close as siblings and are always there for each other through life’s ups and downs. Now that we’re also professional partners, it’s like the icing on the cake,” Aahat avers.

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Entrepreneurship is in their bloodstream 

Jisora—a clothing line, is run by a group of cousins.

Kavya Sethi (18 years), Mehul Sethi (19 years), Tushar Sethi (20 years), and Khushboo Sethi (24 years) founded Jisora, carrying on the legacy of a Jaipur-based family of entrepreneurs who have been in the clothing business for over 35 years.

Being in the clothing business, they realised that buying comfortable clothing was the most common change in people’s fashion habits during the pandemic, which led to the creation of Jisora.

The team defines their brand Jisora as a clothing line that fills in the gap between the two kinds of women’s clothing that is either fashionable western wear or traditional ethnic wear. “There was little that brought both the worlds together. To fill the gap in the current market, we launched Jisora at the end of 2020,” says the Jisora team.  

The cousins see each other as the four pillars of this organization. “Kavya is the company’s channel to its market and handles HR, customer relationships, and business development. Tushar is a self-taught artist and designer and also leads the production team. Mehul is in charge of the company’s technical and financial operations. Khushboo is a self-taught designer in addition to leading the marketing team,” they tell us.

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Talking about the unique name of their brand, the cousins tell us that they got it from their Daadi, their grandmother. “We were thinking of a brand name. Our daadi keeps saying Jisora. In Marwari Jisora means satisfaction. We suddenly got the idea of keeping that as our name, and consumer satisfaction has always been at the core of our brand,” the team says.

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Jisora began selling on e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Ajio and launched their D2C website after understanding the market thoroughly. On average, they launch 40-50 new designs per month. With an initial investment of Rs 25 lakhs, the brand claims to have earned Rs 12 crores in revenue in its first year and has a customer retention rate of nearly 40 per cent.

Talking about the bond that they share, they say that brother-sister fights are inevitable, but the bond remains as it is.

“There are unreasonable fights between brothers and sisters, but eventually, it’s their bond that grows stronger day by day, and it is this togetherness that helps us run a successful business,” they say. 

For them Raksha Bandhan has always been special.

“Since we started working together, Raksha Bandhan has become more special to us,” says the team as it has always been a day to celebrate the love and respect that they have for each other.  

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This special bond makes for a successful business enterprise

As more and more millennials and Gen Zs take the leap towards entrepreneurship, siblings or close friends becoming co-founders is becoming increasingly common. It is their special bond with each other that makes their eventful entrepreneurial journeys bearable, fun, challenging and easy at the same time. India is also witnessing this trend a lot and we will keep sharing these inspiring entrepreneurship stories with you. Until then, keep reading SME Futures.