“I have sold Sneakers to many celebrities” - Viraj Datt shares his journey with Ms. Sahaj Tyagi at TEDxGoldenBridge

TEDxGoldenBridge is an organization that allows you to get an optimistic perspective. It refers to the credential empowerment that people get to vanquish the quintessential fear driven by the thought of “What will people say?”. At TEDxGoldenBridge we believe in creating and presenting new things every day. One of our initiatives known as #IdeasWorthInspiring was born in the similar way.

The idea behind the initiative of spreading ideas that are worth inspiring is related to the people. People who are willing to grab the opportunity and the people who accepted those opportunities. TEDxGoldenBridge wants to spread the message of taking the chance by picking up the journeys of people who have already walked through that path. This initiative talks about the lives of normal people who made their lives extraordinary by doing what they love.

"You need to invest in yourself before you invest in anything else." The Young entrepreneur says. A native of Chandigarh, 22-year-old entrepreneur, Viraj Datt proved to be a true example of a successful businessman from an early age.  Viraj Datt, one amongst the youngest and successful businessmen, did not enter a market that already existed; he created a new one. He also provides sneakers to famous Bollywood celebrities and musicians. He is popularly referred to as VJ Kicks [@vj_kicks], who has massive plans within the coming future by increasing his sneakers venture having worldwide stores.

1. Since you are in the sneakers business how did you exactly get the idea of selling sneakers? 

I was big into fashion and I used to watch a lot of videos about how to dress better and stuff. I saw a video in which a guy was talking about how sneakers stand out in your outfit. How people avoid wearing good footwear but they only focus on outfits. From there I started watching YouTube videos about sneakers and then got into the whole sneaker thing much deeper and this is how it all started.  I was watching sneaker videos the whole day and exploring different countries that have different sneakers.

2.   Can you tell us more about your initial days of selling sneakers? 

I used to play badminton for my state and then my dad sent me to Bangalore to practice more as they had better academy there. I got into that sneaker game by then and watched videos and still learning about new stuff and more sneakers. I was going around with a friend where I bumped into a guy who was wearing really good sneakers so I asked him where he got those sneakers. He guided me to a store in Bangalore. I was in love with that store when I went there and I saw that they had a lot of new good shoes and the sneakers that I haven’t seen anywhere which youtubers used to show us in the videos. Till then I heard that these sneakers are not easily found anywhere so I was happy that I found a store that has them. I started checking the prices which were 14k to 15k which was crazy. So, then I thought that now I know where to find my stuff from, I thought why not flip it to my friends so that I can buy mine. It was never actually about the money. Even now it is not about the money. I just wanted to sell shoes so that I could afford mine. Accommodation and food were not cheap. We were paying a lot for my training so it was stupid to ask my parents for expensive shoes. So instead of bothering them I started to flip some pairs and buy my own shoes. So, this is how I brought my first pair of shoes. That is how it started and then I thought of making an Instagram page because I was not that popular and there were people, I was selling shoes to. So, I got into contact with other people through the page. So, that is how I came up.

3.   As a young entrepreneur, are there any golden lessons you learnt during your journey?

Yes, if anyone is selling something, if you have good links and good relationships with your customer or your clients or your supplier or anyone it’s going to benefit you. Because lately I’ve seen so many young people like me. They are doing things but they are doing it only for money. So, if you are only selling it for money, I know at some stage we are all doing it for money, but you should also have a good connection with your clients, you should help them out, don’t cheat them and don’t sell fake shoes to people. And I have seen it, in case they are not selling fake one, they are doing scams. So, my lesson is that if you just be truthful to your clients that is your biggest asset. The relationship will go a long way.

4.   Have you faced any discrimination just because you are younger than the regular sellers?

Actually, it has worked in my favour to be honest. My age played a huge part throughout because no one was doing it at my age and not on this level. It had a positive influence on me. Everyone supported me and said that you are doing it at such a young age and how I am doing it all on my own. Everyone including my clients, the celebrities I met, my suppliers supported me because they have seen my journey. I am a young guy, hustling and making money. And most of them know that I am not into this game just because of money. I love sneakers more than selling them. I also have a huge collection which is not for sale.

5.   How did you get your first celebrity client?

The first person I met was Raftaar. He actually hooked me up to another amazing person. He is basically in Canada. That was the first time. He had a show in Chandigarh and he asked Raftaar about where he got his Sneakers from. So, he told me that he will introduce that person to me. The first shoe I sold to a celebrity was to that person. He is really very humble and a gentle person.

