In May, six-year-old startup Anchanto received huge fundings from two big-time investors, the Luxasia Group and TransCosmos Inc Japan. Its Indian founder, Vaibhav Dabhade, rejoiced for his baby, an e-commerce and logistics platform that helps brands start and operate their e-commerce business. Among these brands include names familiar to the everyday Singaporean: L'Oreal, Garnier and Lazada.
Headquartered at The Co. at High Street, Anchanto houses less than 10 employees in Singapore, with close to around 70 people stationed in Pune, India. Part of our interview series on people at the co-working space, we hear from the entrepreneur on life lessons he's borrowed from his family, as well as why Singapore's a hotbed for startup activity.
What's behind the name Anchanto? When I was thinking to start a company, I wanted to build something which is very enchanting — a magical experience.
Have you always wanted to do a start-up? I wanted to build something from scratch. That was more of an ambition at the very start. I come from a very entrepreneurial family. My grandfather started a logistics business, and my father started a business. In fact, in my whole family, we all have our own businesses started from scratch. What characteristics do think you have in common with your family members that have set you ona similar entrepreneurial path? Ambition is one. Second is a mindset in the family that it's okay to not do the routine thing. You get a lot of moral support from your family members who are comfortable with you quitting your regular job and going to a startup. Not many families are supportive of this idea. People are too concerned about what will happen to next month's bill payments and stuff, and I was lucky that I come from a family where taking a risk is very normal and accepted.
What are some of the important lessons that you learned from your father and grandfather in their startups? I have always seen them working hard. I've never got anything easy. The mentality of the family is that if you want to get something, your hard work matters. I've seen my family struggling in the business, and I've seen them never giving up. I wasn't born with a silver spoon; I was born with no spoon, in the Singapore context. Another thing is to be humble, and that also goes quite deep with Anchanto. We have a lot of ambition as a company. We want to punch above our weight, for sure, but we want to remain humble.
Why did you decide to base your business in Singapore? In what ways is Singapore a healthy space for start ups? Before starting Anchanto, I was based in Singapore so this was a natural choice. But what makes Singapore a better place for starting a business? Things are fast here. You can register a company online and do it in a few moments. There's an eco system — the help is there, the incubators are there. You have a gathering of like-minded people so you don't sit alone and be too depressed. Entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey — there are months of tears and sweat and black holes. Singapore has so many government schemes to help entrepreneurs build businesses. This is not present in Jakarta, Bangkok or Bangalore for example. When you go out in the market as a Singapore company, you get a lot of respect. People trust you and you can demand a premium price.
Like what you said, it's quite lonely to be an entrepreneur. Was there ever a time where you wanted to give up? Oh, many times. If I put a dollar in my piggy bank every time I feel like giving up, I would have at least few hundred dollars for sure. It's lonely alright, but I think you have to think about why you started this in the first place and you go back to the basics and that ambition keeps you moving forward. Those buildings in the CBD inspired me — those that were built on reclaimed land and took a lot of effort. Painful times went into building those businesses there. So to answer your question here — many times.
You were talking about ambition and how you're driven by it. What was your ambition when you first started and has this evolved over time as your business grows? We're here to solve the problem for logistics companies. So that has not changed. The broad vision is the same, the positioning of the company has not changed, but the direction of the company has changed many times, and I think that's one of the best things to happen to the company. We never stopped when we hit a wall. But overall, why I started Anchanto six years back was to build a global business from scratch.
Away from the business, your interests lie in graphic design, painting and the arts. Do these interests influence your work in any way or is it totally separate? I've poked my nose too much into graphic designing for the user interface. I prefer it clear, to the point, crisp and consistent. So yes, it does influence my work for sure. If I see a report that's not well manifested, I tend to work on it and change it because when you use the idea that's worth discussing, the way you present it matters, and the presentation is about design and graphics. Lastly, is there a quote that you live by? Not really... Oh, but my team is prompting me from behind. "A dare to dream".
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