By Madhusheel Arora and Avleen Kaur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi.
With the times Internet has revolutionised our lifestyle over the past two decades and it was only a matter of time before entrepreneurs turned it from a mere repository of information to a platform where money can be made.
The story of internet as the starting point of entrepreneurship has, however, only just begun. There are endless possibilities and ways in which this network of networks can be used to start new businesses, depending upon the depth of the idea and the amount of work put in its execution.
Our very own tricity has several young entrepreneurs, some of them still to attain a graduate qualification, who have started out on a business journey using the internet as the ‘major raw material’ and are tapping into business opportunities that few foresaw.
HT’s Madhusheel Arora and Avleen Kaur caught up with some young and ambitious online entrepreneurs, who are using the internet as their window to the world. The list features an online sandwich delivery venture to a meal and auto-rental delivery firm.
We capture the founder’s enthusiasm, the challenges they faced and their sense of purpose.
Bapman and Cobbin
For Anurag Sharma, 21, a graduate from Government College of Commerce and Business Administration, Sector 42, Chandigarh, business success had always been a dream. However, this Agra native had to take the hard steps to establish the venture and worked at a call-centre to generate enough funds (‘1.5 lakh) to find kitchen space and equipment to make sandwiches.
Inspired from Batman and Robin, the company’s name sounds funny, but his plan runs deep. Sharma wants to start a range of toys or comic books to accompany the meal. The order sheet for his sandwiches — his website — was created by a network of friends for free, he says. He generates 40 bills on an average day, and pays ‘25,000 a month for his kitchen, where the sandwiches are prepared. The company has a workforce of six.
Family background: Teachers and army officers
Education: BCom (Honours)
Source of idea: During graduation, he says, I struggled to find quality, tasty food that could sustain me. Having gone through that period of struggling to find a good meal, I decided to feed the world and it has been a very happy experience
Business plan: Bapman and Cobbin is a round-the-clock online sandwich shop. We promise delivery in Chandigarh and Mohali in 30 minutes and in Panchkula, the time for delivery depends upon the distance. The packaging is sourced from Delhi. The primary motive is not to earn profit, but serving quality and healthy food as this is the need of the hour. The company is earning enough to sustain itself.
Funding: Generated own funds after working in a call-centre for a year.
Advice: Never give up on dreams, but be realistic and go one step at a time
Key learning: Never be afraid of feedback. Whenever customers call or review your services, it means you have started to matter to them.
Samar Singla, 29, felt attracted to the idea of improving the delivery time of something as simple as a meal. And he hit upon the idea of using an autorickshaw as a logistic tool as a solution to this problem and to others as well. Soon, Samar was working on offering an online autorickshaw business. One thing led to another and in October 2014, Samar launched Jugnoo. The company now offers three services in five cities and employs more than 200 people.
Family background: Agriculturists
Education: B Tech, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
Source of Idea: The inconvenience in getting the small everyday services fuelled the idea. For instance, getting a vehicle or a meal on time and then having stuff home-delivered are important tasks that deserve to be offered at much greater convenience to the customer than what was being done. The autorickshaw is an important tool to achieve this goal
Business plan: I want to be a big player in the hyper-local space. Jugnoo is an innovative hyper-local marketplace that provides everything on-demand using auto rickshaws as a logistics engine. Jugnoo offers three types of services — Jugnoo Fatafat, affordable home-like tiffin, Jugnoo Meals and Jugnoo Autos in five cities.
Source of funding: Venture capital (professional companies who back businesses)
Advice: Hindsight is always misleading. Never regret anything in life.
Key learning: Make a strong product but don’t just stop there, constantly innovate. Be realistic and brutally honest with yourself.
For Schoolpad.in’s Abhiraj Malhotra (28), his school days, when his parents barely knew what he was up to at school, became the motivation for launching a business that lets parents into everything their children do at school, leveraging the power of the internet.
