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StartUpIndia: 'Hope we can build a nation of micro entrepreneurs'

By Prasanna D Zore
March 10, 2016 10:46 IST
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'Start Ups have to be really careful of the kind of talent they bring in, and the tone and culture they set.'

'It's absolutely crucial that the people we hire are motivated go-getters who can align with the company's long-term goals, culture and values.'

Varun Khaitan, co-founder, UrbanClap, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com how Start Up India can build an environment that encourages micro-entrepreneurs.

From left: UrbanClap co-founders Abhiraj Bhal, Varun Khaitan and Raghav Chandra

IMAGE: From left, UrbanClap co-founders Abhiraj Bhal, Varun Khaitan and Raghav Chandra

Describe your start-up venture...

UrbanClap is an online platform that helps you find the right service professionals for activities important to you.

Whether you are looking to decorate your home, all grooming services like salon at home, make-up artist at home etc, get candid pictures on your wedding day, plan your kid's birthday party or get healthier, UrbanClap is the ultimate destination for all service needs.

UrbanClap uses technology and smart processes to structure the highly unorganised services market in India. It aspires to make hiring a service professional as easy and straightforward as buying a product from a top e-commerce marketplace.

Your Start Up motivation...

The objective was to create a large tech business to solve a primary customer need in India. The local services industry in the country is really fragmented and needs to be built up brick by brick.

Finding and hiring the right service professional can be really difficult on the consumer end. On the other side, we realised that a lot of skilled professionals are unable to capitalise on their expertise simply because they could not market themselves and therefore chose to be employed with a larger aggregator.

We wanted to eliminate the middleman from this process and, in the long term, hope we can build a nation of micro entrepreneurs. That is why we decided to launch a Start Up to solve both these problems by leveraging mobile technology.

Your Start Up's USP...

UrbanClap uses technology to simplify the process of finding the right service professional. So far, companies like JustDial have just created listing platforms.

The objective of UrbanClap is to go a step further and enable users to find and hire the right professional for all their needs.

In essence, when choice is not a priority (example: Carpenters, plumbers) -- customers can go ahead and book a service on the app, and the professional will show up at the pre-appointed time.

When choice and other factors come in, for instance in the case of wedding photographers, yoga instructors and make-up artists, then we match the customers' requirements with professionals who can fulfill these needs.

The customer can then pick from the choices available to her/him, directly from the app.

How do you plan to scale-up? What's your revenue model?

We have already started the process of monetising the platform. In the current model, we do not charge customers for services rendered.

Our revenue comes in from the professional -- we basically charge the professional on the basis of the leads that s/he choose to answer to.

Challenges you faced and how you overcame them

The challenges have evolved with different levels of growth. At first, it was getting people to trust the portal. We now have to only replicate the perfect model which we developed through trial and error.

Our challenge is to stay as true to our vision and make sure quality is not compromised with growth.

Lessons your Start Up taught you...

It's been a long journey and there have been many challenges that we've faced. Essentially, there are three major lessons we've learnt so far.

1. Business model and unit economics: It is important is to prove that basic unit economics -- cost of acquisition, the cost of operations, revenue from transactions -- all need to add up to the positive. And for this, it is important to rely on the data, rather than trust hypotheses and hunches.

2. Building a stable product which creates a real value proposition for the user is absolutely essential and it is important to figure this out before moving ahead to scale the product.

3. Start Ups have to be really careful of the kind of talent they bring in, and the tone and culture they set.

To scale as a company, everyone needs to rapidly scale on their own, which requires a lot of effort to build the right core values, the right communication channels, the right messaging and the right company culture.

Hiring and team building is one of the most important processes for any company.

The positives and negatives of Start Up India Plan...

Start Up India comes as a welcome initiative for all young companies which are focused on solving problems and creating a positive impact in the industries they are operating in.

The plan will play a major role in providing the necessary incubation for young Start Ups who may have the requisite talent and potential to create a disruptive product, but may lack the expertise and resources to deal with the stringent compliances and regulations with the ease that larger, well-established companies can.

Some major positives of the Start Up India plan include:

  • The reduction of regulatory burden while creating a single point of contact where Start Ups can come together, interact, and exchange knowledge so that we can build an environment where we work in synergy.
  • The provision of an equal platform to Start Ups by eliminating the clause of 'prior experience/turnover' in tenders floated by Government entities and PSUs. This will ensure that Start Ups can have the opportunity to solve impactful problems with innovative, cost effective solutions, without compromising on quality.
  • Public private partnership which will see the setting up of incubators across the country, managed and operated by the private sector is a step in the right direction that will encourage a culture of innovative thinking and problem solving.

If there could be some improvements that could be made to the Start Up India plan, they might revolve around setting up and spreading awareness about a regulatory mechanism for disbursements of funds.

Once this mechanism is set up, more and more young Start Ups will avail the benefits of the plan.

How will Start Up India plan benefit your Start Up?

The Start Up India plan strengthens UrbanClap's mission of creating micro-entrepreneurs in the country. We are excited that we can work in synergy with this wonderful initiative.

In addition, the organisation of Start Up fests to provide a platform to spread innovation and spread awareness is an important factor which we hope will create greater awareness and help us to promote our Start Up at an international level and achieve the success that several successful global Start Ups have reached.

How many people have you employed and how many more do you plan to hire this calendar year?

We have over 270 people who are part of the organisation. In the coming year, we plan to increase the total strength of the workforce to 500.

What are the skill sets you will be looking for in your employees?

We are hiring across all major departments so, while it is important to possess the right background and qualifications, it's absolutely crucial that the people we hire are motivated go-getters who can align with the company's long-term goals, culture and values.

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Prasanna D Zore / Rediff.com
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