Do you know what you get when you build a business out of your love for quirk? Dottedi! Dottedi is House of Sasha’s featured brand for July- a multi-dimensional entity that is devised entirely around making people happy. They aren’t your regular event planners and gift makers- they are ‘happiness consultants’! Seeking a spicy Valentine’s Day experience? Or a last-minute kitschy birthday surprise for the BFF? Count on Dottedi to come up with the most out-of-the-box solutions! Today, we are getting candid with none other than Dottedi’s magician-in-chief and happiness consultant par excellence, Naadia Mirza. Naadia’s story behind this business is a rather unusual one, and it suits her, because, in her own words, she has never done anything unusual in her life!
If this conversation makes you want to splurge ASAP, Dottedi’s brilliant products are right here for you to purchase.
Hi Naadia, tell us about yourself!
My name is Naadia and I am a dreamer. I started my career at a very young age, as a party planner. Entrepreneurship runs in my blood- my father was one of the first florists of Bangalore. He always told me to never run after success, but to do my work well. Being a serial entrepreneur, I must say I am lucky because I come up with a lot of bizarre ideas and they work! People call me creative, but I believe in working on executing ideas perfectly, instead of trying to judge whether they are great or not.
Tell us about your venture, Dottedi.
It’s actually funny you know because whenever I’m at the airport and someone asks me ‘What do you do?’, I tell them I plan surprises and make people happy, and they look at me all baffled! For the last ten years, people have called us a number of things- a gift shop, ‘the cake place, a bakery! The whole idea of Dottedi is- we make people happy. Whether it’s through designing events, planning surprises, through gifting- the idea is to put a smile on someone’s face!
What’s the story behind your venture?
The story behind my venture is very simple- debt! I am an obsessive shopaholic! I see stuff and I want it. We went to the US on a family trip and I maxed out my credit card, and I’m talking the age of 20/21! I was $1500 in debt and my mum refused to help me out, so I came up with the idea of selling curios and memorabilia through a venture called ‘Suitcase Shop’! That was my first venture, back in 2009. Then I realized there’s a demand for this kind of stuff! For a year I ran my business from my mother’s house, sleeping in a room with 150 cartons on one side. I was 16 when I had also started my event-planning venture, Party Bonanza. Dottedi was born when Party Bonanza and Suitcase Shop came together in 2009. Dottedi is the lovechild of my love for quirky gifting (Suitcase Shop) and quirky events (Party Bonanza)!
And what’s the story behind the company name?
Well. There’s a British saying that goes, ‘You cross your t’s and dot your i’s.’ So we are the Dotted i. That’s a euphemism for perfection for we always strive towards being perfect. The eye (‘i’) for details!
So how does your brand amalgamate products with events and experiences?
This is actually a very interesting question! I remember growing up, Hallmark was the biggest in the gifting industry. Archies was my go-to for all my gifting needs! That made me realize how important it was to have a one-stop-shop for gifts. Now since I already had so many years of experience in events, I wondered, why not build a platform where you can get both services as well as gift products? Today gifting has changed, everyone has access to everything. But the novelty of a holistic service-based experience is a lot more fun! In my ten years of business, I have realized the importance of the proper gifting experience.
We have heard your family has quite the entrepreneurial legacy!
Yes! My entire family is extremely entrepreneurial. I have been so inspired by my family- both my aunts, my bua, my mum, my dad. From a very young age, the women in my house have been extremely entrepreneurial- whether that’s cooking from home, baking from home, florals, it’s all in the blood. My cousin is one of Toronto’s biggest wedding planners, another cousin is a wedding planner in Dubai. I have a lot to live up to.
So, how is Dotted-i different from other event planning firms?
For starters, we don’t actually call ourselves event managers, but event designers. The difference being, we don’t just manage events, we also conceptualise them and execute them. Dottedi was born with fun and quirk- whether it’s a product or a service, the key is our quirk factor! So if you just want a normal event organized, you wouldn’t come to me. But if you want a theme and a complete, holistic experience, that’s where we come in. We also believe in always going that extra mile to make our clients happy. I have had colleagues tell me, ‘But ma’am this is my client, we need to do a little extra for them’. These are the values that we have created over the years. We aren’t just event planners, we are happiness consultants! In fact, my biggest audience has always been men because they have no idea what to give their partners!
How has your decade-long journey been?
It has been iconic! The first four years were excellent and I made a lot of profit even in the books until I realized I need to plough back all my investments to make the company a more sustainable, viable firm. I also had a child, and I took a backseat about three years ago. In the past 18 months, I got back in the game and we were able to bring a complete change in our brand. A makeover, if you may! Earlier our tagline was ‘The Devil is in the Detail’ where we were focused entirely on the details, but today it’s ‘#MakeItAmazing’. Now, it’s all about making people’s lives amazing. That’s where the growth has been!
How has motherhood changed you and your brand?
