YourStory in conversation with Hrishikesh Datar, founder of VakilSearch, an online legal services and solutions provider
If someone asked you to tell them about VakilSearch in about three sentences, what would you say?
vakilsearch.com is a provider of legal services and solutions on the internet. We help people prepare basic legal documents, fix an appointment with a lawyer and even get reliable legal guidance on taxation, property/real estate, company law, labour law, intellectual property and foreign exchange laws online. Our prices are affordable, ranging from Rs.299 to Rs.799, and every product or solution is delivered within 48 to 72 hours. We guarantee that.
How is vakilsearch different from other legal help portals?
First, our dedicated panel of experts to provide guidance on tax law, labour law, intellectual property law, company law and even property law is something no other portal offers. Secondly, we are more comprehensive even in other departments, such as the documents we prepare for other people(not only Rental agreements, wills and consumer complaints but even cheque bounce notices). Finally, we have a large and growing network of lawyers in different cities who can help you if we cannot do so directly. To sum it up, we are different because no matter what legal solution you need, we do it quickly, reliably and are very affordable.
How did the idea for vakilsearch come about?
I was presenting an idea for LawWeb, a portal to provide quality content to lawyers, at IIM, Bangalore. A member of the audience stood up and said “Why not instead help people find lawyers online?” That planted the seed of the idea in my head. From there, it grew into being a provider of every kind of legal solution, online.
Tell us about your background.
I graduated from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, which is India’s finest institution for legal studies. I grew up in Chennai and have headquartered vakilsearch.com here in Chennai. I’m excited about start-ups, art and motor sport. I ran a small business selling t-shirts before starting vakilsearch.com in my final year, so this is actually not my first enterprise!
Let us know about the tie-ups that you have (if any). Is there acceptance for your concepts? Can you give us some incidents to illustrate the same?
In an exciting development, vakilsearch.com is in the process of tying up with the Confederation of Indian Industry(CII) to provide legal guidance to the 9000 plus enterprises which are part of the CII family. Additionally, we help other websites like Commonfloor.com in Bangalore to address the legal needs of users. We are actively reaching out to other enterprises with whom we share synergies and hopefully more alliances should form, soon.
We regularly contribute content to the Entrepreneur Magazine and to the Hindu Business Line.
Where do you see online consumer legal services and vakilsearch five years from now?
In five years, I expect that we would have consolidated our position at the top of a rapidly growing market for online legal services. I will however be happiest if at the end of five years we can say that every customer has been absolutely satisfied with our service. That will mean the most to us and will bring sound dividends for the business too.
What is vakilsearch’s revenue model?
Except for fixing appointments with reliable advocates in different cities, which is a free service we provide, we charge an affordable fee of Rs. 299 to Rs. 799 for our legal services, preparing essential documents and getting sound legal guidance.
As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?
Speaking for myself, the glamour of entrepreneurship fades after a few days of starting up. After that its still enjoyable, but a tight-rope walk keeping various stakeholders(in our case the lawyers, technical team and customers) happy and excited about the product/service. The challenges are many, but I think the biggest is this: Indians still think that online equals free.Thankfully, even that is slowly and visibly changing.
How big is the vakilsearch team? Tell us a little bit about your team. Are you looking at hiring?
I was very excited about the idea of starting up while studying, and vakilsearch.com was built in its beta form while I was in the final year of law school. After returning to Chennai, I refined the concept and built the site with the help of Karthik Kolli, a friend from the IIT, Madras. Now the technical support and help is given by Tech Garuda, an excellent ITES firm in Chennai. Particularly, Mr. Durgesh, Mr. Vikram V. and Mr. S.S. Venkataraman of Tech Garuda are the foundation on which the website and the business stands.
On the business side, vakilsearch.com has Mr.Sundaram and the panel at IIM Bangalore and Mr. Siddhant Bhansali from the ISB, Hyderabad. Finally, Mr. Nikhil Shah, Mr. Bhaskar Anand and Mr. Kedar Deodhar are involved who have all built technology based start-ups and help with marketing and business development.
We will be looking at hiring in the next four to six months. If there is anyone dynamic out there who is very excited about our service and wants to be part of our story, please write in or call!
Let us know about your expansion plans.
Our website today gets 75-100 visitors and 400 page views a day, which is a significant jump over the first month. Our most popular service is our ‘Legal guidance by Experts’ feature for which we have a regular stream of customers and many repeat customers. Other than that, we are also seeing traction for our retail(so-to-speak) legal services like preparing documents.
Our major focus now is to make the website perfect and find more and more ways to reach out to customers. That sums up our expansion plans for now. Once we get the capital for our planned investment(s), we will rapidly achieve our other planned goals. And finally, we will be increasing our portfolio of products too, steadily.