Unlucky in love
Dawood Zafar launched his startup on 14th February 2011. But the date doesn’t hold much happiness for him. He recounts, “My girlfriend dumped me that day, bowing to family pressure against our relationship.” But karma soon came calling. Dawood says, “Next year, on the same day, her father ordered a battery from our portal. He had no idea that it was my business. We were short on delivery boys. So I had to deliver and install the battery myself. He was none too pleased to see me and jumped to all sorts of conclusions about my being there. Though the experience was bitter, it fuels me to this day to keep getting better at my job. I want to make him regret his decision.”
BookMyBattery is an ecommerce platform which deals with a wide range of automobile batteries, claiming to deliver them within two hours of the ordering time. They work with authorized battery dealers to supply customers with genuine batteries at reasonable price and follow up with before and after sales service.
Dawood knew he wanted to run his own business ever since he can remember. His debut as an entrepreneur came about when he was in class seven. “I used to carry ink re-fillers and refill my classmate’s pens for Rs.1 per pen. I made a profit of Rs.5 for each re-filler that I bought from store.” Hailing from Pavagada, a small border town between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Dawood finished high school and came to Bangalore in 2010 to study business management at Al Ameen College. He was avidly sifting through possibilities and market watching with his cousin to determine what field would be the best to start up in. Soon the right idea presented itself.Eureka
Dawood says, “There was a battery store next to my uncle's house. After my college, I used to work in his shop for a few extra bucks. At that time I noticed a lot of loop holes in the battery business in the retail market. Unlike FMCG where the customer has adequate knowledge about the product, here there were scenarios where the customer was cheated, given wrong batteries, prices tampered with and many such problems.
I saw there being a huge opportunity in the business if we could solve these problems. But my resources were strained. So initially I registered myself at Just Dial to get the ready customers. I felt it to be the easiest way for generating leads for a start up with less investment. However since it was not my own business, I was not able to serve the customer properly or on my own terms. That’s when I decided to break away and take my business idea the ecommerce route.
BookMyBattery has two models for generating leads. Dawood explains, “The first model is the original idea of making use of Just Dial. We get the leads and then we follow up with the customer, discuss the price and deliver the battery to their preferred location.
The second model is the website. The customer selects the car/Inverter battery, confirms the bookings and we deliver them to their preferred location within two hours from the time of booking or their preferred timings.”
Dawood is set to scale his venture ambitiously. He is in the process of setting up operations in major cities across the country. Though he confides that reaching out to and securing a larger section of the target market is a hindrance, given that most people don’t prefer to buy car batteries online, he is grateful for the ecommerce boom in India that is propelling his business to newer heights.
BookMyBattery has teamed up with companies like Decathlon, Notary Mama, mykonnection.com, etc. and credits this with helping him address a larger variety of consumers. The venture is entirely self-funded and Dawood is looking for investors to enable his grand scale ambitions become a reality.
Dawood admits that the idea of becoming an entrepreneur is hugely different from actually becoming one. The much glorified profession was quick to harness his imagination as a child, but the adult life has some hard knocks to offer. He says, “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.
For few months, I skipped my lunch and walked miles every day to save money for my internet bill.
In business school we are taught to keep more margins for the company and give out the rest to the channel partners in the beginning. But that model failed because if you don't support channel partners, they won't deliver the right products to the customers within the promised time. Later we did it vice versa and it worked out well. We are still we are following the same procedure and we are building a loyal customer base because of the reliable service that is the consequence of this method.
“We will become the Flipkart of the battery and inverter segment,” exults Dawood. “We have complete concrete plans to reach out to customers. All we need is funding and are looking for investors interested in acquiring the battery market in India. This is the best time in the history of this country to be investing in ecommerce.”
Eventually his dream is to “Light up every home by installing inverters and supporting startups by giving UPS at 0% margins.”
Dawood has some aggressive advice for his fellow entrepreneurs, “If you’re not a risk taker, you should get the hell out of business continue with your job”. He continues, more mildly this time, “Stepping into entrepreneurship is getting ready to do anything to transform your idea into reality. Have a plan before getting into it - speak to your customers first to understand their reaction to your dream product/service and plan accordingly.” And with a final flourish, he finishes, “Don’t sit in Room and just dream about it. Go out and just do it.”