I am Gokulraj GK. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from SRM University, Chennai. Post my under-graduation I pursed my Masters in Engineering Management from University of Texas, USA. I am the CEO of Hazel Notebooks and MadCap Stationery and Merchandise . We are a design focused team of people with a goal to design products in the stationery and merchandise industry that emulate the ego and emotion of the consumer.
Q – when did you begin your company?
I started MadCap in November 2016 and Hazel in September 2016. MadCap and Hazel is my third venture in my entrepreneurial journey. I run another venture in the name MyCopie wherein we design and retail notebooks targeting college students with our unique twist to the design, value proposition and the content of the notebook.
Q – who or what inspired you to begin this company?
My dad is my biggest inspiration in life. My goal in life is surmount him in being a successful entrepreneur. He is the most educated of 9 kids to my grandparents. At one point in time due to rifts with his parents and brothers, he was thrown out of their house when I was few months old. He and my mom stayed in a hut on the roof of a friend’s house for a week. With rain pouring down and the fact that they didn’t have any furniture, they were standing throughout the night swinging me in a temporary swing made from my mom’s saree.
From there he went to build multiple businesses in the fields of Finance, Automobiles, Textiles, Chemical and Computer Training. He retired few years back after selling his businesses since I wanted to create my own lineage. My drive is to surmount him in being successful since he has given me a platform to grow upon. I want to leave a legacy behind and make an impact in the industry that I operate in.
Q – What separates you from the other stationery companies out there?
The way we approach design and product development is what differentiates us from other stationery and merchandise companies. We develop our products keeping in mind the ego and emotion of our target consumers rather than the price point or the competitors. The positioning of our brand and the language we use to communicate to our audience is unique to us.
Q – What were the hurdles you faced when you began this company? your milestone journey.
I believe life is a marathon with hurdles of different sizes and shapes throughout the length of the marathon. The biggest hurdle I faced was to sell my vision and dream to my parents, relatives, wife and in-laws. In a cultural society like India, there’s still huge social pressure that every entrepreneur must overcome. He / She must answer not only his / her parents but also their relatives etc. The intertwined cultural stigma is slowly reducing but, for me that was the biggest hurdle. Even though my dad was an entrepreneur, he and my mom wanted me to work for someone and settle down in life while I wanted to be a better success than my dad.
I failed in my first start-up venture during which I learned loads of things that help me till date. But, that adds to the frustration for the family. Entrepreneurship sounds cool from the outside, but it’s a pain, struggle and a hard journey which reaps great benefits if done the right way with common sense.
Q – What was the best and the worst advice you received when you began your company?
The worst advice according to me might be something that everybody else might say as a good advice. It’s was being played around by all investors, successful CEO’s etc. “Follow your dreams and work on your passion to achieve success”. I have realized that it’s complete crap. If you can live without food and money you can just go by that advice. My mantra these days are ‘Dream about your passion, it might come true at some point in time in your life, but grab the opportunities at hand to lead a good and self-sustainable life which might help you in the future to achieve your dreams with ease”
The best advice I have rec’d until today is from my Professor in University of Texas. He told “99% of the people that you will meet in your life time are A-holes. If you aren’t smart enough to find them and move away from them, they will make you one of them”. I live by this and I believe that it has helped me forge an amazing team in my venture.
Q – Was it your dream to start a stationery line?
No, my dream was to be a racing driver competing in International level. Stationery and Merchandise was an opportunity that I came across. I am a design oriented person. I believe that things that aren’t designed well aren’t worth buying. When I was exposed to stationery industry, I found that the designs and the products haven’t changed for ages. That’s why I wanted to jump in to make an impact in the industry.
Q – Do you believe in dreams? How would you motivate the people who wanted to follow their dreams but are afraid?