"I Wasn't That Good at People Management"
If there’s a work to be done or money to be exchanged for goods or services anywhere, there’s a start-up for that. In India, one of the most agonizing parts of moving into a new city or settling in is finding handy-men to perform your repairs, installations and household assistance. The industry is primarily dominated by word of mouth or middle men that charge phenomenal commissions to book you with a contact to help you out. However, finally with the help of Housejoy, there’s not only a start-up for that, but also an app for that. Expanded to nine cities currently, the start-up offers assistance at the comfort of your house fort everything from installing/servicing/repairing your AC, refrigerator, laundry, pest control, plumbing solutions and repairs, painting, carpentry, mobile/computer repair and even beauty regiments with trained beauticians reaching your doorstep and cleaning your home from scratch. The luxury of making the process of settling into your new home at the breeze of a few taps on your app along or offer busy professionals the privilege of getting specific tasks done at the comfort of your house without stepping out in the burning hot sun makes the scope of the app phenomenal.
We had an exclusive chat with one of its founders, Arjun Kumar who shared his story of growth and the lessons learned along the way. Here are some excerpts:
"Entrepreneurship was not something I had planned when I finished college"
I did my Masters in telecom from Ohio University. Post that I joined Valuelabs and worked there for 5 years. During that time I worked as a product manager for MakeMyTrip. That was a great learning experience and my first exposure to a startup. After that I opened my own company called Bookadda along with Hemant Kohli. After 2.5 years that got acquired by Sapna group. Post which, I started Housejoy along with Sunil Goel.
Entrepreneurship was not something I had planned when I finished college. It’s only after I started working and was looking at what was happening in the internet space that I started to get ideas. I think it’s important to get some perspective about work places, how things function in a workplace before starting out on your own.
On avoiding stagnancy:
My first job was with Valuelabs. I started out as a product engineer. I started off with a pay just enough to meet my basic expenses. I think a lot of people decide on a sector based on the salary benchmark. I think this is a very big mistake as an approach. If you are really interested in your work and are good in what you do you will get paid well but if you do not have interest and just joined for the salary you will get very frustrated with time and will stagnated in your career.
"Seeing the industry standards crumbling, we figured it's the right time for disruption"
I had worked previously on two large scale platforms in the travel domain and ecommerce domain. Post exit we were looking at the potential of creating new platforms for India and that’s when we evaluated the services sector. In home services we figured that both sides of the spectrum, the customers and the service providers were unhappy with the status quo. Customers were not sure about where to get service providers (SP’s), quality of the SP’s, chasing the SP’s to turn up, follow up with them in case of any issues, etc.
On the other hand the SP’s were also quite unhappy. They had to travel long distances for jobs. Customers would then haggle on prices. They wouldn’t get demand in the localities where they operate. Seeing this situation we felt the time is ripe for disruption. We realized there is a need for a platform to connect the services providers and customers. Also we needed to do make sure that the platform ensures the completion of the jobs, else we would be just a lead generator which does not work in India now. That is the genesis of why we started Housejoy
Naming the start-up
We wanted a name which very clearly explained the nature of work we do and create an emotion contrary to what they currently feel about getting any kind of chores done at home. We remove the stress from finishing household chores. Hence the words House and joy to form the brand Housejoy.
Our business model is that of a marketplace. We connect service providers to the customers and take a commission on the service amounts. Housejoy was started by Sunil Goel and me. We now have booked around 5 lakh services on our platform till date and are on track to book 3 lakh services in the coming quarter.
30Million US$ funding and counting:
We have raised around 30 million dollars till date. The main usage of the funds will be used for increasing the depth and range of our services offering to become more relevant to the customer.
How to attract investors:
One of the things that worked for us is that we have a very good founding team with technology, operations and marketing experience. The investors also liked the space and what we were planning to do on the platform.
Performance oriented teams encourage wins
We are now around 300 people spread across 10 cities with the headquarters based out of Bangalore. We are trying to build a performance oriented team. There are a lot of challenges when we increase the team rapidly. We work hard toward results and celebrate small / large wins. Everyone likes to be part of winning teams.
I have been very lucky in this respect. I have had some great support from Growthstory founders Srini and Ganesh. They have been part of my previous start up too. Srini helped conceive the idea of Housejoy, seed funded it through Growthstory and also helped us raise both Series A and Series B. He has been part of the daily running when we started out and helped us crystallize the execution for the proof and concept of this idea and later the expansion and marketing.
The biggest learning has been the speed of execution. The outcome could be a success or failure but its best to move real fast to realize either of them. The opportunity cost is very high in a startup and hence speed execution is a must.
"Wrong hires setback company quite a bit in the initial stages"
The biggest challenge any startup has is to build a great team. To get the first set of employees is always a challenge since the company is at infancy and you do need to sell the vision and growth story of the company. Everybody joining a startup should know the risks and rewards associated with a startup. They are looking to be part of an exciting journey which will be personally and professionally rewarding.
I generally prefer to take some time in hiring since wrong hires setback company quite a bit in the initial stages. I think we have done a fairly good job in building our team. We have a very talented and hands on team which has helped us grow rapidly to make us the number one player in this sector
Growth scenario in India:
Today I have more conviction in this business compared to even when I started. I see the next big thing in India to be in the services and product space. We are a billion plus population and I see this to be one of the biggest growth category in the world today. This sector has been ripe for disruption and we are the ones leading the disruption today
You do need a lot of patience and trust in the people you hire. It’s very easy to initially think you can do all the work but in order to scale up you need to build a strong team. This requires a lot of patience and trust in the people you hire. These are people who have quit high paying jobs and have come on board to achieve something big. You need to dedicate a good amount of time to people management. As we grow, this is of paramount importance and I wasn’t always good at it, but hope we are now getting better at it.
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