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Interview with Ms. Khyati Bhatt, Founder and CEO of Simply Body Talk

Interviewer : How did you come up with the idea of your company?

Ms. Khyati Bhatt : From my heart, I was always an entrepreneur. I remember talking to my dad when I was as young as 12 that someday I wanted to run my own company. I tried working in multiple roles in the corporate world after completing my management degree including that of business analyst, currency trader, portfolio manager but the hard truth hit me that I was not meant for the corporate world – I just could not work for a boss! Pretty soon I took my first plunge into the entrepreneurial domain whenI saw an opportunity to take our family business of handcrafted items headed by my mom-in-law from wholesale to the retail market. We did pretty well, my mom-in-law and I, and I owe her for having readied me to start my own venture when I wanted to. She still runs the retail venture pretty well, but I realized that craft was a passion close to her heart; I needed to find my own. Being ambitious, I wanted something bigger, something bolder, something unheard of before, because “the path less travelled by” has always had a special attraction me from ever since I can remember.

After my maternity break, I wanted to foray into a field I was madly in love with,for which I could wake up in the middle of the night and work for, and not get tired. Body language was the first and only thing which came to my mind since this was a subject that fascinated me since my college days back in 2000. I had practiced it first hand during my stint in the retail space and I knew I was ready for a full time career in a field which would not limit me to any particular market or geography.With a child too young to part with during her waking hours, I started off in 2013 by waking up at 4:30am in the morning just so that I could analyse interviews and debates and write on the same before my daughter was awake. I got good response from respectable online channels and published magazines towards my articles which made me all the more certain that this field was going to be the rest of my career. I needed the right guidance because what I had learnt was from books and research papers written by anthropologists, zoologists, social scientists, interrogators and psychologists. Thus I hunted for the right teacher to authenticate my knowledge on the subject. I was very choosy in this regard, because there are so many certified “experts” who I knew had gotten the subject all wrong. In the meantime I continued with personal coaching assignments. I read book after book, seeking that one person who had understood my field well enough to be my guide. I was delighted when finally I found the teacher who I knew would be the perfect person for what I sought only to discover he was just as choosy in selecting the students he mentored! After one long year of wait, he got ready to train me where I needed polishing.

Company wise, I grew from a team of myself to a team of two and we slowly started venturing into workshops and open format events, taking up consultancy assignments for corporates, ad agencies, photographers, doctors and so on. I also started participating in actual deals to guide investors and interviewers on the right fit for their requirements. After operating out of a rented spaced, recently we shifted into a permanent office dedicated to Simply Body Talk. We run three verticals where we undertake coaching, consulting and learning assignments for individuals and corporates in the field of nonverbal communication. Our ecommerce classes are brewing as we speak, and so are our first set of merchandise. We intend to get into nonverbal research tools focused in the retail space as well, a year or two into the future.

Though there are tons of avenues into which I intend to take nonverbal communication, avenues unheard of for India, but I need to wait for the market to become mature enough to accept the ideas we have in mind. It is a test of patience, but I am willing to take this test.

Interviewer : How do you prevent mistakes or cure them?

Ms. Khyati Bhatt : Every entrepreneur’s journey is her own to experience. Of course there are multiple fall backs and mistakes. One needs to constantly introspect, learn from the discussions with peers and colleagues, and then get better with time. For me, evolving every day is like fresh breath. I need it to survive!

I try to prevent mistakes by thinking at least three times before taking a step in new direction. Having read enough on psychology, I have the luxuryof being able to analyse how I am thinking, and why so. This helps me take an objective view of my decisions. Initially, I had decided to start working on a research project dedicated to exploring the eye tracker back in 2016 and invest into that technology. What I realized is that there are very few companies offering that kind of service to retailers currently, and the technology is fast changing. It would be a large investment if I am to make it, in which case I should be patient and wait a year or two longer and think of all such psychophysiological tools which can help me set up a full-fledged lab. My introspection helped me to stop myself from going all out too soon, with the thought that I might make an investment on which I don’t get the expected result.

