People believe that you have to be in your 20’s to start a venture. The general perception is that you can’t build something from the ground up when you are past your youth. If you tell people that you are a grandmother and that you have a new idea, people might just smile and move on. But Keeran Baweja did not look at such skeptics, instead went full steam ahead to realize her dreams. Here is a look at her – a Sikh entrepreneur’s journey in Bangkok, Thailand.
Tell us something about your growing up years, were you always entrepreneurial?
I grew up in India in a Gursikh family. My father was in the army and kept quite busy. He was a great father but as the youngest in the family, I had little opportunity to learn from him. On the other hand, my brother had a serious entrepreneurial streak in him. He would hand make gorgeous bedside lamps and market them himself. I was very intrigued by his ability to create something out of nothing and it inspired me for a long time.
While I did my best in school and college, my parents always encouraged me to take initiatives in the social settings as well. I remember that my parents gave me the opportunity to read the wakh at the time of her grand mother’s death in front of hundreds of people. It was not a common practice and I felt nervous, but I knew that my parents are there with me. It was a moment that I can never forget in my life and it is through such experiences that I grew more confident in life.
In hindsight, how did marriage to an army officer prepare you for life that you lead today?
Army life isn’t easy, and there were a lot of hardships to face. However, it did give me a lot of opportunities to turn simple hobbies into something more. There was so much to do constantly – flower settings, table decor competitions, events for the officer’s children, even complete house renovations for charity. Our social calendar was always packed with events that honed my skills. From curating fashion shows to organizing for charity and social causes, I was already in the game and didn’t even know it. Never did I imagine in my wildest dreams what lay ahead in cards.
What made you shift base from India to Thailand?
Call it fate, call it destiny, I don’t know. After rigorous years of army life, my husband took pre-mature retirement. We had plans to settle in Delhi since various opportunities had presented themselves there. He even almost began work on them, however, his family, brothers/sister who had been based out of Bangkok for the past few decades, convinced him to join them. After quite some persuading, he went ahead to set up work, and I joined him a year later. And that was that. Thailand is in our blood now, and we love it.
What were some of the challenges that you faced when you moved to a new country – Thailand?
Well, the most obvious challenge was language! Thailand is a lovely country and so are the people. However, language is tonal hence there are difficulties in the learning process. Nevertheless with time and practice, one does manage to pick it up, and after almost 25 years I can proudly say that it has become a part of me.
So, how did “Weddings by Keeran” come about?
Within a few years of moving to Bangkok, it was the wedding of my daughter Meghna. During that time I was in dire need of a wedding planner who could take over the reins of planning the wedding and lend me a helping hand. But, I could not find anyone who could be there and help.
So, I took over the task myself. Once that decision was made, everything just fell into place. I moved fast and efficiently worked on the trousseau, venue selection, and finalization, the decor of all functions and requirements of guests including their accommodation. My husband and son helped wherever I needed, and as a team, we functioned systematically and efficiently. In turn, the entire wedding went off extremely well and we kept receiving compliments from friends, family and my daughter’s in-laws. It was at this moment that I realized that this was my true calling and within a couple of years (after having become a grandmom), I started “Weddings by Keeran”.
How big is the weddings industry in Thailand?
In one word, HUGE. There are hundreds of thousands of weddings that take place every year in Thailand and we have more planners now than we did a few years back. Everyone gets work according to their capabilities and dedication and is happy. This is a booming environment.
How did you prep for the business?
Once I realized that this is what I want to do, I was completely driven and motivated to do whatever it takes to create this venture. Initially, I started with just planning weddings for the children of friends and family. I started to meet different vendors and travel to different parts of Bangkok to understand how the business works. I started to catalogue names, numbers, contact details of every single person who might be needed at a wedding – florist to make up person, hotels to jewelry designers. I met with everyone and got to know them.
The issue was marketing now and getting the word out. A company was created and the branding was done by my daughter and partner Meghna Mirpuri. The website was in place soon and after this, we never looked back. Meghna is just as passionate about this business and twice as hardworking. She helped me tie up the lose ends. It fills me with joy to know that now we are at a point where she is our point person and flying the company flag high! Being a grandma feels great.
What were the challenges of setting up a new venture and how did you overcome those?
I wouldn’t call setting up a company or website a challenge. When one is sure, not over confident, of one’s own capabilities and hard work, you just move smoothly through and any so called challenge or difficulty was taken as a speed bump. I am quite confident of my team and their abilities, so we managed the speed bumps well.
What role did family and friends play in creating “weddings by Keeran”?
Absolute confidence in what I was doing and full support, till today. They give me the strength and courage I need when things get tough… think of it as a phone recharge ????
What motivates you to go out and work on the venture daily?
I’m extremely passionate about what I’m doing and that’s all the motivation I need. I truly enjoy meeting my clients and understanding their unique vision, and then finally seeing that being fulfilled. I love the happiness as two families come together to celebrate this wondrous moment in their lives. I am thankful to be a part of so many many great stories, it makes me emotional at times. I have a great job, and I love every minute of it.
How has life changed for you from the time you started this venture?
Absolute satisfaction. I am content with my work and it brings me great pleasure to be appreciated for something I am good at.
Is there a message that you would like to give to budding entrepreneurs?
All I want to say is that if there is a deeply personal reason, or a health issue, as to why someone walks away from a dream career, I have full respect for that. However, if you are healthy and have no personal restrictions, then age is just a number – that’s what my father always said.
It should not become a hindrance to doing what you love.