Listening to Manoj Kumar Dronadula speak is a revelation. Beneath the shy exterior lies a deep sense of confidence and extensive domain expertise that can be seen only in someone who’s been an entrepreneur for ages. Manoj started up when he was doing his engineering and his first startup was incubated in IIT Madras. He then went to work for Infosys and ended up as an entrepreneur-in-residence at IIM Ahmedabad. And for the past 8 months, he’s been working on rentkart.com, possibly India’s first online peer-to-peer rental platform. In this exclusive chat with YourStory, Manoj speaks about the business idea and the broad concept of collaborative consumption.If someone asked you to tell them about rentkart.com in about three sentences, what would you say?
rentkart.com is an effort in the direction of collaborative consumption, to meet the needs of the consumers in a cost-efficient manner. Renting reduces the need for exhaustive manufacturing processes and the resultant stress on scarce natural resources. Thereby, it promotes environmental consciousness and sustainable living. Rentkart.com provides a platform for sharing between owners and renters of different goods.
How is rentkart.com different from other online rental platforms?
Other online rental services are mostly dedicated to a particular class of goods, where professional renting firms rent their goods to individual users. On rentkart.com, it is individuals who rent the goods. It acts as a platform for people with excess and idle goods to share with the needy, for a rent premium. The kinds of goods that can be hosted on rentkart.com are only limited by imagination.
How did the business idea for rentkart.com come about?
Almost a year back, I was shifting to a new house. When I was packing my stuff, I observed that I had a lot of things that were of little use to me. I realized that if I could rent, swap and share these items with the people who are in need, then it would be beneficial for both the parties.
The renter can minimize his/her expenses by renting the goods for a short time rather than paying the full amount for the new item and keeping the goods idle.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, I started working on the business idea. I found out that there were some successful sites in US which were based on this idea. I studied their models thoroughly and designed a fresh business model to suit the conditions in the Indian market. It’s been almost 8 months since I started working on this idea.
Tell us about the background of the founding team.
I started my career as an entrepreneur. When I was pursuing my B. Tech degree, I worked on an idea which got incubated in IIT Madras. I worked with Infosys for couple of years after that. I was an entrepreneur-in-residence at IIM Ahmedabad where I did extensive business research on Clean Tech. MNRE was the sponsor for that program.
My co-founder, Rama Krishna started his career with the Indian Railways after class XII and worked there for about three and half years. He then went on to complete his PGDM from IIM Ahmedabad, with a specialization in Entrepreneurship. After that stint, he joined Deloitte as an Enterprise Risk Consultant. He gained experience in evaluating the different kinds of risks that companies face and developing controls to reduce the risk. He also interned with Barclays Capital and gained expertise in Financial Management during that period.Serving as an advisor is Jaswant Bangaru, the founder of AltEnerGen Inc. He has significant experience in the utilities and renewable power industry, both in Canada and India. Prior to founding AltEnerGen, he served as the VP, Finance and CFO of AIM PowerGen Corp. and helped grow the startup wind power company into one of the leading renewable energy companies in Canada. Before joining AIM, he put in a short stint in the Venture Capital industry. He holds an MBA from Schulich School of Business.
Is there acceptance for your concept? Can you give us some incidents to illustrate the same?
We have released the beta version of rentkart.com and the number of hits, feedback and mails received in the short span of three months has helped us understand the potential of this market. Apart from the formal mails and requests that we receive on a regular basis, the increase in activity levels on social networks and requests that we receive for goods for limited/short duration usage bear ample testimony to the “usage mindset” in the Indian market.
Where do you see online rental platforms and rentkart.com five years from now?
We believe that in five years from now, online rentals will become a sustainable business and experience rapid growth. rentkart.com, as a pioneer in the peer-to-peer renting model in India, is expected to position itself as a market leader. We hope to provide direction for the online rental market and industry in India. In five years,rentkart.com is expected to be a profit making venture with a dominant market share in a market with huge potential and great growth.
What is rentkart.com's revenue model?
Listing an item or service is free of charge. The owner will be charged 5% of the total rental fee upon making a successful transaction.
The other sources of revenue that we’re looking at are the advertisements on the website, a full-fledged, paid online platform for professional renters, a SaaS module for professional renters to maintain their inventory, etc.
People will have to pay a premium to post their items under premium versions (categories include silver, gold and platinum) which offer a number of other value added services like display of an item at the top of the search results, receiving email and SMS notifications and also, confirmation of transactions.
As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?As an entrepreneur, we can work for ourselves and we can make the best use of our skills to create wealth, both for ourselves and the society. The greatest joy of being an entrepreneur is in getting a chance to execute the vision and chase the dream.
The biggest challenge in being an entrepreneur lies in working with limited resources and in maintaining work-life balance. Another big challenge is in convincing the family about taking the entrepreneurial road.
How big is the rentkart.com team? Are you looking at hiring?
Right now, we have three people on board of which two are co-founders and one is a non-executing advisor. Between the three of us, we have the diverse skill sets required to execute the idea and to run the company successfully. We’ve gotten extensive support from our friends whenever we’ve needed it. We are planning to hire people for different roles as the company grows.
Let us know about your expansion plans?
In the next five years, we plan to be present in all the Tier 1 cities of India as well as 15-20 Tier 2 cities (at least). We’d to be a pan-India player in the years to come.
How has the journey been so far? What are your key learnings?
So far, we’ve had 12367 visits, 302 registered users and 108 transactions. The most popular items are books and electronic goods. We have organized the thousands of examples of collaborative consumption into three broad learnings:
Product Service Systems - They enable companies to offer goods as a service rather than sell them as products. Goods that are privately owned can be shared or rented peer-to-peer.
Mindset - Users want the benefits of a product. But they don’t feel the need to own the product outright.
Redistribution - In redistribution markets, used/pre-owned goods are moved from a place where they are not needed to somewhere they are required.
Over time, “redistribute” may become the fifth ‘R, joining “reduce, reuse, recycle and repair” and turn into a key form of sustainable commerce. In collaborative lifestyles, people with similar needs or interests come together to share and exchange less-tangible assets such as time, space, skills, and money.
These exchanges happen mostly on a local or neighborhood level, as people share working spaces, gardens or parking spots. Collaborative lifestyle sharing happens on a global scale too, through activities such as peer-to-peer lending and the rapidly growing peer-to-peer travel.
Our contention is that collaborative consumption is not a niche trend. And it’s definitely not a reactionary blip to the recession. It’s a socioeconomic groundswell that will transform the way companies think about their value propositions and eventually, the way people fulfill their needs.
We at YourStory wish the rentkart.com team much success in the coming years. To try out the platform featured here, go to www.rentkart.com. Also, please share with your comments and thoughts about this story. You can write to us at email@example.com.
Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 16th March 2011 | Bangalore