Starting your own business or launching something new to the world; is a tough journey. Succeeding as an entrepreneur with a bright new idea requires lots of dedication and hard work. Sadly, being a LGBTQIA+ person who aims to make their own place in the world comes with a lot of additional challenges and hurdles. But there are people who have proven that nothing is unachievable in this world. So, here are four Indian Queer Entrepreneurs’ Stories of success; who fought all odds to be where they are today. Their journeys are extremely inspiring; giving us the confidence to take the world by storm!
Keshav Suri: The Hotelier
Delhi’s ever loved Queer-friendly Nightclub, ‘Kitty Su‘, is India’s most inclusive nightclub and was founded by none other than; Keshav Suri, the Executive Director of the Lalit Suri Hospitality Group.
“Being gay came naturally to me as I was born with it,” explains Keshav to ‘entrepreneur.com‘.
Ever since he came out; Keshav has been working ardently towards the inclusion of the queer community into various walks of life. He has made The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, the first ever in the sector, to have a ‘diversity and inclusion team’.
Keshav’s entrepreneurial skills paid off when he found true acceptance on opening Kitty Su in 2011. It was a momentous endeavor of self expression for Keshav. Kitty Su has become the face of elite, gay parties. It is home to numerous Drag performers and other performers from the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s a revolutionary, multi-level, state-of-the-art space, welcoming one and all!
Nakshatra Bagwe: The Traveler
An Indian actor and filmmaker by profession, Nakshatra Bagwe is also the founder of ‘The BackPack Travels‘; an exclusive travel company catering to Gay and Bisexual travelers. The BackPack Travels aims to redefine ‘Gay Tourism’, with people joining from all over India. The travel enthusiasts from the LGBTQ+ community can choose from a multitude of travel packages that are safe, special and affordable.
Nakshatra is also an award winning filmmaker and a budding actor. His debut film, Logging out, won him the Kashish Coffee Break Audience Choice Award at Kashish Mumbai Queer Film Festival, India (2012). Logging out, along with Nakshatra’s other films such as, Book of Love, Curtains, PR (Public Relations) and When the Circus Came to Town; capture and illustrate the current LGBT scenario of India.
With the abolishment of Section 377; The BackPack Travels has seen an ever-growing increase in the number of people who are now able to fearlessly attend holidays designed specifically for the LGBTQ+ community.
Ashok Row Kavi: The Journalist
Ashoka Row Kavi founded India’s first gay magazine ‘Bombay Dost‘ in 1990. It is India’s first legally registered publication which focuses on issues related to the LGBTQ+ community. It is one of the most important source of information and education about the community; encouraging people to acknowledge the problems they face and work towards a better world for the community.
The magazine has been a tremendous success, providing the LGBTQ+ community with a voice that is heard, supported and loved. The articles published in this magazine are frank, inspiring and self-aware. Bombay Dost has helped establish numerous Gay Support Groups in major Indian cities such as, Delhi, Lucknow, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Madras. Also resulting in the development of nationwide outreach programs for homosexuals regarding sexual orientation and safer sex.
This publication has also led to the establishment of India’s first Voice Mail Helpline; and a center for counseling supported by the Mumbai municipal government. Accomplishing all this and more, Ashok’s Bombay Dost is easily one of the best entrepreneurial ventures that supports and celebrates the Queer community!
Sridhar Varadharaj: The Health Enthusiast
Last, but not the least, we have Sridhar Vardharaj, the openly gay founder of a super food company called ‘Zago Life‘. Zago aims to provide ready-to-drink products of various flavors, in place of already existing protein and malt powders. The objective was to provide a product that is gluten-free, lactose-free, soya-free, and can also taste good; available off the rack, ready for consumption.
Sridhar came up with this idea of Zago in 2014, and left his family owned textile business to set up his own brand of health drinks. Gradually, after facing a lot of obstacles, Zago gained popularity, mainly by word of mouth in Delhi. This started from a small shop in front of a gym, where health enthusiasts used to come to buy after-workout protein drinks. They discovered and loved Zago products and started spreading the word.
Sridhar explained to YourStory, “As an openly gay owner and managing director of a business, one obviously faces less open discrimination. We try to build a very inclusive and diverse company; a progressive brand that is appreciated by our customers for the values we stand for.”
There is absolutely no doubt that Sridhar has succeeded in his entrepreneurial venture and is bound to further growth and conquer the market. His hard work, dedication and sacrifices have paid off!