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Coming from a small place called Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan, famously known for creating entrepreneurs, Alok and Atul Agrawal were bound to be one as well. But that doesn’t mean that they spent their childhood living with this pressure from family. Rather, it was something they welcomed given the many success stories of their relatives they heard.
The brother duo, Atul and Alok have that humbleness of a small town with an entrepreneurial DNA. With the only regret to not have started up earlier, Alok shares what makes their startup ‘Teesort’ and their camaraderie so sorted, and how useful this entrepreneurial DNA is in the Indian startup ecosystem.
Did you also study to be an entrepreneur?
Not really. Coming from an entrepreneurial family background, I think entrepreneurship was always in our DNA but both Atul and I had jobs before we thought of starting up.
After graduating Atul worked for TCS in France and I am an IMT Graduate with an extensive experience in the operations sector of the Indian Telecom industry. Atul was the one who noticed that at that time, every second TV ad was of an e-commerce company and fashion category was big. This made us think that India will also have a disruption in fashion via a digital medium. That is when we decided to start Teesort.com in year 2010.
By the end of 2011, the brand started getting traction & thereby Atul left his job came back India, to lead the business as a full time venture. The moment we crossed 1 crore in sales in 2013 I decided to quit my job & dedicate my full time to entrepreneurship.
Teesort is a bootstrapped company, all the money put into building it came out of our life savings. We could not afford to make any mistake and had to ensure that our funds are efficiently utilized.
What’s the need of your startup in the market?
We saw a void in the tier 2 and tier 3 cities for affordable, fashionable clothing and Teesort was created to fill this gap.
We always knew that digital is one medium that can solve big problems for any country or industry. Once India adopted the digital medium, we realised that fashion is also going to move to a digital platform. Seeing this transition, we knew opting for Teesort to be an e-commerce company was the right decision.
The e-Commerce seem to be going through a tough time, what are your expansion plans keeping that in mind?
On the contrary, as numbers tell us, 2016 is going to be a big year for the e-commerce industry. There is an expected expansion for the industry from being a 3-billion-dollar market to a 35-billion-dollar market in 2020. 2016 will see a 100% rise in the online fashion.
Teesort recently hit the INR 100cr revenue mark in 2015-2016 financial year making our growth at a rate of 300% year on year from 2013 to 2016. We cater to over 39,000 pin codes in India. We have delivered more than 2 million orders till date.
Teesort aims at a revenue of Rs. 200 Crore. We have been growing at a rate of 300% year on year. We aim to grow our revenues at a rate of 100% for the FY 2016-17. We want to ensure that the money we invest is efficiently utilized for the growth of the business.
What has been you starting up nightmare?
Our biggest challenge were the various regulatory hurdles we faced while trying to set up Teesort. We had many sleepless nights as we did not know where to begin. We had underestimated the amount of paper work that would be required to start a business in India.
We take every challenge as an opportunity and use technology wherever possible to solve. If the challenge is of a non-technical nature, we solve it in a way that ensures that the problem does not reoccur again.
What makes you different from your competitors?
Teesort is extremely focused on having its business economics in place. We ensure that each and every penny spent is efficiently utilised by the business. We are in a very high exponential growing market in this digital world. Very few e-commerce companies currently focus on business economics and profitability.
What’s your business mantra set in stone?
Our business mantra is as simple as it gets. Go back to the customer. Customer feedback is of utmost importance in our profession where the business starts from a customer and ends with customer.
How have you grown as an entrepreneur?
Both Atul and I have become more responsible than we were earlier. Being in corporate jobs, we were responsible only for our respective work and team. However, ever since Teesort, we are responsible for more than 800-1000 (Direct & Indirect) Teesort employees. That in itself gives us more responsibility.
Any tips for beginners?
My only tip to the beginners who want to enter the Indian start-up ecosystem is that they should be really driven and passionate about their idea. The start-up journey is not a cakewalk; however, the work satisfaction is probably a 100 times more than any other industry which makes it totally worthwhile the risks.