The only advice Sahil Rao got before he started Unbox was that he shouldn’t start it at all. He thought it best ignore that and go ahead with his venture. He started Unbox, a provider for customised packaging and innovative boxing. Unbox is a little over a year old and it has already won four National Awards for Innovative Packaging in 2017. “There is a need for innovation in packaging. Many people are doing the same carton or paper boxes that are mass produced. I use paper boat and my focus is on the design and quality. All the boxes I design are handcrafted,” explains Rao.
Before this, he studied printmaking in Germany for a year, “The course was more practical than theoretical. We would take paper directly from the trucks and use the cutting machine. We got to know how the basic machinery worked with different inks. But it had nothing to do with packaging.” After this, he worked in the commercial printing business in Pune only to realise that it is a saturated market.
In the beginning, Rao found it difficult to find suppliers for boxes and kept making trips to Mumbai to find the right one as all the suppliers in Pune had a direct contact with their clients. “It was very difficult to match the deadlines to deliver a certain number of boxes in a limited time frame. The quality wasn’t very good either.” In order to ensure quality and timely delivery, Rao invested in some machinery and started producing the orders in his office. Now, he designs boxes for clients in real estate, luxury brands and beverages. He stresses on knowing which industry to hit and creating the need for customised designs, “It’s all about selling your story and product to them. The designs are created to have their logos and brand on it.”
Speaking about maintaining a high standard in quality, he says, “There is no compromise on quality. That’s why you come to Unbox. My main idea is to cater to everyone. It does not have to be B2B, it can also be designing a box for a wedding. Even if the order is just five boxes and it is customised then I will do it. I have studied the market and I know what kind of colours and paper people prefer.”
Citing Pune as the hub for startups, Rao also adds that is one of the few places where the big players and the newcomers are co-existing, “Pune is very startup friendly environment. People are trying to come up with new startups and that’s a great thing. I have learnt so much about marketing and finance. Even the smallest thing matters. You can’t learn all this if you’re working for a big company.”
In a constant effort to keep creating new designs, he has also come up with LED-designed boxes and an e-commerce website that is in the making. The website will allow the user to customise a box as per his or her need and it will be delivered within 24 hours. Planning ahead for the journey of Unbox, Rao wants to expand this to Goa and Delhi where there is a niche market for such services that isn’t saturated.
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