Jugnu: Ashoka University’s firefly

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Second-year undergraduate students Kamala Rao and Shivani Bajaj have started their own exciting business venture on campus. We had a fun conversation with them. They gave us inside scoop about them working together in an attempt to bring positivity in our personal spaces, our dorm rooms.

Q: Tell us more about your entrepreneurial venture?

Shivani: Jugnu’s central theme is DIY dorm décor. We want to spread optimism through our Letter Lights. We know that an undecorated dorm room looks really dull and uninspiring, and that’s not something anyone would want to wake up to. We aim to help students turn their dorms into a space that provides constant motivation and positivity. Many of our orders were for words like “believe”, “faith”, “get going”, et al. and they not only light up the room but also in a sense define the person.  Like John Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way, you’re right”.

 

Q: For how long had you been planning to start this venture?

Shivani: Kamala organized a juice stall during the Rotaract Club fund-raiser last year. It was quite a disaster in terms of profit but I really admired the skill and effort that she had put into it. And since I was looking to start a venture, I thought it might be a good idea for us to form a team. In the next week or so, just to test out our entrepreneurial skills, we tried a “Maggi at your doorstep” night.

Kamala: The Maggi business was quite a failure, but it taught us a thing or two about the way business works. But most importantly, we realized that we make a pretty awesome team!

The idea for Letter Lights came to us last semester when Shivani walked into my room and saw that I had put up the word ‘Dreamer’ in lights.

Shivani: We were both interested in entrepreneurship, so we started talking and towards the end of the Spring 2017 semester, we finally put our plan in motion.

 

Q: Looking back, what would you have done differently in your venture?

Kamala: I think we underestimated the demand for our product. The number of orders we got surpassed our estimate. And at the same time, we did not know how much labor would be required. So maybe we should have done a little more research before kicking things off.

Shivani: I think it’s true that we just kind of rushed into it, but I feel like that’s a good thing because it got the ball rolling, and that’s what we needed at the time.

 

Q: What makes the two of you compatible? Have you ever had any arguments or fights?

Kamala: She’s like a major Dramaqueen!

Shivani: Haha, that's because you don't know how to text back! But really, each of us is skilled at different things. For example, I am good at marketing and public relations, while Kamala is good with product design and development. By combining our individual strengths, we make a pretty efficient team.

Kamala: What really brings us together though is our love for DIY and decor. Whenever we come across a cool DIY tutorial on the internet we share it with each other, and we’ve even tried to make many of them together!

Shivani: And arguments, yes we do have them sometimes, but they are temporary. What I like about us is that when one person is upset, the other always steps in and takes charge, so that we get things done. It does get quite stressful at times, but we’re always joking around and that helps us keep calm and pull through.

 

Q: What is the strangest order that you have received?

Shivani: It would have to be an order for the word “Bi***h” in lights. At first, we wondered why anyone would want to have that up in their room in lights. When we talked to them, we understood why it made sense. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler talked on SNL once about how Hillary Clinton was being called a “bi***h” by many, but the truth is that “bi***hes get things done”.

Whenever I hear about why people place orders for the words they do, their little stories inspire me!

Kamala: We also received a lot of other interesting orders, words we hadn’t ever heard before: Ikigai (i.e. the reason you wake up in the morning), Fernweh (a.k.a wanderlust), and Sophrosyne (still not quite clear on what that one means).

Some of Jugnu's commendable work

Q: Do men also order customized lights to put up in their dorms? What do the men generally order?

Shivani: Yes, yes of course! Most of the orders were along the same lines as what the women ordered: words that inspire them to be better and do better (Peace, Strive), and things that they are really passionate about (Fernweh, Bollywood).

 

Q: Which spot on campus gives you the most creative vibes?

Shivani: (laughs) I think our rooms because that's sort of the point of what we’re trying to do!

But if you exclude the rooms, (and this might sound a little cheesy) but, I think I feel the most creative when I’m around creative people. If Kamala and I are trying to make something we saw on Pinterest, I think people sometimes give off more creative vibes than places do. And that's why we try and transform places to reflect the people.

 

Q: Where do you see your venture in the next two years after you have left Ashoka University?

Shivani: To be very honest, in some ways, Jugnu is still in its ideation stages. We’ve started working on some products and even started sales (in order to understand the market and our possible consumer base) but, we’re still not completely sure what we’re really holding in our hands and what we want to make of it. In terms of vision, we want Jugnu to represent light. The word Jugnu means firefly. Through our products, we want to be able to inspire, motivate, and empower people to achieve their heart’s wish. It sounds a bit idealistic, but I think that's the point. It's a kind of in-your-face optimism which I think the world needs a bit of.

 

Q: What about creativity inspires you?

Shivani: The process of creation is really exciting. Taking something (a vision which is in your head) and producing it for the real world is so exhilarating. Having something of your own that you created is probably the reason why we want to do what we want to do.

Image captured by Jugnu's admirer Ishita Sehgal

 

Ishita Sehgal, a 2nd-year undergraduate student, bought a word ‘Believe’ wrapped in fairy lights from Jugnu. We have received a note from her and it echoes most of our feelings towards this beautiful venture.

“Shivani and Kamala worked towards spreading positivity in my life by giving me the power of believing in everything I do. They not only gave a new look to my room but a beautiful perspective to my Ashokan journey. Their work has been of pure optimism and perfection. I thank them with all my heart.”

All images (but one) received from our entrepreneurial superstars 'Jugnu'.

About The Author

I am an Economics Major at Ashoka University. I love to travel and explore different cultures and traditions. Writing has been my passion because language is very powerful and plays an important role in impacting lives.