Entrepreneur: Abir Rajkhowa
Business Name: Kadence
Welcome to #eoindia #startupstories Episode 42.
An engineer turned musical instrument manufacturer – it is fair to say that Kadence co-founder Abir Rajkhowa (@abirrajkhowa) has been on a journey! After returning from Europe Abir followed the path of many young Indians returning from abroad – by getting a good job and trying to settle into professional life.
But like many entrepreneurs, Abir had the desire to do something more, something that combined his passion and skills. For Abir, this was the music industry and in particular -meeting a gap in the market by providing quality musical instruments at a reasonable cost.
Joining forces with his friend Siddhartha, Abir founded the music instrument – Kadence.
Kadence comes from the English word “Cadence” which means rhythm. Why? “Because we believe that it is music that adds rhythm to all our life. Our mission is to make music a part of everyone’s life- the young, or the seasoned, the bathroom singers, or the performers, the off-tune or in-tune, the shy, the livewires. Whoever you are, Kadence is here to help you explore your musical side.”
Kadence produces quality musical instruments at an affordable price. As Abir says “We do this by crafting precision musical instruments that give you the freedom to explore without the constant worry of high costs that have come to be associated with quality musical instruments.”
So let’s find our more, Abir, welcome to EO India Startup stories…
1) How did you get your idea for this business?
No matter where I was or what I was doing in life, music was a constant source of both calm and energy for me.
It gave me the confidence when I was a geeky teenager trying to find his place, it helped me beat the stress of engineering workload during college and stayed with me as I struggled to see the reason in continuing to work abroad in France doing something I didn’t enjoy.
When I came back to India I was trying to find my place; working in IT, real estate, and engineering. It wasn’t until I talked to my brother’s friend Siddhartha (now Kadence’s co-founder) that I realized that there was actually a big gap in the market.
I saw that people basically had two choices, get lower quality instruments and equipment, or get the good stuff, but pay a lot of money.
Because I was so personally invested in the music space I wanted to make sure that people who are excited by music not only got the goods they needed, but a community of artists to support them no matter how they engaged with the arts — as a hobby, or as a profession.
Siddhartha and I were able to bring our different skill sets together to found Kadence.
2) Why is “now” a good time for this idea to exist?
The creative space in India is undergoing a sort of a Renaissance right now. Finally, people see becoming a musician or a filmmaker as a viable alternative to more “traditional” professions like engineering or medicine.
We have always had a lot of talent in India, but social media has given the home musician the platform to be able to share his or her talent with the world. This was never seen or heard of before.
Kadence is here to help those musicians pursue their passion by making sure they can access the instruments, recording equipment, and social support without having to bankrupt themselves.
3) What was the reaction from your family when you first decided to become an entrepreneur?
My mom and dad are like a lot of people’s parents — supportive of my endeavours, but also worried about me making enough money to eat and pay off my student loans.
I’d studied to be an engineer, so the decision for me to start a business, I knew, wasn’t the easiest thing to swallow for two people who were scientists and government workers.
They, like any parents would, were worried I wouldn’t have enough money to eat by the end of the first month. They were nervous, but they saw the passion I have for what I do, and have been supportive of me throughout.
Another very supportive person in my life is my cousin-brother. When I first came back to India from Europe I was feeling quite lost.
He showed me that I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone and that I can go and do something that I truly enjoy. Without him, I’d still probably be doing something I didn’t like to make ends meet, and I attribute a lot of my success to his advice.
4) What was your biggest mistake in business and what did you learn from it?
In business I don’t think you make mistakes, you make decisions.
You make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time–sometimes it’s the right one, and sometimes it requires you to adjust your thinking and try a new approach, much like adjusting the sails when steering a boat.
What I’ve learned from that though, is that none of us can let ourselves be defined by our “should have, would have, could have” moments. When you make a decision, you learn what you can from it, evolve, and apply that knowledge the next time.
