It was at a time when Orkut and Facebook did not exist; when blogging was a rarity. In the year 2000, there were very few avenues for people to voice their opinions about the products and services they bought every day. But one thing changed it all. Mouthshut.com was the first website in India that thrived on user-generated content and Faisal Farooqui, just 24 back then, was the man behind the revolution. Call it destiny coupled with perseverance. They say there are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind - people who merely dream and do nothing about it, and then there is the other kind – those who weave dreams and turn them into reality. Faisal Farooqui is the latter. Studying information systems and finance at the Binghamton University, New York, he always yearned to come back toIndiaand float his own venture.In the latter half of 2000, when he came toIndiafor a short break, he noticed that the country’s environment was conducive for start ups. And he knew that this was his calling. “I realised that there was no outlet or platform for consumers to voice their opinion about the services or products they buy; they did not have the chance to get their work published and whatever avenues did offer such services, were controlled. Moreover, I did not want to reach a point at work where I would become comfortable and complacent. Sure, moving back toIndiawas a difficult decision but it was worthwhile,” remembers Farooqui. He adds further, “Although many entrepreneurs ask themselves when is the right time to take the plunge, I firmly believe that if you do aspire to be an entrepreneur, the sooner you do it, the better it is.”
It has been more than a decade since Mouthshut’s inception and today, it is one of the leading user-generated consumer review and feedback services in the country and Farooqui has earned considerable gravitas in the entrepreneurial world. With Mouthshut, he has successfully managed to build a community of engaged individuals and is proud of what he has achieved so far. Over the years there have been businesses that have tried to emulate a similar model, but Farooqui remains unfazed. “I don’t see similar websites as our competitors. In fact, I feel extremely gratified when people come up to me and say how Mouthshut has changed the way people buy products and services; that it has evolved as a cult brand,” says a beaming Farooqui.
Also, he is now slowly trying to bring some structural changes to Mouthshut.com. The site started off being a site that is driven by user-generated content and feedback services but now there are trying to reposition the brand. “We want to position ourselves as not just a feedback service but also a full-fledged buying guide. Although the former feature will always remain the backbone of our business” says Farooqui.
This new-age entrepreneur has also branched out into the booming e-commerce space as he believes that the sector is booming and has huge potential. On May 6, 2011, Farooqui beta-launched a daily deal website, Dealface.com. It connects consumers with local businesses by offering amazing deals through coupons. Dealface.com was the first deal site to offer SMS coupons, thus eliminating the need for paper printouts of coupons. “The reason we floated a different brand is because we didn’t want to dilute the brand value of Mouthshut.com. At Dealface we do not give duplicate deals that are already available from other sites and provide offers that are simple and not bound by any restrictions or fine print. The Indian consumer is price conscious and therefore we have built a strong network with local merchants who present us with the best deals we can pamper our customers with,” remarks Farooqui. Dealface is currently catering to just the Mumbai market but according to Farooqui, they will expand to other cities soon and “by the end of 2012, we should have a strong presence in all major cities acrossIndia.”
Farooqui’s growth as an entrepreneur has been phenomenal and inspiring but the journey hasn’t been a cakewalk. “I was convinced that I wanted to do something of my own when I moved toIndia but unfortunately, at that time, I did not have a mentor or someone I could turn to for advice. If you are a first-time entrepreneur, it helps if you have a guiding light, unfortunately, I didn’t and so I always try and help, mentor aspiring or young entrepreneurs while they are starting out. The first two years of a startup are extremely crucial and if one does have a mentor, it helps you tackle challenges effectively,” adds Farooqui.
For all those aspiring entrepreneurs or early-stage entrepreneurs out there, Farooqui offers some invaluable suggestions:
- If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, make sure you are in for a long term. You shouldn’t have a Plan B. You might fail but do not have the ‘if-not-this-then-I-can-get-back-to-my regular-job’ attitude.
- Startups have limited financial resources and therefore use cash wisely. Instead of spending a lot of money on marketing your venture, focus on your product and you will do well.
- Prepare for success than failure and always have a positive frame of mind.
- While hiring, always recruit people who buy into your vision. Hiring the first 15-20 employees of your company is a critical decision and therefore, spend a lot of time on recruitment. I still involve myself in the recruitment process at Mouthshut.
- Also, the potential employee of your company should be a person who has independent thought process and does not need to be guided for every small thing or decision that needs to be taken.
- As the founder of the company you need to inspire your employees. A potential employee should be enamoured and wowed by your personality.
Farooqui is an optimist and he is pretty positive about the future of Mouthshut and Dealface in particular and about the e-commerce market. “With the increasing penetration of the internet and consumers now more open to buy online, e-commerce is here to stay. Moreover, till date, the Web has always been search driven, but slowly it will soon be data driven,” he avers.
He adds and says, “I wish that the country continues to nurture the growth of entrepreneurial dreams.India has always been known as a nation of shopkeepers but I hope that one day, it is recognized as a nation of entrepreneurs!”
For more details, please visit - http://www.mouthshut.com/
- Anisha Mehta