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Several models have made a name for themselves off the runway too, proving they can be successful entrepreneurs. Supermodel Lalit Tehlan is one of the rare male models who put India on the global modeling map with his long rakish hair and sculpted physique. Today, confidence, creativity and hard work is taking him places as he turns entrepreneur with a kick-ass sticker app on iOs and Android. In conversation with the young man who approaches his future with a dedication that's inspiring.


Lalit what first inspired you to diversify from modeling to entrepreneur?


I have never liked following orders or ever wanted to work for someone else. Even whilst modelling I had other businesses on the side from the age of eighteen.  As with all entrepreneurs I believe in multiple streams of income. Being the black sheep of my family, I have always marched to the beat of my own drum and wanted to create an extraordinary and exciting life for myself…  to create something for myself, by myself. I love being my own boss as well as all the learning and exhilaration which comes with entrepreneurship.


How did you come up with the idea for the app with humorous stickers? Please share the story with us.


I made this app for myself to be completely honest, I personally don't like typing out long messages. I also tend to speak in a kind of cheeky, ambiguous way, often turning to innuendos. The easiest way I could think of to get my point across quickly, in a humorous, fun, sometimes brazen way, would be to send a sticker. There are no stickers like this though, at least nothing which appealed to me. The solution was to create a product to fulfil this need — with a difference. I didn't just want something with great, witty text; I wanted images to be distinguished. In the initial phases of LELOJI, I began to see that it's not just me who doesn't like typing out messages and that I had the opportunity to create a product, which would make messaging and flirting easier for people, and could also make people smile and laugh. I felt with everything going on in the world, spreading more smiles and laughs is a good thing.


Tell us about your experience when launching this app. Did you face any hurdles or challenges?


I'm extremely fortunate to be able to say that, whatever I get my hands into something, I seem to do well at. I am truly lucky and blessed. I had the idea, and from there everything just snowballed from one good thing to another. I tend to just think about something and it happens. I have had an absolutely wonderful experience creating LELOJI; it has been somewhat of a passion project. It truly excites me. Right in the initial stages of LELOJI, Gudda {Rohit Bal] was having a little celebratory bash at home and I there I caught up with old friends  and told all of them what I was up to; everyone was excited and there was great banter, all of us exchanging ideas for captions, slang, naughty jokes and the like. Then suddenly amid all the enthusiasm, I just said, 'I am naming it LELOJI.'  The response was terrific, and just like that, it stuck.


What is involved in the creation of the stickers for the app? Do take us through the process.


I have a team of artists, and interns artists from across the globe. Each with their own speciality. First and foremost, I wanted the app to have a variety of artwork styles to appeal to individual tastes. Nobody just likes one thing; on one day you may like one thing and on another be in a different mood. As they say, 'Variety is the spice of life.' My goal was that everyone should feel good when they open LELOJI and there should be something for everybody. People should be able to use the app in all situations, with anyone. Obviously the tone and style of the sticker would vary depending on who you are speaking to. Captions and designs are done with my research team, and then both sections are merged. That's a very rudimentary explanation, because obviously I cannot divulge my secret recipe.


Tell us about the Indian characters on your stickers, which seem to each have a unique personality! What inspired you? Is it personal?


It is completely a team effort sometimes the artists come up with everything, sometimes we give direction to the artists on what we want them to create. Inspiration in India is not hard to find. We have such colourful characters — pun intended — wherever you look. We have so many different types of people, different groups all with their own slang. We also analyse which kinds of Hindi stickers are popular, what kind of captions and artwork people like, and according to this we create more along the same lines. As we work with a lot of young people, we are also open to suggestions from anyone in our team.


This one may be a hard question but which sticker is your favorite? And why?


Having favourites is not in my nature. I have no idea what my favourite food is or what my favourite colour is. I love everything in some or other way. I see the silver lining in situations and for me nothing is bad; this word is not in my vocabulary, everything is great. Sure, not every sticker is made for my taste, or my humour, but there is definitely something I like about every sticker. I often get asked what my favourite is and I truly do not have an answer for this. At times I send a lot of Hindi stickers and on occasion I am more into English stickers. Every so often, I gravitate towards more sexy stickers and sometimes the sillier ones.


Do you plan to monetise this app at some point? How is it good business sense in the current model?


As I mentioned, I initially created this app for myself because I want to be point to point when I speak, but still inject a little fun and soul in my messages. I wanted a way to reply to people without having to type an essay — a good- looking sticker with a catchy caption was my solution. After seeing the current offers on the table, LELOJI is monetising itself and will continue to do so. I am not permitted to reveal too much about the business model, but without revealing a great deal, I can say that in the next three- six months you will definitely see something new and amazing. We have huge and rather thrilling plans for LELOJI. The final version of the app is available on IOS, and as of January 2021 we have launched LELOJI on Android as well; it's not the final version but people can download it from the PlayStore and use it.


There are so many apps today. What do you think sets LeloJi apart and makes it special?


Without sounding like I lack modesty, I feel everything, even the name, is special and sets us apart from other apps. My lips are meant to be sealed regarding future plans, however I can say that albeit a new app, LELOJI is constantly being worked on, we are always looking for ways to improve and grow. Currently we are working on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. And something big is on the way.


What are your plans for the future? Besides LeloJi and modeling, do you have projects in the works?


I left my career as a model years ago, just the odd appearance here or there for fun. I have always been more interested in business. At the age eighteen I started my first business venture alongside modelling. This is where I first got a taste for enterprise and entrepreneurship. I then moved to Mumbai and that's where I was really able to sink my teeth into all kinds of exciting projects. I worked with fantastic people and grew so that we could have offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. However, I have a special attachment to LELOJI because in essence it is an extension of me and my personality. I have always, since getting into business, wanted to do something which could serve and reach billions of people, so LELOJI is the perfect thing for me. The most fabulous thing with LELOJI is that I know where my future lies, and the satisfaction it all brings me. When you enter into tech, the possibilities are endless. The world truly is your oyster!

Supermodel Lalit Tehlan
sticker on LELOJI
sticker on LELOJI
sticker on LELOJI
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