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Don't worry about the law anymore!

Last updated on: May 24, 2011 13:51 IST

Don't worry about the law anymore!

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Puja Banta in Mumbai


One of the biggest advantages of the Internet in a country like India is the simplification of processes.

Whether it is paying the utility bills, banking or booking tickets and hotels for your travel, standing in long queues is no longer necessary.

You can do it all at the click of a mouse. And now this advantage has been extended to the legal system as well.

You can now find a lawyer online and take care of simple legal issues without leaving home.

One of the websites that can help you do this is Vakilsearch.com, a company founded by Hrishikesh Dattar, who, while studying at the National Law School, Bangalore, realised the need to make lawyers and legal services accessible to the common man. In conversation with Rediff.com, Dattar talks about his venture.

What is Vakilsearch and what is the need for such a service?

India has a large population that is growing richer, more connected and busy, but our legal system is simply refusing to keep up.

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Image: Hrishikesh Dattar founder of Vakilsearch.com.
Photographs: Reuters
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The perception that the common man and businesses have about the legal process is that of interminable delays, high cost and no guarantee of reliable service.

And it hurts most if your problem is not too complicated. A company with a Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) tax claim against it will be willing to invest a lot of energy and effort into the problem.

An individual or business which needs an answer to a legal query or a document to be drafted will not be.

That is where Vakilsearch.com comes in, by providing legal solutions and services online.

Our most popular feature is our 'Legal Guidance' service, where we guide individuals and businesses on taxation, property/real estate, company law, labour law, intellectual property and foreign exchange laws.

Not only is the service reasonably priced, at Rs. 399, we also guarantee an answer in 48-72 hours (and in 24-48 hours if you choose the 'Fast-Track' option).

Our expert panel, whose credentials are displayed on the site, ensures high quality.

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Image: Perception of the legal system is not positive, he says.
Photographs: Reuters
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How did you think of starting this venture?

While in law school, and working with lawyers and law firms across India, it became clear to me that there was an urgent need to simplify the legal procedure for the common man and even for businesses.

The seed of the idea was planted in my head while I was making a presentation at IIM, Bangalore.

I was presenting an idea for Law-Web, a portal to provide information resources to lawyers when a member of the audience stood up and said: "Why not help people with the law instead?"

This simple thought germinated over time and eventually bore fruit.

Under what circumstances do you think the common man will need to turn to Vakil Search?

The common man and businesses, at several points, face a dilemma at the heart of which is a legal problem. What features should I include in my rental agreement? Do I need to pay this tax? Am I not entitled to a bonus? What do I do if my employees go on strike?

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Image: Dattar says idea came to him when somebody asked him to help people.

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There are other challenges too: when you move into a new house as a tenant, you must prepare a fair rental agreement, rather than just sign what your landlord gives you.

If a cheque bounces, it is mandatory to send a notice within 30 days, as per law, which people are unaware of.

To take care of your loved ones in case the worst happens, you must prepare a last will and testament.

And if you are unhappy with a product or service, you are entitled to approach a consumer forum for relief. Vakilsearch.com helps in each of these situations.

Our focus is always on solving a problem, not just selling our service.

For example, a company needing advice on whether or not it has to pay a certain tax will need further assistance in sending a reply notice to the tax authorities.

The general perception that the common man and businesses have of anything legal is that it is a hassle. We want to change that to 'legal is now simple'.

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Image: He says his focus is on solving a problem.
Photographs: Reuters
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How does being online help in your case?

The Internet is really coming of age in India. We now have 81 million Internet-enabled homes with the connectivity increasing all the time.

People are beginning to use Internet for things other than information gathering; and as a tool to simplify their lives.

And like we have seen with products (notably railway and air tickets), I believe that it is a matter of time before people start using Internet as the default medium to get services from.

They just need to be convinced of the quality of the service.

A visitor to our website can also benefit from our rapidly expanding archive of 'Featured Articles' on various subjects.

What have your biggest challenges been and how have you overcome them?

The members of our team had to choose between jobs that paid well and a project whose future was, at the time, uncertain.

It took a considerable amount of belief and self-confidence to overcome the latent (and sometimes open) scepticism we faced while discussing the idea of 'online legal solutions in India'.

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Image: He says Indians will soon start using Internet for services.

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In the course of business, a major challenge has been the mindset of customers.

Even now most Indians believe that if a service is available online, it should be free; and the biggest challenge is creating a mindset where customers are willing to pay for quality service and guidance.

Like any other business, we face irritations too: For instance, some customers have refused to acknowledge or pay for the legal opinion or document delivered to them, after choosing our cash-on-delivery payment option.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Every entrepreneur should expect the unexpected. Most business ventures succeed with Plan B and not with Plan A, so one should never hold on to any idea too rigidly.

Finally, dream big. It costs nothing, and God invariably cuts you your cheque.


Image: Dattar says biggest challenge is to change the mindset.
Photographs: Reuters
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