An engineer, Abhiraj’s company offers schools a product that digitises all information a school would want to convey to a parent — like circulars, exam schedule, report cards etc. Paper circulars make no sense, he says. Started in June 2013, schoolpad.in now has 23 schools on its ‘rolls’ and 15 from the tricity signing up for this service. Abhiraj’s days are mostly spent in offering support to school staff, who use the software, all remotely and without having to visit the school.
He says his company makes teachers more productive by collating data from various sources in a convenient format. The company charges ‘9,000 a month from schools that sign-up and a school could withdraw ‘subscription’ any time. His turnover is around ’15 lakh.
Family background: Service sector
Education B Tech, Chitkara Campus, Baddi
Source of Idea: Parents must know what their child does at school; we facilitate schools in getting this information
Business plan: Schoolpad.in is different as we offer a complete package of tools to schools that helps them better manage their staff, students and interact frequently with parents on their laptops and smart phones. We spend very little and we would definitely want to expand, but at our own pace. We are working on better marketing of our product.
Primary source of funding: Our idea got funding from my college incubator.
Advice: Know your competition, but do not get obsessed as then you start following it.
Key learning: It is important to focus on your goals and scale up only when you are fully prepared. I still collect my cheques from schools. Most important, keep your ear to the ground.
For Lakshya Arora, 20, online entrepreneurship started with a capital of ‘2,500 and a desire to give a platform to leather foot-wear makers on the Karnataka-Maharasthra border to sell their ware without middlemen. The capital was invested in creating a website that offered to sell the footwear and was launched in June 2013.
Co-founder Hitesh from Mumbai and Arora, a BA (Honours) wanted desperately to improve the plight of artisans, who weaved “magically beautiful” juttis (handmade slippers). Now, an 11-member team looks after the website, offers customer support and processes orders. The website has sold over 3,500 pairs of juttis in the two years since launch. The company uses the surplus profit to adopt a school or a village.
Family Background: First generation entrepreneur
Source of idea: On an internship to Egypt, my partner, Hitesh, saw foreigners appreciate Indian art. We realised Indians do not respect their own art, while people abroad go gaga over the craft in our hands. At that moment, we knew we wanted to help the Indian artisans and the website was born.
Business plan: Hitesh and I handle south and north India respectively. Abha handles sales and finance. Omkar Pandharkame is the marketeer. We have hosted 20 exhibitions across the country and are even getting orders from Taiwan, Portugal, Australia and Canada. We are a social entrepreneurship company, striving to adopt villages and also empower them.
Funding: Self-sustainable, regular sales, business-to-business contacts and exhibitions.
Advice: Stop thinking and start acting, because at the end of the day, it is about creating things. Vision without execution is just hallucination.
Key learning: Design your life because possibilities are limitless, but time is limited and you have to be productive to move forward.
For Siddhant Kapoor, 20, a mechanical engineering student from the University Institute of Engineering and Technology in Panjab University, providing services for your irritating tap leak or an AC service was a great business opportunity. Once you enter your problem into the website and are fine with the rates offered for, say repair of a leaking tap, the company sends a repairman to your home.
The Panchkula resident claims to have a database of 150 servicemen. The website has, so far, cost him ‘1.15 lakh of his own and he claims to have earmarked another substantial amount to invest in the venture. The company keeps 20% of the labour charge as commission and claims to be getting more than 100 jobs a month. A call-centre is also operational to take care of complaints and ratings of the personnel are maintained.
Family background: Business, but on different lines from the venture.
Education: Pursuing mechanical engineering from PU
Source of idea: The inspiration behind the idea was the alarming situation of the home repair and service sector in our country. This sector has always been plagued by inconsistency and fraud. You never know whether you have paid the correct amount or have been overcharged.
Business Plan: We provide an extensive list of services for the frustrating fall-outs of minor repairs around a house. From normal wear and tear taking its toll to regular maintenance and service of appliances to fixtures on a whim, we do it all. We want to expand and increase our list of personnel to offer time-bound guaranteed quality of service.
Funding: Own funds
Advice: Learn from every experience. It might not seem relevant now, but the more experiences you have, the better are your chances for success.
Key learning: Start-ups with a casual work environment are the ones that fail.