Being a mother has meant juggling a lot at once. Recently my child crossed the toddler stage, requiring a lot more attention. But I have learnt to let go. Rather than micromanaging and doing everything myself, we have created departments, and until something becomes a red-alert priority, the departments handle their own stuff. Being a mother, I also understand that for employees with children, working strictly from 9 to 6 especially during a lockdown is not possible. So we introduced something called a timesheet which means clocking in 10 hours of work. They get to choose when they work, as long as they are clocking in 10 hours.
What do you love most and least about running Dottedi?
Let’s just say, people always think of events and gifts in the eleventh hour. But to be able to roll out a product or a service that can make someone happy in less than 30 minutes is what I love about my company. At one point I jokingly considered renaming my company to ‘Last Minute Productions’ because of how people would always come to us at the last minute! My least favourite part is, as a brand-owner, I am 24×7 wired into running my company. I can’t log off and go home like my team members.
Tell us a fun fact about Dottedi!
So we have something called the Dottedi bible! Think of it as a troubleshooting guide. It’s a documentation of everything that can go wrong with an event or product with solutions that are process-based. Things like, what happens if a delivery goes out late, what is damage control, at what level does senior management intervene, at what level does Naadia intervene. Or what the role of a creative person or a props manager is. And that, I think was the turning point of my brand, because that took forever to create. And even now, with the competition setting in, I can tell you, hands down, that we at Dottedi are able to stand out from the rest because of exactly this- our years of experience and our eye for detail.
Share with us your fondest memory with Dottedi!
When I started my event-planning career with Party Bonanza, I had planned a woman’s baby shower. Many years later, she called us up at Dottedi for her child’s 12th birthday party, oblivious of the fact that it’s the same company as Party Bonanza! When I picked up her call, she started finding my voice really familiar. It took a while for us to recognize each other, but the reunion was amazing! It brought back so many memories, especially because the guests remembered the baby shower so fondly. That client has now become one of our own! That’s the best part of Dottedi, we don’t just create experiences, we help create memories.
What are your favourite Dottedi products and services?
My favourite product is actually related to my own experiences. Before any product launch, we run a few tests with our near and dear ones. One of the services we have rolled out is an experience that we call ‘The Infidel’s Fantasy’. So if you want to spice things up in your marriage by letting your partner have a risque experience, we plan an entire surprise where they can ‘cheat’, except that you, their partner, will be the one spearheading the encounter! It’s super dangerous, which is why we have been very particular about all the legalities for this experience! I have tried this on my husband and it is a lot of fun! The sheer guilt that your partner goes through because he thinks he’s cheating when it’s actually planned by his own wife! ‘The Infidel’s Fantasy’ is quite naughty but it’s definitely a great experience. As for products, I personally love two. One is the agate platters because of how long it took to outsource it. We also took a lot of time to get the detailing right, with the golden finish. But I love it so much that I use it in my own home. From the quirky range, I love the bandaids. I love the quirk factor- the kitty scratch, the cute words, all that!
What are Dottedi’s most loved products and experiences?
Well, some of our products have performed really well during the lockdown. The Netflix Hamper, the Pamper Me Combo, and the Luxury Hamper for Men. In terms of the round-the-year experiences, the Golgappa Surprise, the Bedroom Treasure Hunt for Couples are client favourites. In fact, our Fathers’ Day special Fit Father combo was also a major hit! So many women purchased that.
How have you shaped your business in the current global crisis?
The business model that we had switched 360 degrees during COVID. To up our game, we actually came out with a COVID-special catalogue! We were one of the lucky few who did well during the lockdown because we were able to touch emotions. Our business model is not so much need-based, it’s more desire-based. So, when people have the blues or when they want to cheer someone up, the first thing that actually works is the services we provide.
What does the future of Dottedi look like to you?
What I envisioned for my brand is definitely for it to be one of the best gifting brands. I would love for it to be on Amazon, but somewhere, I feel, we’d then lose the personal touch. So we are looking at being a boutique gifting studio for the niche upper middle class while retaining the quirk factor in it. We also plan to expand- first in the south and then up north. Currently, our products reach our audiences via partner stores, especially House of Sasha. We have been getting a really widespread reach, but we want to get our experiences and services pan-India as well. I’d say, in the next two years.
Lastly, any advice or message for other budding entrepreneurs?
Here are some things I learnt over the years. One, when you’re an entrepreneur, you get really excited and you want to expand. However, without a team, you won’t be able to. You also might definitely be short of funds or time, but you need to prioritise what is important. Two, remain cash flow positive, draw a salary from day one. Not a supernatural salary, the key is to never underestimate your own time on projects. Drawing a basic salary per month will give you an idea of how your company is doing. And three, always hire people better than you. Like, for instance, even though I am running an e-commerce platform, my technical skills are zero. I try taking on people better than me, so I am able to learn. As an entrepreneur, you need to learn every day.