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How Padmaja Rao is carving a niche for herself in the interior designing space

After switching careers from the corporate sector to interior designing, Urban Wood Interiors’ Padmaja Rao has made strides to build a business that today caters to a large client base across India. Growing up, Padmaja had her heart set on becoming an interior designer, but the lack of recognition in the field led her into choosing a corporate job instead when she graduated from Bangalore University in 2004. Over the next 10 years, she moved between jobs with companies like Infosys and Deutsche Bank, keeping her passion on the backburner.

Padmaja stumbled upon the chance to assist an architect on a project in Hyderabad while she was on her maternity leave. The practical experience she gained during that stint set the ball rolling. However, it wasn’t until she moved to Bengaluru and decorated her own house that she was truly convinced that a corporate job wasn’t for her.

Where it all started

She quit in 2014 and started out as a freelance interior designer, taking up residential projects. Over time, Padmaja also got herself enrolled into part-time interior designing courses to expand her horizons. With the support of her family, who invested in the business, her annual revenue reached an impressive Rs 75 lakh by 2018-19.

Encouraged by her experience in the field and the piling orders, she got into a partnership and launched Urban Wood Interiors in 2019. The registered company has a factory and showroom in Bengaluru. She soon took on a loan to expand her business and get more machines. By 2019-20, the company was turning an annual revenue of Rs 1.6 crore.

Prepping for the future

While homes and schools dominate Urban Wood Interiors’ clientele, Padmaja is now looking to pivot the business towards commercial units.

Padmaja says her business hit a rough patch when most of the labourers she had hired started returning to their hometowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “I had orders pilling up, so I outsourced labourers and paid them extra to finish the job. As word spread, I was able to hire more workers. The orders were slightly delayed, but I was able to keep my promise to my clients,” says Padmaja.

Padmaja feels that her business could scale ahead if not for challenges like lack of resources to learn. As one of the participants of the GAME Xcelerator Bangalore, a one-of-a-kind programme that is supporting women-led businesses in Bengaluru to scale ahead and drive impact, she hopes to further build her managerial skills and make better business decisions. With the aim to establish a franchise model for her business, she also wants to learn more about the process during the programme.

Xcelerator Bangalore aims at accelerating the growth of women-owned, non-IT businesses in Bengaluru. It provides support to the women entrepreneurs to learn, collaborate and network with various stakeholders through a multitude of workshops, learning and mentoring sessions. This series highlights the work of 24 women entrepreneurs who will be participating in the first cohort of the Xcelerator Bangalore programme.

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