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How Explara Got Investors To Believe In Its Idea Of Building A DIY Platform

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How Explara Got Investors To Believe In Its Idea Of Building A DIY Platform

Santosh Panda, Co-founder & CEO, Explara

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What do you do when you face constant rejection and lack of investors' faith? Do you give up? No. This is the story of an audacious idea, the founder's belief in it and its thumping success. Explara Co-founder, CEO Santosh Panda was juggling with two nascent startup projects in London, when a radio advertisement gave him the idea to start something in the dis-organized space of event management. Santosh audaciously explored this idea, in spite of seeing his first two ideas not taking off successfully. Sitting in London, Santosh chased the idea of forming Explara remotely, which today boasts of close to 15 lakh users.

On event organizer side, Explara offers a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) solution platform that serves anybody to create event, offer free/paid ticketing/registration, payment collection, event promotion, sales management, attendee management, event communication and event management. 

Struggle to find angels

When Santosh started to look out for funding, he faced several rejections from international angel investors, who weren’t convinced of this idea’s scalability in India way back in 2009. There was insufficient data to prove the validation of Explara’s business model which prevented angels from investing in his idea. “Not having the money I had to bootstrap my business in 2009 and 2010 while running it remotely,” he said. Santosh would wake up at odd hours to co-ordinate with his team mates in India while he was struggling to maintain his personal financial condition.

Moving back to India; getting its first angel

In 2011, Santosh moved to India where he got in touch with his childhood friend Ramdas in Chennai, who in spite of not being from the event industry placed his trust in Explara’s business model. Ramdas went on to become Explara’s first angel after signing a cheque worth 15 lakhs for the company.

Meeting Google’s Rajan Anandan

It was in 2012 Santosh met Google India MD Rajan Anandan at an event which was conducted by a friend. Later, Santosh met Rajan at Oberoi with a couple of other angel investors. Explara at that time was clocking in sales of 2.5 crores per year and was powering small, medium and large events. Post the pitch discussion Santosh got a call from Rajan asking, “What are you really interested in? Are you interested in building a long tail model of all these small scale businesses using your platform or are you looking at large scale?” Santosh replied saying “both.” Post this Rajan did not revert back to Santosh regarding any investment ideas

Realizing blunders and re-organizing

Then Santosh along with his co-founder Ashok Kumar realized their blunder (i.e.) they haven’t assessed the real potential of the business. They were growing haphazardly and this would not help them create the core DNA of the company.

They took a step back and decided to concentrate on the DIY platform, which could be used by small scale users to come on their own with no cost of acquisition. The team changed its model and decided to stop chasing large scale events like David Guetta concerts and focus on small and medium scale clients.

Winning Rajan Anandan and other investors

They saw the idea gaining traction and after three to four months Santosh decided to mail Rajan on a Saturday. “Rajan you had a valid point when you asked whether we wanted to focus on small events or large and I said large back then,” Santosh wrote. “We have realized that we had messed with the model and did not realize the DNA that has created this company. We are now just focussing on DIY only and we have grown seven times now.” Immediately Santosh heard back from Rajan and within a couple of minutes he decided to invest in the company. Rajan then asked Santosh to pursue Blume Ventures and other angels.

Focus on one product

Santosh says if an entrepreneur comes from an engineering background he should pick up one product and focus on it rather than producing several products.  One should continuously get feedback from customers and give them necessary value additions.

New products

Explara today has more than 50,000 event organizers on its platform and has powered more than 50,000 events last year. Santosh and his team are working on several new products to increase the engagement within the event management industry. Its event-connect app aims to connect attendees, speakers and organizers of a particular event. It is also helping repeat event organizers create a community with its audience and introducing referral programs as well. Explara also aims to create a digital badge for attendees to prevent wastage of paper and time for organizers.

Edition: December 2016

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