6.   To How many celebrities have you sold your Sneakers till now?

Oh my God! I used to keep the count but I am thankful that I lost the count. I still remember when I was very young and when I initially started, I was very excited to see their DMs asking me for the Sneakers. I used to call my mom and dad to talk about it. They are asking me to get them Sneakers. But there are a lot.

7.   What was the reaction of your parents when you told them about the idea of selling sneakers?

That was the biggest surprise for me as well. My father always wanted me to become a badminton player. I gave 13 years to the game, but I shifted from the game to a completely different field. I know it was difficult for them to digest, but he never forced me to play badminton. He is also a businessman himself and I think if I did not have his support I wouldn’t be here. My dad went to Sneakers events with me and that made me so happy. He has been with me since day 1. Always supported me and has always helped me. So, I would give a huge shoutout to my parents, grandparents and my brother.

8.   If not selling sneakers, would you choose badminton as the second option?

I still play badminton sometimes. I used to get injured on a regular basis because I was not that physically fit so I stopped playing, but if I had continued playing then I would have been at a better phase and I would have played for sure. But it was all negative for me so I just wanted to come out. So, I chose a different path. But if not badminton, I would have done YouTube more. I like doing it. Maybe a businessman blogger kind of thing.

9.   Did you hit the rock bottom while trying to sell your sneakers? How did you cope up and rise above the hard times?

I agree that it happens with everyone. But I want to highlight one point, that sometimes the main issue is that when we feel low or sad, we tend to find solutions to the problems and that is what makes us more frustrated. We are trying to get out of something and we are not able to do so and I have made the same mistakes. But I have realized that sometimes some problems don’t actually have a solution. You have to wait and go with the flow. You have done your part, you tried to find the solutions and you try your best, so just let it go. Leave it to God. Nothing is permanent, not even the bad times nor the good times.

10.   Could you please tell us about your skills or knowledge that you feel should be taught to youngsters irrespective of the fields they choose, that you discovered during your journey and would have been helpful if you already knew about it?

I think soft skills. The best thing right now is communication. Wherever you go, communication skills are necessary. You can be friends even with a stranger. I actually have a funny story. I was already in the Sneakers business and I was at the peak. That time my dad came and talked to me and said, Viraj do a course of Microsoft Excel. And I was like why do I need to do excel? I am having a good business; I will hire someone if I need it someday. By the time the pandemic also took place, I did an online course for Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, even though I don’t do much in that field. But now I realized why he said that. Even if I hire someone to do it, how will I know if they are doing it correctly or not? And in case I can't hire someone, I can do my stuff on my own. That thing happened too. So, anything you can learn, learn it, especially soft skills.

11.   What are your current goals that you are currently working on?

I recently moved to Canada. My goal is to start a website. We are already working on it. I was doing everything from my Instagram profile. We have a team but lately it has become difficult to reply to all the DMs, and sometimes we miss them because there are so many. So, we are planning to make a place where if someone wants to ask something they can, and if they want to buy the product they can directly order. I am even starting sourcing stuff from Canada itself.

12.  Initially you stated that you are interested in fashion. So, apart from sneakers, what are the other things you are interested in?

I actually have a great knowledge about Sneakers, not about fashion as a whole. I love watches, clothes even. I have even sold them so it's not just about the Sneakers. I am going to get into clothes more and watch too. It needs a lot of capital when it comes to watches but that interests me a lot.

13.  Any message for the audience.

Don’t try to always do things for money. That is the problem with our generation. I have seen people flipping fake shoes. They don’t realize that if they would have sold the original one, the client would buy more in future, but in the other case they would just buy once. You will never grow if you are not truthful. And if anyone is planning to get into this industry or any industry, then I think YouTube is a good place to start. Start at least gaining some knowledge about it to know if you really like it or not. Don’t be in a hurry to start things. Learn as much as you can because when you enter a market and you know about it already, it becomes easy to rise.

14.  A message for Team TEDxGoldenBridge.

Actually, I had no plans for waking up this morning because I nearly didn’t sleep. It’s around 11 here. But it is an opportunity that anyone would never want to miss and I am privileged to be here on TEDxGoldenBridge. Thank you so much for having me. The TEDxGoldenBridge team is a huge name. I appreciate it a lot.

Content curated by Pranami Gajjar and proofread by Nuzhat Mansuri

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