Entrepreneurship Is Essentially About Problem Solving
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Rohit, founder and CVO of Budli.in (Budli which means change in Hindi), pens his thoughts on his purpose behind diving into the world of entrepreneurship.
I had got some experience in eCommerce both in India and the US by setting up a sourcing base for gadgets in China and the US and selling in marketplaces in India and the US using drop shipping. This experience in eCommerce helped me immensely when starting my ReCommerce (Reverse Commerce) Venture. This is also what helped me with the initial capital for my venture.
I was influenced by someone in the UK who started his career with ReCommerce of used music records amongst students. He went on to do quite well for himself and also started his own airline. His name is Sir Richard Branson. Elon Musk and his risk taking ability inspired me to think big at the same time.
I've always been fond of using the latest gadgets. I had recently upgraded my phone and was wondering what do I do with my old one. I had a few options:
- Trade it into a local dealer. He would only buy back something if I bought something new from him. Also, the pricing was very inconsistent.
- Use an online classified ad to sell my old phone. I had to list my product and wait for someone to contact me. I wasn't sure whether the callers were genuine buyers, when it would sell or at what price. The experience could be good, bad or ugly.
- Leave it in a drawer somewhere in my house and the device would end up losing value and become dangerous e-waste.
Every problem is an opportunity. Entrepreneurship is essentially about problem-solving.
So I started focusing on this one problem - what do we do with our used gadgets? I did market research, looked at various models around the world, spoke to many different companies. Some of the facts which I came across was astounding:
- India is the world's fastest growing smartphone market at 43% CAGR
- Average replacement period for smartphones is 18 months
- 100 Million smartphones shipped in India in 2015 would come back to the secondary market after 18 months. At an average ASP of US$100, this market is over US$10 Billion and growing rapidly.
- Profit margins on certified pre-owned & refurbished devices are better than on new ones.
- There are no large organized players in this space currently which is primarily unorganized.
- India has 950 Million mobile phone users and 250 million smartphone users. ReCommerce can be used to bridge this digital divide.
- India is a value and price sensitive market. There is a huge unmet demand for Certified Pre-Owned/Refurbished gadgets from a trusted source with the assurance of a warranty. There is no brand in India currently which has been able to create a mind space among the consumers for these gadgets.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
The first step was to provide a consistent, controlled, curated selling experience which was missing. The way e-Commerce was focusing on the buying experience, I wanted to focus on improving the selling experience. The idea was to:
- Provide an instant price discovery mechanism
- Free shipment pickup across India
- Prompt direct payment to the user after verification of the device.
This was an idea worth pursuing. I went about it in an analytical manner the way one goes about building a business:
- Identify an unsolved problem
- Find a technologically and logistically viable way to solve the problem
- Understand the viability and scalability of the business.
When I connected these three dots was when I started Budli (meaning 'Change' in Hindi). My end-goal was to create and drive change in India. I followed the Lean Startup process - built my POC (Proof of Concept) and MVP (Minimum Viable Product) by initially outsourcing it.
I was just a guy with an idea - no team, finance or partners. I spoke to a few people who questioned my idea, that it had not been done before and if no one else had done it how do you know you will be able to. However, I had a conviction of this being a problem worth solving, and my ability to find a solution to the problem. In life, we regret more of the things we do not do than the things we do. Unless we are prepared to fail, we cannot succeed.
"I don't skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going."
The initial website was outsourced. I managed to get it up but now how do I validate it? How would I know if users would actually find it useful or not? There was no marketing, no one knew about the website. I started calling up local listings of people interested in selling their devices and asking them to check out the website. One person found it interesting and confirmed the order to sell his device. Awesome! But how do I fulfill the order? I had no logistics partners, no payment mechanism. So I went myself to collect the device and complete the transaction. Initially, I wore many hats - these included tech, marketing, product design, finance, sales, packing and delivery. I was able to resell the device online at a profit and that's how the journey started.
The transactions started growing and I built up a team. Unfortunately, located in Kolkata, we were facing numerous logistical and tax challenges. I realized that for this venture to grow to its potential, Kolkata wasn't the best place for it. I decided to relocate to Bangalore, set up a team there and scale it up.
“To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”
During the journey, I've faced numerous challenges. There have been times when I was not sure how I would fulfill the next order. Three things helped me overcome these obstacles:
- Clarity (Being clear about the end-goal)
- Certainty (Knowing that the universe is pushing me forward towards it)
- Purpose (When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny. Doing something impactful and meaningful. Being part of something greater than ourselves.)
Apart from that above, patience, perseverance and passion are essential as well. I believe that entrepreneurs overcome their problems using these strengths along the way. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is just perseverance.
Over time, every idea, business model, and technology can be copied. The long-term success of any company depends on its vision and core values, which cannot be replicated.
When we start focusing on larger problems, our problems seem so small.
We are living in extraordinary times. Anyone in a remote corner of the world with a smartphone and Internet connection has access to more information than the President of the US had 15 years back.
Technology is radically transforming education, healthcare, financial services & utilities.
The primary medium through which this technology is going to be accessed by millions will be the Smartphone - the catalyst for creating change. ReCommerce has the potential to bridge this digital divide in India between people who have access to technologically advanced devices and those who don't. At the same time, reduce e-waste and help save the environment.
Change is the only constant. I’m manifesting my reality by embracing, creating and driving Budli (change).