How an aeronautical engineer made India’s gifting tradition into a multi-crore business?

Hailing from a prosperous family in Rajasthan, Tarun studied aeronautical engineering in Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh.

Staff ReporterUpdated: Thursday, September 22, 2022, 04:40 PM IST
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From an aeronautical engineer to founding a startup that sells context-based gifting goods, Tarun Joshi’s journey of entrepreneurship is riddled with unrelated milestones. He acquired IGP - an online retail company of personalized gifting products in 2012.

Hailing from a prosperous family in Rajasthan, Tarun studied aeronautical engineering in Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh. He began his career with Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) where he designed products for the multi-role light fighter jet Tejas. He thoroughly enjoyed the process since it gave him a chance to be part of creating something from scratch. He remained with the DRDO from 1998-2002 but since most of the innovation part was over, he found it hard to continue.

Tarun went on to pursue MBA from ISB Hyderabad. Upon placement, he joined the Citi Bank where he got another chance to be part of an innovation. “I designed a biometric ATM for them in 2005. Little did I know that the thumb print design of that time would become a standard security feature in the future. The company launched the biometric ATM in six commercial places,” he says.

This is where he realized he could get around commercial enterprises easily in the private equity world since he was then working on a private equity set up CVC (Citi Venture Capital). He then moved to a European fund called 3i (based out of the UK) to lead their private equity business in India.

Acquiring an existing business

Tarun and his team at 3i managed to invest close to $ 1 billion in the course of nine years. It was during this time that he honed his business acumen and identified private gifting as a great place to start and innovate.

“Yes, we have Amazon and its crazy number of daily orders. But, I realized, personalized gifting is still a rage in India and it is also a sector where little innovation has been attempted,” he shares.

By then, as a majority investor for 3i group in India Gifts Portal (IGP), Tarun had also identified the potential of this multi-category gifting company.

So instead of starting a gifting business from scratch, he offered to buy out IGP. Tarun Joshi acquired IGP in 2012 for INR 30 crore. Before the acquisition, IGP was a unit of a B2B online platform for SMEs, IndiaMART.

Indian handicrafts get listed

Though Tarun’s mother worked at the World Bank earlier, she founded an NGO that creates handicrafts by channeling 2,000 artisans from all across India. Many of these handmade pieces were listed on IGP’s portal. As a result, IGP’s product offerings multiplied and the company managed to create a revenue of INR 60 crore in the next six years while opening four offices in India and one in California.

“When I started out, I was confident the business was going to grow to INR 20 crore in the first year. We achieved that. Similarly, over the next 4-5 years, we should be close to ₹200 crore. We have a clear growth strategy,” he adds.

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