Kashyap Deorah always believed in disruptive innovation. And with Chaupaati Bazaar, that's precisely what the computer science graduate from IIT Bombay has gone ahead and done -- changing the way people buy and sell goods in their neighbourhood, if only in parts of Mumbai so far. Chaupaati - phone pe deal - is a phone classifieds service for the urban aspirers and unorganised retailers. Anyone in Mumbai with a mobile phone can call 922-222-1947 and speak with a Chaupaati representative to buy or sell mobile phones, electronics, appliances and automobiles in their neighbourhood. Chaupaati would directly connect them with buyers and sellers near them.
Started with a seed capital of Rs 1.9 crore, besides 8 full time, 6 part time and 17 outsourced personnel in February this year, the company has taken giant strides already. Today, its operations include three branches in Santa Cruz, Mulund and Jogeshwari, with around 25 full-time dedicated personnel.
The open system that it is, consumers are already using Chaupaati in creative ways to buy and sell everything from real estate and loans to wholesale zippers and sewing machines.
But, it is nowhere near the scale Kashyap would like it to achieve.
By 2010, he intends to aggregate information of unorganised markets and connect the masses across the country to it.
"To be in the phone classifieds across categories (products, service, jobs), geography (urban, semi-urban, rural) and media (phone, Internet, print) for all Indians, we must take one small step at a time. In July 2008, we started in 1/15th of Mumbai (Kurla-Ghatkopar-Sakinaka) dealing in a few categories of second-hand goods. After seeing a good response and learning early lessons from this test market, we are gradually expanding to rest of Mumbai slowly but surely. Future expansion would obviously be driven by consumer response."
Kashyap desists from dwelling at length on specific details of the business or future plans, for fear of competition perhaps. But there is no mistaking the strength of conviction in what he has set out to achieve.
He doesn't believe the business has reached a turning point yet, although there have been several milestones in the 10 months since inception. "We are peeling the onion one layer at a time, and each layer is revealing a turning point that we are enjoying every day. When consumers at large start trusting that Chaupaati is the place where they can connect with the right buyers for anything that they want to sell, that would be the turning point in our business," he says.
"Those who call Chaupaati looking for something to buy should end up with a great deal. Those who call Chaupaati to sell should do a lot more deals than they did before, or sell things that they were not able to sell before," he adds.
Kashyap firmly believes that start-ups are uniquely positioned to create large businesses that disrupt existing markets and industries in a way that big companies cannot. However, this is no mean order and less than one in a thousand start-ups can create billion-dollar-plus worth of value that would not have existed without them. Being that one is his life's purpose.
And does he feel challenged the way start-ups are wont to? Kashyap would reply in the affirmative, albeit in a mature way.
"Impatience and idealism are the characteristics of those who are passionate, especially when they are young and stupid," he says. I was no exception. Over the last 9 years, I have had the good fortune of doing business across 3 continents and 10 countries as part of engineering, marketing and sales teams, both as a founder and as an employee, all with start-ups. What I've learnt is that if you try to create rules based on experiences and operate by them, you are likely to fail. But if you operate by first principles, the basic laws of physics and economics, you are likely to succeed eventually. And when you do, others would follow the new rules you created."
Ironically, however, operating in this fashion draws opposition from all fronts " there is a great deal of pressure to conform. The biggest challenge then, in facing up to these oppositions, is to keep one's patience and to shed unnecessary idealism, especially of a kind that requires other people to change.
Has he ever felt like giving it all up and getting back to a regular job? Kashyap answers in the affirmative again. "Yes, several times in a year. The need to conform is a constant pull from the system. When it comes from people you love and respect, it gets very hard to motivate yourself to keep going."
His wise words for aspiring entrepreneurs: "One thing the Chaupaati team takes pride in doing -- make assumptions that feel right, act on them without delay, assume all along that the assumptions are wrong, then prove to yourselves otherwise, or accept your mistake and move on to the next assumption to act on. The biggest challenge in following this model though would be your own ego and the unquestioned love for your own ideas."