‘India is fantastic – all is possible’

Wild Geese - Enda Noone, co-founder, Ikka Dukka, Delhi, India

 

Plenty of Irish people have headed off to India to find themselves but Enda Noone has taken things that bit further by moving to the continent to establish a new business.

Noone and his business partner, Nilisha Kohli, who met while studying in Dublin, launched Ikka Dukka, a boutique online lifestyle store 12 months ago. However, plans for the Delhi-based business were hatched many years before over a few drinks in a bar back here.

“We met while doing our masters at the Dublin Business School back in the early 2000s and always talked about how we’d like to do something in design and quality products, but it took us a long time before we actually took the plunge,” said Noone, who comes from Kilconnell in Co Galway.

“After college, I worked initially in the HR department of Ryanair before moving to London where I ended up doing business development with a few tech start-ups. Nilisha also found herself over there working for NBC Universal so at some point we got back on to the idea of starting our own business and then a few years ago decided to ditch our jobs and make the move to India to set up Ikka Dukka,” he added.

Delhi might not seem like the most obvious place to establish a new business, particularly an ecommerce one, but Noone says there are sound reasons for doing so.

“There are obviously some fantastic locally designed products but not really much in the way of western ones and what is here is usually hugely expensive because it has to be imported. We thought it would be great to introduce some new designers from Europe because there’s a growing appetite for it. We also wanted to set up a manufacturing base in Delhi to sell our own designs, and costs are obviously cheaper here while manufacturing standards are exceptional.”

Ikka Dukka, which is a Hindi term meaning “rare”, is a website that sells specially designed products, including homeware, clothes and jewellery. Noone hopes to be able to introduce Irish designers to the Indian market.

“Our ultimate aim is to sell globally and to have our manufacturing base in India while being able to move back to either Ireland or the UK. We’d also like to be able to sell Indian-designed products into Europe,” he said.

India is famous for its bureaucracy and Noone admits that without the support of Kohli’s family it would have been difficult to wade through the red tape and set up.

“It was tough-going initially and we’ve been lucky with the people we’ve come across while trying to get up and running. I wouldn’t recommend someone doing something like this without having connections here because there’s an awful lot to negotiate. At the same time though, India is fantastic in that if you have an idea, you can make it happen. Everything is possible here,” he said.

“I’ve been learning something new every day and it is part of the pleasure of running a business for me. It has all been a steep learning curve, from working out IT issues to getting the manufacturing process under way but we’ve gone through a lot of the teething problems by this stage.”

Ecommerce has been slower to develop in India than in other markets, partly because of a lack of internet access and because few people have credit cards. Noone says that the situation is changing though.

“Traditionally, it’s usually been men that have been the ones to buy online and they’ve mainly been interested in getting gadgets at discounted prices. There’s more women shopping now however and a more sophisticated buyer is emerging that is interested in curated, well-designed lifestyle products so there’s huge potential for us here,” said Noone.

“Because credit card adoption is still lagging, we offer a cash-on-delivery service and that does make it more of a challenge in terms of logistics but it’s working out for us so far.”

With the website selling products that aren’t typically seen in India, it took some time for the business to get well-known. However, the word is spreading and with one of Ikka Dukka’s own-brand clutch bags featuring in the latest issue of the Indian edition of Hello! magazine, more people are getting to know the company.

Noone says that some people are surprised to find an Irishman living and working in India. He says people he has encountered, who know Ireland, all tend to have positive things to say about the country.

Having visited the continent a number of times prior to moving there, he didn’t experience the culture shock that hits some. Moreover, Noone believes that while there are many differences between India and Ireland, there are also similarities.

“Sitting down to eat with an Indian family is pretty much the same as with the family back home in Kilconnell. The food may be very different but there’s still the sort of bickering and slagging going on that I’m used to. Also Indian people are very warm, which is something that they share us.”