Kritika Ashok Tops the Online Art World with the Innovative E-Commerce Startup ArtNouv Connecting Globally
by Rado Durina, 09th March 2014
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Hi Kritika and welcome to! We have met during the Dublin Launch48 startup event back in 2013, during which you advised aspiring and early-stage startups on their first steps.

Firstly, please tell us a few words about yourself. Where did you begin your startup journey and what brought you to Dublin?

 "My startup journey started in college, completely by chance. My mother had a business and one day, over dinner, I offered her a helping hand in return for 50% of the company! Life took me into the corporate world and I was sure I had left my startup days behind but it seemed, other plans were in store. 1 charity, 2 corporate jobs, couple of SME stints, 8 startups (4 failures) later, I am still in the startup world with my latest one - and often considering jumping back into the corporate world!"

You worked for Accenture in the past. What are the pros and cons of having skills and experiences gained in a highly structured professional environment when landing these to a fluid startup environment where things are often hectic and feel out of control?

"I am delighted with the way my journey has worked out. Working in a big environment makes you appreciate the structures and the need for certain bureaucracy which one often overlooks in a smaller organisation - for example, documentation in a big company is a must but often, you would rather spend time on a more money making aspect and not document something that may be needed in the future! Having benefits like canteen, holidays, weekends, health insurance etc are fun to enjoy too- the little things I took for granted in a corporate job now are big decisions for me when I write policies for every new company! Learning the Accenture methodology, knowing how to interact & behave in a corporate company, learning to dress the way you do for a 9-to-5 job are all aspects that you really can't read up on in a book!"

What startup projects are you currently involved in? How many hats do you wear?

"I am only working on one startup project - I do other non startup work too and currently am focused on finalising the first complete optic website in Ireland - Both are similar in that they are in the e-commerce sphere and have a concept that needs to be marketed well, they are both disruptive to their industries and therefore, extremely exciting! I dab into other areas when needed but these are my only regular focus. promotes affordable art. We assist struggling artists to make money by providing customised artwork to our customers and eventually, the site will assist the artists in selling their own work while they are establishing themselves. is one of Ireland's leading opticians and is going to provide the options of buying spectacles, sunglasses, contact lenses, book an appointment with the ophthalmologist all in one place."

What do you enjoy most about working in the startup environment? And what do you enjoy least?

"Flexibility! I love working whenever I want to - for example, if I am stuck by an idea on a Saturday afternoon, I don't resent working through the weekend. Similarly, I love being able to take time off midweek when I just can't be productive. Also, not having to get up early is a huge bonus for a night owl like myself. Conversely, I miss the structure - sometimes it is nice to take a break when you are on a break and not check in to mails! Bar Cuba where internet is not just a luxury but practically an impossibility, I cannot recall the last time I didn't check emails for a whole fortnight. There are two sides to every coin :)"

What does it take to start an online business nowadays? A unique innovative idea? Know-how? Long working hours? People? What is your recipe for success?

"Passion and hard-work! Any business needs these two key ingredients. Team is important, good idea helps, long hours is inevitable but if you are not passionate about what you are doing or unwilling to put in the handwork needed to make it work, it is unlikely it will go far. There is no foolproof formula as far as I know - if someone out there knows it, please let me know!"

What do you think are the common characteristics / personality traits of successful entrepreneurs?

"I have come across various different types of entrepreneurs. There are the ones who build and sell, the ones who are all about raising capital, the ones who only want to make sales, the ones who want it to fund their lifestyle - I think the only similarity in each of them is they eat, breathe, sleep their business. They are all passionate and they all want to succeed. Some want to crush others in the path to their success and some prefer to collaborate but in each is the need to make money. Also, every entrepreneur has undying belief in their idea and willing to take all sorts of risks to make it to the top."

You help startups to grow into companies. What pieces of advice and tips do you give them?

"My biggest strength is the ability to imagine the future and perform in the present. It is important for startups to focus on what makes them money, define their long term strategy - do they want to be bought, do they want to get investment, do they want to keep growing and pass on the company to their family or do they even want to go public! Once the strategy is defined, it is important to map a potential path leaving enough variables to look at other options, change tact or grab new opportunities."

What mistakes do you see being often made by startup businesses? What can they learn from them?       

"Quite often, a startup will not have a business person at its helm. A technical head may understand the details fantastically but it is difficult to do everything and there is a need for someone to manage the practical aspects such as marketing, finance, people, organisation culture. An idea is only an idea unless someone pays for it and getting that sale is extremely important. Personally, for me, it also helps to have a good set of advisors - some of them are in the startup world, some in the industry and some are just good at business!"

Any big mistakes you did and could advice other early-stage entrepreneurs on how to avoid them?

"Tonnes - I could write a book on the mistakes! Each one taught me something different but the biggest lesson is face the failures, figure what went wrong and move on. Entrepreneurs take risks and sometimes the risk doesn't pay off, don't let that be a reason to stop performing. Mourn the mistake but then, realise, it is time to move on. The other mistake is time out - often we work too hard and don't take a break. Take a real break - meditate if that does the trick for you, go for a walk, cuddle a pet, enjoy a spa holiday with your partner, get drunk with friends - do whatever it takes to let off steam, change the scenery and rejuvenate the soul!"

What is the typical path for an entrepreneur between having an idea and launching the product or service for the market?

"No typical path - some work while they set their company up, some dive in full-time, some fall off planet earth while setting up the company, some strive to have a work-life balance - each to their own. And each company culture defines its own path. The focus should always be on making that first sale - when you can get people parting their hard-earned cash, you know you have done something right."

What websites, blogs or apps do you follow or use and would recommend to other entrepreneurs? Any favourite books on entrepreneurship?

"I tend to follow people on twitter who always post links to articles and posts I would use. Quora (online source for knowledge), TechCrunchEntrepreneur magazine, friends, advisors all give great information. There are tonnes of magazines one can enjoy reading too but sometimes we can spend too much time reading and not enough time doing. Find people who inspire you and read what they do. And - that's where I currently spend any free time I can get - it has so much information!"

What are your aspirations for the future?

"Currently (this could change by the time you even publish this!) I want to: - make truly global and make art affordable to all (unlikely to change in the near future) - travel more - retire by the time I am 40."

Three words to describe yourself?

"Hmmm... tricky question - Adventurous, Fun and Wholesome, I suppose?"

Finally, where can our startup community find you online?


Twitter: @KforKritika

Thank you Kritika. We would like to wish you great success with your existing but also upcoming startup projects.

Let's keep in touch! 

Author: Rado Durina

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