YantraSeva, the startup that wants to put an end to all your IT servicing woesPreethi Chamikutty
During the last fortnight when I was visiting my native place, one thought that crossed my mind a number of times is: “I hope nothing happens to my laptop.” Its not just small villages where reliable computer technicians are missing, but to get someone reliable to handle your computers can be an uphill task even in big towns. In the US, a company named Geek Squad made a lot of difference to the world of computer servicing. And modelled on the same lines is our own YantraSeva from Pune.How it all began
Founded by Pankaj Bhalerao in July 2012, YantraSeva provides individuals, home users and small business all kind of IT repairs and services. Pankaj has an interesting story to tell about his venture, which is his third entrepreneurial outing. “I have always been an entrepreneur from childhood. In school I use to sell fire crackers in Diwali Holidays, going door-to-door. I also used to sit at cash counter of my uncle's shop upselling all the grocery store items,” reminisces Pankaj. After 12th Standard, Pankaj enrolled for a software course in Aptech, but he got more interested in hardware than software, and that he says was the beginning of it all.
At the age of 17, Pankaj started ‘Arrow Computers’, which was later renamed to 'E Bridge Systems'. As business grew steadily, Pankaj dropped out of Law college to pursue business full time. E Bride Systems was the first version of Pankaj’s computer selling and servicing business. Somewhere in between, he also started a cyber café - Cafe E Bridge - in the year 2002, when internet was in its early days in India. He successfully scaled Cafe E Bridge to seven cafes in Pune. However in 2010, Pankaj shut down his cyber café chain due to police license issues and declining foot fall. “I got out in time I would say. It was very tough on cash flows initially but I somehow managed by increasing revenues in sales and services business.”
Since the closure of the cyber cafe chain, Pankaj was looking for options to start a company. Through E Bridge Systems he had understood the need for good professional computer technicians by individuals and small businesses to maintain their IT infrastructure. But Pankaj decided to understand the entire space and complete his due diligence before starting up. “I was basically laying foundation for starting up YantraSeva by attending many startup events, following startup sites and reading lot of literature on developing a company/ startup,” explains Pankaj.
Pankaj realized there was a huge market for a professionally organised business to service/ repair IT infrastructure of individuals/home users and small businesses. “Small businesses and home users are now completely dependent on IT to get things done. And when it breaks down, the local vendors are like vultures who loot them.” YantraSeva wants to be the reliable, prompt and value for money IT services/ repairs company in India. And Pankaj is modeling itself after Geek Squad, “which is an ultra successful company in USA, working exactly in this business domain bringing in 5 billion dollars annual revenues,” he says. He also points to indigenous companies like iYogi and etechies who also operate in the same domain.
Yantra Seva does repairs, servicing, sales, AMC, projects and renting of all kind of IT products. It's services are targeted towards home customers, individual customers and small businesses having less than 30 Computers.Many customers who were earlier being serviced by E Bridge Systems are now part of YantraSeva. However since he shifted gears from being a proprietary firm to a private limited business, Pankaj says things have been tough. “My team strength grew, we implemented processes and systems in the company. There were a lot of changes needed -- in accounting system, legal status, my mindset, mindset of earlier employees, mindset of vendors and so on,” he says.
Challenges of starting up
From being a three people setup to a 20 people organisation in last 10 months, involved a lot of planning to develop the team into different departments, explaining them the real vision, the growth opportunity and so on. “Our business unfortunately always attracts less qualified guys, who didn't understand the startup culture and vision. But I have always tried to explain them what is in store when the company grows big,” says Pankaj.
Currently they cater to around 2000 individual clients and around 250 business clients in Pune district – part of whom have come from E Bridge Systems. Their current turnover is around Rs 80 lakhs per annum and Pankaj aspires to reach Rs 3 crore by the end of this fiscal.
A lot of business for the venture comes through referrals, they have also tied up with Justdial and Sulekha for leads. Pankaj says the old school method of cold calling still yields results and they also rely on Facebook and Google ads to get business.
The current team of 20 at the venture handles various responsibilities like operations, sales and training. 10 out of the total 20, are field technicians who go on field to do the servicing/repair work.
Pankaj says he has grown over the years as an entrepreneur and has faced a fresh set of challenge throughout the journey. “When I started out, I was a novice, so everything was a challenge. One of the main challenges I have faced is the ability to control/ balance the funds/ revenue which came in the business,” he says. At YantraSeva, he says there are all the customary challenges of a startup like funding, manpower, growth, etc and to keep a control on the inner culture of the company. “As the team is growing there are different kinds of people joining in with different set of experiences and different set of ambitions. Many a time it leads to office politics which is caused by things like ego, one upmanship, gossip and rumors,” says Pankaj.
Despite these nigglings, Pankaj has his eyes fixed on the future and believes in looking at the larger picture. He considers local vendors in every city as the biggest competition, who have an edge in terms of proximity to the local customers and less overheads. But he is confident that they have many disadvantages which Yantra Seva is devoid of. “From a customer's perspective Yantra Seva will seem like a local vendor who is fast and value for money but from company's perspective we would become a multi-city operation,” says Pankaj ambitiously.