The business of tidying up with finesse and ease
- Don’t be afraid to kick-start a unique idea that is incomprehensible to others. Maybe the world needs it and doesn’t even know yet
- When I first floated the idea of a professional organizing service with friends, I was met with scepticism and genuine confusion, says Rajagopalan
The farewell to impossibly frayed suits, snug jackets that one hopes to fit in after diet regimentation and ill-fitting shoes that saw daylight only once, is gut wrenching if you are a hoarder. For professional organizer and founder of Organise with Ease, Rohini Rajagopalan, 39, the first session with each client is similar—nervousness, unwillingness to part with things and frantically convincing her that they would use everything. Mumbai-based Rajagopalan takes out everything from the cupboard and lets the mountain of clothes grow on the bed. She then gently questions and cajoles the person into seeing the purpose of every single piece of clothing. Most sessions end with the mountain slashed by 50%.
After 17 months of inching along, Rajagopalan’s business is finally on a sprint. Organise with Ease has clocked 25 projects in the last year. “When I first floated the idea of a professional organizing service with friends, I was met with scepticism and genuine confusion," says Rajagopalan. “But why would anyone need an outsider to come and clean up,’’ was the constant refrain. “It needed a Netflix-infused buzz about world renowned organizer, Marie Kondo, to settle their nerves about my business," she laughs. “I’m grateful for her show to have paved the way for the idea to catch on in India," she says, adding that professional organizing has been popular in the western countries for years.
Rajagopalan’s first memory of tidying up trails goes back to when she was barely 10 years old and was visiting her paternal uncle’s home for summer holidays. Appalled at her cousin’s cluttered cupboards, she would get right down to flinging away broken toys, torn clothes and unnecessary souvenirs collected after foraging in the garden—stones, sticks, snail shells and other “treasures". It became an annual ritual. “As a young kid and even later while growing up, I couldn’t identify that this could be an actual business," she says. An expected professional trajectory followed after doing her MBA. She worked in the marketing teams of companies like Red Bull and Tommy Hilfiger for about 12 years. “I found my true calling after a sabbatical from the corporate world," she says.
She has done online courses with Marie Kondo and the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). Books like Decluttering Your Home: Tips, Techniques, and Trade Secrets by Geralin Thomas, The Beverly Hills Organizer’s Home Organizing Bible by Linda Koopersmith and Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin Rooney Doland have guided her to create her own style of de-cluttering.
Managing the business
Rajagopalan’s journey, just as any other lean business, started with small steps. “This service is quite niche and takes a lot of personal resonance with the clients for them to allow you into their house or office. Also, word of mouth mostly triggers new connections, so the process is quite slow. At this stage, I prefer keeping it down to one employee—me," she says. “I’ve realized that the quality of service and ability to take a client through their de-clutter journey needs extreme patience and care. After all, it’s a transformative experience for them, which needs to be handled gently. Since there are no courses to hire trained staff, I prefer to do this personally. Only when I am ready to nurture and train others will I recruit a larger team." Although most of the business comes from word of mouth, social media has been the most important tool for awareness. Rajagopalan puts out regular Facebook and Instagram updates to spread the word, connects with communities and spends ₹5,000 targeting specific audience.
Facing the challenges
A solo show also means that all activities of the business are handled entirely by Rajagopalan. Responding to queries, creating and executing a digital marketing plan, entertaining PR requests and working on site—client homes and offices—takes up her entire day. The biggest challenge comes in the form of self-motivation and discipline. The need for a co-founder or a team to brainstorm ideas in order to keep the fire simmering is palpable. “Handling your business alone comes with a crash course on multi-tasking," warns Rajagopalan.
It’s hard to measure financial success, as there are no industry standards in India for this business. Rajagopalan charges about ₹1,500- ₹2,000 per hour and nearly everything is profit, barring few operational and social media marketing costs.
Naturally, a typical corporate job for Rajagopalan’s experience would have reaped a larger salary, but it cannot be taken as a benchmark. Instead, Rajagopalan measures her success in transformations. “Imagine my joy, when a shopaholic client messaged that she hadn’t bought a single thing on her holiday abroad after our interaction," she says.
One Woman Show is all about the trials, tribulations and successes of solo women entrepreneurs.