It was the September of 2014. Indian entrepreneurs were making headlines. Funding, valuation, and bootstrapping were among the most common words in the newspapers. India was becoming hottest destination for venture capital.
I was already selling Indian dresses to NRIs through Instagram to fund my college education. The headlines gave a spark to my desire to become an entrepreneur.
I began searching entrepreneurs group on Facebook and Google and came across a meetup group ‘Entrepreneur’s Walk run by Piyush, an IIT Kanpur alumni. I kept attending the meetups regularly, got to know Piyush better and realized he was looking for a co-founder as well. We went on to co-host 18 more meetups together, met a lot of founders (Deepak of Shifu, Blaze of Stayuncle, Umang of Bonita India, Ashim of Haptik to name a few). We got tremendous insight about business in general and saw our community increase to over 4000 members.
We were mesmerized by the idea of sharing economy. Airbnb & Uber impacting people’s lives in a scale unimaginable before. Entrepreneurs are one of the first names that come up when passion is mentioned. We connected with artists, chefs, craftspeople, fitness instructors and even photography professors to hear their story. Some of them made a decent living while some worked side jobs to sustain themselves. The one thing that we commonly heard from all of them was that they loved their work. This was very different from what we had been hearing from most of our corporate friends who used to love the money but hate the work.
After researching for a couple of months, we decided to create a platform to help such people share and monetize from their passion so that more people would be motivated to pursue their interests. We had to solve a chicken and egg problem and at the same time also create trust. So we handpicked some hosts, invited them to our platform and helped them connect with people who admire their talent. Along our journey, we also learned that many hosts did not have decent spaces to conduct sessions. We partnered with places such as Sri Aurobindo Centre where they could conduct their sessions. Some of our hosts have also started offering their spaces to other hosts for hosting, strengthening our community, expanding their reach and lowering the costs for our hosts.
We started with artists initially because we loved interacting with them and they gave us useful inputs regarding website design (we do not yet have any designers on our team). One of our initial hosts Mr. Inku Kumar- a calligrapher who left his lucrative job to pursue his passion for calligraphy has earned more than Rs.25000 by organizing three sessions through the platform. This gives him time to pursue his other interests as well (Creating amazing calligraphy designs in printed t-shirts and mugs, conducting free sessions in schools for small children).
We recently got a call from a female executive who wants to give up on her job and pursue her passion for photography. She is eager to be a par of our community and host sessions through the platform.
“Helping people to share their passion with people who admire their talent has been a really amazing experience for us”.
The journey has not been easy and we’ve learned some hard lessons. (We will not go about explaining every point in detail, because as an entrepreneur we love to save your time and ours too, plus there is something about learning on the job)
- Have a laser-like focus on the problem you are solving. Take as much time in understanding the problem and validating it before you spend your time in creating a solution.
- On Market Size- If you’ve validated the problem, then spend your time in understanding the demand. Sizing market correctly is extremely important if you are looking forward to raising funds.
- On Business Model- Unless you are building Facebook or Twitter and even then, you should have a proper business model in place and the best way to figure out your revenue model is by directly talking to people who will pay you while in beta.
- On Competitors- Do not get too excited if you don’t have competitors, there are high chances that market is not lucrative to enter or there are a close substitute for your product. Likewise, do not get too dejected with strong competitors. If you have an edge over your competitors, you will be able to move much faster.
- One Sale- The best sales pitch is the combination of confidence+authenticity+humility.
- On Marketing– Before you build a product, it is important to find and validate the channels through which you’ll be acquiring first 1k customers and figuring out a way of how those 1k customers will be getting you another 10k customer.
- On Strategy- Focus on short-term strategy before the product-market fit, but once you are growing, it is very important to see the roadmap and show the road map. Otherwise, you’ll end up going nowhere.
One liner that we try to follow
If you don’t understand it you won’t be able to build it; you have to understand the product, the users, and the market.
Passion and determination are not going to help you in building a sustainable business; you need to have the proper skill, strategy, and speed.
There cannot be two core elements in your product.
Focusing on price, positioning and people are key for sustainable growth
The combination of authentic user experience and correct pricing strategy will help you to generate a strong word of mouth.
Focus on minimizing features and maximizing value; you do not have best UI if you have “how it work” on your website.
Quotes that inspires us and we follow-
“Disruption is lesser about tech and more about experiences’
“To be a millionaire, impact millions”
“In a world that’s changing quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks”
Do you agree with my lessons learned? What lessons have you learned in your own path? Please share them in the comments!
Mazen Quddusi is the co-founder of Zaprest.com, a customized marketplace for people who like things their way. He belongs from Delhi and has into selling business since class 11th. He was studying M.A Economics from J.M.I and dropped out in the final year.