Beating yourself up over something you didn’t do as well as you would’ve liked doesn’t help you grow–reflecting and moving forward does.
5) What is your biggest obstacle in the next 12 months and how will you overcome it?
We believe musicians, no matter where they’re from, should have the same opportunity to make music part of their lives.
We want all our customers to get the same access to our instruments, equipment, and the Kadence Xperience platform we provide to help people showcase their talent. But with a country as geographically, culturally and socially diverse as India, this is easier said than done.
Our customer experience is what drives us and sets us apart, so we are focused on providing the best of any brand out there.
Kadence is based in Bangalore, so most of our activities have centred in South India until now.
However, we hope that by building brand loyalty across India through our customer service and Kadence Xperience platform, it will allow us to successfully expand to some of the “harder to crack” markets.
We are still learning and growing. For example, we want to be true to our musical roots and make sure we also make our brand accessible in rural areas. I believe part of being a good business is listening to feedback.
Since we can’t possibly know everyone’s individual experience, we encourage customers to get in touch with us. If you have an idea for how to make music more accessible in your community, we’d love to hear from you.
6) What habits contribute to your success?
My habits would probably surprise a lot of people, because they are pretty much exactly contrary to what all the books on these subjects say to do.
I’m a late sleeper, I skip breakfast, and I only exercise if someone drags me and even then, I still try to escape.
But, something I do that I think everyone should, is to surround myself with a team of allies. These aren’t just business partners or teammates but also people in my personal life.
If I’m stuck on a problem, or I have a really frustrating day at work, I have people to talk about it with, and help see from multiple perspectives.
I’d recommend that anyone who is looking to start something new takes the time to surround themselves with a solid support system.
7) If you had the opportunity to start this business again what would you do differently?
To be honest, I would’ve started it sooner. Without sounding full of myself, I spent a lot of time doubting my own self worth, and I doubted my ability to actually build a brand.
As a result I spent a bunch of time doing things that didn’t bring me fulfillment or joy. I’ve learnt a lot of different things from each of those experiences, but I would’ve preferred to choose what brings me the most happiness from the start.
Once I realized how much I enjoyed having something of my own, I actively looked for, and kept myself open to other opportunities that came my way.
I actually have a second business, I am Co Founder of First Leap Studio, an interior design firm that also holds a franchise for one of the fastest growing modular furniture brands in India. I am currently in talks to open additional new businesses in 2018.
8) What is your favourite inspirational quote?
For those about to rock, we salute you.
9) Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in people and things that challenge me to think differently about something, or see it in a new light.
The people who inspire me could be famous people I see on TV or even my own family, friends or business partners. It inspires me when I hear about their struggles, see their wins and losses and their difficult journey to achieving their goals.
10) What is your favourite book?
I like fiction and fantasy because it stretches my brain to create faces, scenarios, an entire movie with just the use of a pen. If that’s not mind control I don’t know what is.
It’s hard for me to pick just one, but the latest book I can’t put down is Origin by Dan Brown.
11) What advice would you give to someone starting out?
“Ab paani mein utar gaye ho toh tairna to parega hi” – “Well now that you’re in the water the only way out is to swim through”.
In clearer terms — once you’ve made the decision, go for it with everything you’ve got.
Do your research, talk to your contacts, but don’t think about it so much that you never actually follow your dream.
Until you get “down in the dirt” you will not know if there actually are diamonds to be found.
Success comes down to how much of yourself are you ready to give to see your vision through. Who knows, one day you may change the world.
The creative arts are definitely undergoing a resurgence right now and we expect to be featuring more startups from the creative world. If that is you – Get In Touch!
One of the great methods of Kadence, which they mention briefly in the interview, is their decision to build loyalty and community around their brand using the Kadence Experience platform. This is a great move as not only does it build brand loyality, but also spreads recognition of the brand to new customers.
We wish Kadence and Abir great success as they take India by storm with their excellent instruments.
Also check out Abir’s recommended book below: