Struggle is an inherent part of every entrepreneur’s journey in the creation of something inspiring. However defined in terms of what Deepak and Tanu Kalhan, husband-wife founder duo of AIO Bazaar (www.aiobazaar.com) have faced, struggle takes on a new meaning in perseverance, belief and patience.
First generation entrepreneurs, the couple has been through the grind, from struggling with college fees to moving cities in the hope of finding a good job.
“Rs. 5000 was what we came to Bangalore from Chandigarh with. After 6 years in the IT industry, we realized that our efforts were helping someone else become rich, while we were still tied down to seeking approvals for everything we did.”
That was the beginning of AIO Technologies, the effort of the two member team to create and replicate an all-in-one technology in several industries using their IT expertise.
The team grew in size but was not without its share of teething troubles, more specifically in finance; “Raising funds was a major challenge to us. Initially we did look for VC’s and Angel investors but soon gave up realizing the time and effort it took away could be better utilized in developing our product.
That was when the team started freelancing. Not just projects in IT but anything that came their way. They admit that there were days they were left frustrated at having to take up random small projects but Deepak says they always knew that ‘Wealth is a person’s ability to survive the number of days forward & if they stopped working, how long could they survive?’
“There was a point in time, when I had to ask my team to stop work on AIO and work on things that would make us financially strong. We started supplying tiffin boxes to our friend circles and a lot of other things that were deemed small work. The one thing I remember clearly is Tanu carrying at a time, three or four tiffin boxes for her office mates.”
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Says Deepak “AIO has to be very lucky to have got the most understanding and co-operative team ever. We went on, telling ourselves that no work was small or big until or unless we were moving towards our goals. At such times, I always remembered and thanked by parents for teaching me to never give up, my brother for teaching me discipline and Tanu for being an all time inspiration and support.
But investing such small amounts from their income every month on a consistent basis helped, for AIO managed to run as a self-funded project. After setting off AIO Apps, the project under which all outsourced projects were taken care of the team set their eyes on developing things that were being demanded in the market.
Understanding the untapped scope in FMCG, they stumbled upon a platform where small, medium and large food-marts could directly do business and in turn help end users order consumables at any time at the best bargains from the comfort of their homes.
“AIO Bazaar can best be described as an e-food mart that can be used across food marts, medical/chemists shops, shopping malls and restaurants. On the consumer end we are open to everyone using food products especially targeting families, bachelors and those staying on their own. That said, we believe that the market size for AIOBazaar is as big as the FMCG market itself because anyone who consumes food now has the facility of ordering it online anytime.”
Online grocery and food shopping does seem to be the way for the future given that users can order everything from Dal and Vegetables to Rice & Flour through their online systems and yet have the option to choose the best prices from different food marts.
Which Deepak elaborates is only one of the better things. The others being:
- No lugging heavy carts
- No long queues to pay bills
- Instant access to the latest offers and the best deals
- Home delivery without having to move out
- Multiple choices and comparision between cost difference
- Facility to order from anywhere, anytime
Having started AIOBazaar in 2009, the now 10 member-team based in Bangalore has already seen user registrations, been nominated by Tata Nen for their Hottest Start-ups and been recognized by India Today in their feature ‘Digitalizing Market Places’. With eyes set on expansion to the rest of the country, AIO also has two new ventures in the pipe-line – one being AIOLearning, also called Entre-Learning.
Admitting that patience has been their biggest virtue, Deepak lets in their formula for success “For us, winning is not important, we always believe in completion” adding that it is possible when one works not for someone else but for themselves. On a lighter note he adds that his most special reward has been finding and marrying Tanu, encouraging others “the right spouse will give you 90% success and happiness.”
Letting in that their middle class up-bringing was what played a major role in them choosing to be entrepreneurs, Deepak says, “There was a feeling that when one works for someone else, they are contracted to work a certain schedule and at the end of the day, it is easy to forget about the job. However, running your own business means much more responsibility and longer hours than a normal salaried employee. Yet liking what you do, financial freedom and the liberty to think and implement also mean that you will not mind working hard while others are resting.”
Giving out some valuable advice to first-time entrepreneurs, the duo say that “Be a self-moving and self-motivated person. If you need to wait around and be told what to do, then you would find it easier to get a job with a company rather than to launch your own business. All said and done, don't expect to meet the challenges of today with yesterday's tools and expect to be in business tomorrow. LEARN TO USE YOUR EMOTIONS TO THINK, NOT THINK WITH YOUR EMOTIONS.”