I wake up to the smell of paper and sound of our big offset printing machine. I have been waking up to this sound for the last 26 years of my life. You remember places with their sights sounds and smell. I get reminded of home when I hear machines running. So much so that the humming of birds…the smell of flowers…the mountains and the sea don’t fascinate me for more than 10 days. I start missing the repetitive sound of papers being printed into books. I call it the “Melody of Monotony”.
In the year 1939, before independence, my great grandfather (Late Shri Abani Bhushan Chattopadhyay) shifted from Dhaka to the then Calcutta. A mathematician by profession, his love for books made him start Hemaprabha Printing Press. He made a name and fame with his business of academic books.
My Grand Father, Late Shri Dinesh Chandra Chattopadhyay, wanted to become an Author. But then who can escape the power of those printed words in the form of a book. He along with his brother started the Bidyodoye Library Press. It went on to become an empire in the late 60’s and 70’s. The Chattopadhyay family was considered one of the most powerful families of Calcutta.
My dad, Mr.Tridib Kumar Chatterjee, while growing up saw the joint family break into pieces. Gave up his dream of working and undeterred to shift to a new line business, started his own Publishing house.
I wondered while I was growing up what made them all leave everything for the love of books. I went ahead with an MBA and then a job. One year into a corporate life, with a decent bank balance and a high flanking lifestyle, the parties and the places made me miss the sound back home. The smell back home. I left my job to follow a dream.
I love books. They are just not books for me…to read and keep it away. It is the art of making books that fascinated me. The cover, the design, the artwork, how well the book binds together and how easily it opens. Are the fonts comfortable and do they relate to the genre of the books? I have been fascinated with superlative work and the hard work behind them.
The dream was difficult to explain. Even to my Dad. “There is a little opportunity of making such books in the regional language and the expertise needed, was missing in Kolkata”, he said. So my challenges were:
- I was dreaming of something which could not be explained in words. I had to make it, to express it.
- I was not planning to start a business which was in trend. Most people didn’t understand my motive behind starting a “Publishing House”.
- I was in Kolkata which has been considered a doomed city by most (especially by people living in Kolkata).
- I had to stay without any money for 6 months because all my savings would go into my start up.
- And I was a woman who was 24 years old and I chose to start a business rather than looking for a guy to get married to.
My friends showed confidence, my father was sceptical. My mother had given up hope on me long back (since I started travelling alone) and my relatives were just heartbroken because marriage was not on the cards soon.
I had a dream so strong that these problems never came in the way. I started BEE Books.
The tradition of starting new continued. I, unaware, followed my legacy. I am the fourth generation into publishing trade in my family which is a rarity in India. No publishing house has survived post the third generation.
Entrepreneurship is too strong a word and the impression it gives isn’t quite pleasant for me. I want to be an artist, a dreamer. A dreamer who shares her dreams who work with her. Passion backed by a strong motive should be the key to anything one does.
A few points which I have gathered from my experience and things less told:
- It is the toughest to start. You don’t or can’t have a plan or the knowledge of everything you need. You learn it the hard way.
- There is never a right time to start. Whenever you do is the right time
- It is just a way of saying that “I left my job to follow my dreams”. The dreams will take a lifetime to be fulfilled. Between leaving your job and fulfilling your dreams, you need patience, good company and confidence that you are there where you are meant to be.
- If the business is your only source of income, then a commercial aspect is required. You can’t have just creativity and no way of selling it.
- Profit is not important but breaking even is. You have to work very hard to earn money so that you don’t keep spending from your own pocket.
- Dedication and persistence have already been spoken off. But honestly books on Entrepreneurship will not help unless you have decided to become one. Success stories inspire you, but never follow the same path. Only then will you make your own.
- Make friends who will help with your work. People who will believe in your dreams and help you.
- If you are building a team, build it from scratch with people who will learn along with you. That develops trust and loyalty for your company. They would see you and the company grow and would be able to identify themselves as part of the Organization.
I hope the pointers help and the story interests. For any help and query my contact details are below. Do feel free to get in touch with me.
(Remember, every house has its own story. Every individual has their own. It is all about how you want the World to know it.)
About Esha Chatterjee: There is nothing more to say. It is a privilege to have her post up on my blog. I had asked her to write about her journey as an entrepreneur. I met Esha in a small authors workshop conducted in St. Pauls School Khiddirpur, where we both were invited. The first meeting made way to a couple of extremely weird meetings and gradually – business talks. While my personal projects did not even take off, BEE Books and Kolkata Bloggers collaborated for “Tales to tell“. It is a very small sized book that features 20 new authors and 20 new illustrators. 20 new perspective to life is how I see it. It would be launched in Oxford Bookstore, Park Street. September 6th, 2015 at 5:00 PM. If you happen to read this and find this entire association interesting, drop by.