Also, when major decisions are to be taken, I take advice of people who know me in and out and thus would not hesitate in giving me a very frank opinion. These people are my closest circle, those whom I trust to not answer instinctively or emotionally just because I am asking something of them. I am almost on the verge of launching our first game. But talks with family and friends is making me rethink which would be the best medium to launch in.

When something does not go as expected, there can be two reasons for it – one being, we could not anticipate it the right way, in which case we brainstorm first as a team and then I think through it myself and take the final call. Another reason something might have gone wrong could be just pure luck. We would have had all our tracks covered but even then things sometimes do go wrong. Like if there is an activity which we make participants do. And the activity does not have the effect it was supposed to. Or we plan an event and we cannot get enough registrations for something as simple as the fact that the title of the event was rather too esoteric. These mistakes happen, and we keep evolving with each experience. Introspection is the key here. After every major day in our company, I sit and introspect.

For our workshops, we keep a feedback form where each individual is asked to give us atleast one way in which we can get better. Even when there are hundreds of forms, I personally go through each of these forms, because these feedbacks are like golden eggs for me. If I ignore what the end users are telling me, then I could end up floating on clouds and perhaps be on a second footing as far as matching up with other trainers goes.

Being a perfectionist at heart, there are times when I feel restless when work has been delegated to my staff and they don’t end up doing as well as I could do it myself. It could be something as simple as offering a cup of tea to a guest who comes to meet me in office. We are trying to streamline all processes, no matter how small, and I know we will keep improving with time.

Interviewer : What three things are most important to become a successful entrepreneur?

Ms. Khyati Bhatt :

  • An eye for details: As an entrepreneur, one needs to constantly evolve not just one’s technical knowledge but also soft skills. Both these variations come by having an eye for details. Like when my staff makes a new social media post and they forget to take a picture from a free content space, there might be issues of copyright. I need to be on the lookout. When I am planning to do something new, my receptive antennas are up all the time to absorb details from every relevant thing I see. Like when we were planning our office interiors, I would keep noticing each sofa, layout, mirror, light no matter where I went so that I could understand the impact of each detail I added to my own space. When I want to design our marketing material, again taking inspiration from others helps. Your eyes and ears need to be open – there is tons out there in the world around you, you just need to be dedicated enough to grasp how each detail can help you in your own venture.

  • A flexible mind set: One cannot be too rigid in one’s thinking. Sometimes brainwaves have been generated by my team, which are in totally opposite view from what I have in mind. However, that does not stop me from exploring them. The one thing I keep thinking of all the time is, what if I am wrong in my assumptions. Another way to develop a flexible mind set is to pick up random books and read. I learnt this strategy from a book called More than You Know which teaches one how financial advisors can learn about the markets from fields which are not even related to finance. In fact, the idea of this entire venture started because I used to read random books from the management library of our college. So one book after another is my strategy to learn to think outside the box. A flexible mind set also helps when one idea you work on does not give you the anticipated response. You would need to know when to take a stop loss on your idea, because not everything works all the time. Anything which weighs an entrepreneur down might need to be weeded away, and here being flexible helps.

  • Ability to sleep on your risk: it goes without saying that one needs to take a certain amount of risk if one is an entrepreneur. When I was first contemplating what career to restart, most obvious choices suggested by my family included those related to my past work experience – financial advisor, branding consultant etc. When I first mentioned what I had in mind, I could sense the doubts all around. But that did not stop me from being convinced of what I knew I wanted. Of course, putting down figures on an excel sheet would help you give numbers to your ideas and see how deep are the waters in which you tread. I would say, if you can sleep peacefully knowing how big a risk you are about to take, then the risk is worth taking. That also makes me a good entrepreneur, because if I thought like every other person around me, then I could not have the opportunity to create history some day.

Interviewer : How do you deal with face failures and challenges in your business?

Ms. Khyati Bhatt : Our biggest challenge is that we are the first entrants in this field in India in terms of the detail into which we are going. It brings with it the standard issues of hurdles to acceptance. While body language is a well established field in developed countries, there are times when we find it difficult to convince people that this is the need of the hour. Therein lies my challenge. The first hurdle was getting onboard a good team. For an entrepreneur, every member she adds to her team would literally mean a new investment. So enough thought and effort would need to go into the selection process. Not all times do you get the right resource, and not all times can the resource perform as per your plan. There are times when I am finishing mundane tasks because of shortage of manpower. However, that comes with any business. If I invest more than my requirement, I would immediately start feeling the pressure of revenue. As a generic rule, there is always one person less than my requirement at the time. Thankfully, I have a great team currently, all flexible when it comes to tasks assigned to them and helping me exponentially in the vision I have for the next six months.

