YourStory in conversation with Prateek Mohapatra, co-founder, iPleaders
Prateek, please tell us what iPleaders is all about.
iPleaders was started with the vision of legal liability management, which strives to identify and eliminate risks from a business model so that one would not have to face legal problems. Apart from consulting, we are currently developing technology and risk management courses for startups and social sector entrepreneurs.
How is iPleaders different from a law firm?
Well, iPleaders is not a law firm. Our consulting division builds processes that ensure compliance with law and legal procedures and train employees and managerial staff in any organization to carry out those processes seamlessly. This ensures that necessity of going to a lawyer with a legal problem arises very rarely, if at all, as legal risks and compliance requirements are already identified and taken care of beforehand.
Generally, law firms tend to have the name of the partners as their name. How did the name iPleaders come about?
The word “pleaders” stands for lawyers. We were keen on calling ourselves “Innovation Pleaders” since we believed that we could significantly contribute towards new business models and products looking to make a cut in the market with our innovative legal insights. Since we also wanted our name to be brief, we chose to call ourselves iPleaders.
Tell us about your team's background.
Ramanuj and Abhyudaya are the founders of iPleaders. They are recent graduates from NUJS, Kolkata who have been offered top jobs at the best law firms in India. They have considerable experience of working with startups as they started helping startups with investments, structuring, FDI, contract drafting and incorporation right from the time when they were in college.
Shouvik and I joined later followed by the others. Ramanuj also started a web 2.0 solution for law aspirants called CLAThacker which is extremely popular with students at the moment. As for me, I’m still into law school. I’m a final year student at Dr. RML National Law University, Lucknow.
Startups invariably end up spending a lot of time and money on initial stage legal help. Is there a way to get around that?
Most startups are wary about spending on lawyers – and legal services can be very costly. On the other hand, most legal issues and compliance needs that a startup faces are usually simple and routine in nature. There is no reason why a startup should not be able to handle a majority of its legal issues internally with minimum expert support and maintain a completely legal business without having to spend a fortune. As we enable startups to do exactly that, they totally love us. In fact, we have tested our ideas with a blue-chip and medium scale enterprise as well, and have been convinced of the viability of our business model since then.
Where do you see law firms and iPleaders five years from now?
Technology and artificial intelligence has the potential to change how legal expertise is delivered to end users. We are in all probability leaving behind the days when entrepreneurs had to find a corporate law firm and pay exorbitant prices for routine drafting and compliance work. Automatic and intelligent processes could take over a large share of the market, while lawyers specialize and focus more on higher end value addition.
We intend to create an array of products that will make access to legal solutions easier and cheaper. We are developing educational courses that will help startup founders to handle their own legal issues and develop a sound understanding on business laws that they can count on in any stage of entrepreneurship and business development. By 2012, we will start developing some software that we have conceptualized in the past six months.
What is iPleaders’ revenue model?
We have so far relied on the money generated from risk management services to develop our infrastructure and products. We shall continue to do so and have no immediate plan to take funding. If at any point we feel the necessity of mass advertising our products, we may spin off that product into a separate entity and take investors to that end. Until then, we are bootstrapping. Rather than investors, we like to take active partners and expect them to bring in money and value, as we have done so far.
How big is the team behind iPleaders?
We have seven people in our core team, all of them lawyers or law students. Abhyudaya and Ramanuj are the founders. Shouvik Guha is another partner who joined us after quitting a law firm. Most other team members are still in law school, including Srishti Aishwarya, Sanghita Mukherjee and me. We have been recently joined by our tech whiz-kid Donnie who is still in class 12.
What are the challenges that you faced while developing your forum? How did you overcome those challenges?
The major challenge was to find the right techies who could help us. Another major problem is to find people who will work with us for a long term. We visited engineering colleges and attended startup conferences regularly to find the kind of people who could help us.
How has the journey been so far? Let us know about your expansion plans.
The journey so far has been great. We have serviced more than fifty clients so far. They have been mostly from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Our product BarHacker witnessed a nation-wide response, with takers from Tier-2 cities as well. We also have tie ups with the e-cells of various colleges to educate them about legal issues that entrepreneurs face. We are also in advanced stages of discussion for a joint venture with the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata for launching a course for entrepreneurs. We also have a joint venturewww.barhacker.in with LegallyIndia (www.legallyindia.com) the most popular legal news portal in India. We also have exclusive referral agreements with some other organizations.
We hope to specialize into a full-scale products outfit, which offers technology-driven solutions to meet the legal needs of ordinary people and small and medium businesses on a large scale, in terms of software and training courses. We have already rolled out our first course, called BarHacker, which is designed to enable graduating law students to crack the Bar Exam in India.
We at YourStory.in wish Prateek and the entire team at iPleaders much success. To know more about this venture, check out http://ipleaders.in/. Alternatively, you can write to them at email@example.com. Also, do let us know your views on this story by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.