Interviewer : What are the main principles you follow to build a successful employee and customer relationship?

Ms. Khyati Bhatt : Don’t think of getting the best out of your client all the time. My line of business has no scope for hard selling. There are levels of engagements for us, at which different people commit to take our services. For example, one of the first ways is when people start subscribing to our free tips which we send out every Friday. Then some of these convert into workshop participants. Here we were not trying to pitch to you to come to us for attending our workshop. The tip recipients like what they receive on a free basis, and want to explore more which is why they come to us. Also, we don’t need to prove to them that they should shell out money to attend our workshop, since our services are slightly premium. But we deliver quality and keep varying the content to make it highly customized to the client. Post session feedback is something we take very seriously, be it for workshops or even personal coaching or learning sessions.

Another example is when people come to sit for our free demo sessions. Since the quality of our content never goes down, no matter when you engage with us, be it a free service or a paid one, the clients trust us to deliver quality. This way, since we currently conduct our workshops in Mumbai only, demand from other cities has ensured that we have built a decent base for the online classes that we plan to launch soon.

Interviewer : What is your inspiration to generate new ideas?

Ms. Khyati Bhatt :

  • Sometimes we are boxed in if we continue doing the same work day in and day out. Keep reading random books by respectable authors and meeting people from totally unrelated domains. This helps in maximum brainstorming since you stumble upon ideas which you might not even have otherwise thought of.

  • Walking really helps me when I need time out, be it from writing some article, preparing material for the next workshop, or thinking of how to help a client on a specific topic.

  • It is amazing how our brain can work in a background mode when we assign it some task and instruct it to think up a solution. So much of my work gets completed in this way, especially brainstorming activities. While I might be completing mundane work offline like babysitting my child, or clearing up the table, my brain is whirling in full mode, finishing all pending points, sorting out operational efficiency issues, and getting me ready to work full swing the minute I enter office.

Interviewer : What would you advise budding entrepreneurs or the students who want to become an entrepreneur?

Ms. Khyati Bhatt :

  • The journey of an entrepreneur is one you can truly experience only if you get into the shoes of one, and if that is not a choice for you right away, work closely with you. Identify some entrepreneur who shares the same passion, or ethics or values you want to invest into your business, and mentor under the same person. And when I mean mentor, it means working day in and day out with the person. I did this with two separate entrepreneurs, both having vastly different styles of working. And this has hugely determined the choices I have made for my venture thus far. Not that I copied any of them – far from it. I could see their strengths and how they derived them, I could see their weaknesses and their challenges. It is always easier in terms of time, money and emotional investment to learn from someone in his journey than spend time doing it for yourself. Objectivity is also greater when you are observing someone else rather than yourself.

  • Sometimes the journey can get rather lonely. There are times when there are issues riveting in my head, but I have no one to talk to, because I am not sure who can help me out. For these times, you need to learn to take help from your own sources who might not be able to contribute directly and yet can make a significant contribution to your problem. To take a simple example, I might ask my daughter about what she does when she is unable to complete her classwork when the teachers asks for it. Her answer will be simple, and up to the level at which she can think but it will be different from how I would probably approach, therein could lie a Eureka moment for me!

  • You will see many paths in front of you, even in the line of business you want to join. Sometimes you might feel confused or rushed because you want things to move forward rather quickly. It happens to me on and off. But when you are putting actual money at stake, it matters how much feasible any idea actually is. And the best way to judge it is to put numbers on an excel sheet. Suddenly what seems like a far-fetched idea might look more reachable, and what appears like a cakewalk might give you second thoughts.

Interviewer : Define your life as an entrepreneur in one word.

Ms. Khyati Bhatt : Bhelpuri (sorry, no English word could match up to what this particular word connotes!)

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