A bachelor’s degree and an MBA later Keerthi Kadam came back to India from the US with the firm intention of starting up. He had had stints as a part time entrepreneur previously, but this time wanted to go all out. “In Dec 2013 I finally rented an office and hired a team to start web services under Myynd Tech (the parent company of 100rupis). I thought I could take projects from US and also serve local Pune market with websites and related web services, but found the market to be too saturated. I planned to start something that appeals to Indian Market and makes money for all classes of the population,” Keerthi says.
100rupis.com is a platform for everyone to buy and sell services and products for Rs.100. Once registered, one can be a buyer or seller or both on the site. As a seller one can create their service under Rs.100 or Rs.100X (Multiples of Rs.100) explaining what they offer for the price and the time they need in order to deliver the service. Buyers simply browse through a list of services and buy. “It’s just like any other e-commerce site,” he says.
Keerthi was an avid freelancer in the past and loved it. “I have been freelancing on several online freelancing sites like Elance, Fiverr, Freelancer, Guru and Odesk. I like the concept of working from the comfort of my home. It gives me the freedom to choose my projects and make money at the same time. Being a freelancer myself, Fiverr appealed to me the most as it solves the problem of micro- projects at a very affordable price,” he says. “Hence I planned to build something similar but more focused to the Indian market,” he says.
Each platform had some inadequacy or other which perturbed him. “I have seen people ripping off clients. Some freelancers charge $100s of for a simple Logo design. I came across a business person who is not well versed with computers or internet; he paid Rs.5000 to get 2 simple web banners designed. I promised myself I would build something simple and market it to non-computer-savvy crowd. Once he zeroed in on the idea, the team’s enthusiasm skyrocketed. “I asked my team if we can build something like Fiverr in a week’s time (I was day dreaming!) We started the work and it took us a month before we could even design a good layout. But the journey had begun…” he smiles.
Going with the 100 rupees tag was a no brainer. Keerthi explains, “The philosophy here is affordability meets quality. Rs.100 is a price-tag that people don’t mind paying. Businesses and Startups in India spend money but the quality that they get is not up to the standards. So Rs.100 price point seemed like something that anybody could afford to try something new. It appeals to all classes as well. 100rupis.com was the right amount for India; we could beat Fiverr at its own game. Buyers would love to get small projects done at the lowest price in the world! Sellers would have to focus on volume and quality. Our focus is to help professionals and unemployed people become freelancers and add to their revenue bucket.”
The idea is Utopian, and potentially empowering. But the system also allows for inherent problems- compromising on authenticity of services, scams and the like. But Keerthi insists they are well prepared for such scenarios. “We work with our users closely. We monitor every action in terms of creating the service(s) to sending messages across. We are working on an admin panel to approve or reject any actions on the site. We make sure people don’t spam other users’ inbox or get in touch for other than business related topics. We block problem users from our site,” he says.
Given the the pervasiveness of the internet, 100rupis faces intense competition not only from all over the country, but the world. “The online freelancing space has become more competitive than ever. Big players like oDesk and Elance have merged. Freelancer.com has lowered its minimum job budget from US$30 to US$10. Fiverr has freelancers who are ready to get the job done for just $5,” says Keerthi. But he is optimistically unfazed. “E-commerce in India has soared to new heights giving way to several thousand Startups looking for freelancers who can work on a low budget. At 100rupis.com we are not just trying to get buyers a great deal but also adding extra money to freelancers in India. The industry as I see it is booming and will help millions to make money from the comfort of their homes,” he says cheerfully.
In fact his plans are not merely to allow for college youths to make some extra pocket money. “Our focus is to bring thousands of service providers on-board, they include retired professionals, rural youth, home makers, students and small businesses. Women specifically who are stay-at-home moms with a longing to work in their free time are looking for new avenues to fulfill their urge to utilize their time efficiently and that is where we come into picture. We also plan to work with employment cells, village panchayats and institutions where there are talented people waiting to earn some money in their free time.
On the buyers’ side, we plan to target startups and small businesses across the nation who can try few micro jobs at our site and if they like what they get for Rs.100 they will come back. Until now we have had repeat customers coming to the site for more quality work,” shares Keerthi.
Keerthi predicts freelancing will increasingly become the more desirable option not only because of the monetary and flexibility benefits, but also because of the learning opportunities it provides. “Freelancing helps learn quite a bit because the learning happens on live project. Freelancers today take every project very seriously and deliver great work on time. Hence outsourcing pays off. Big players like Elance and Fiverr are improving work rooms making work fun and making sure quality work is delivered every time. We are in the league to become World’s Most Affordable freelancing site ever. It does not get better than this. The next level is charity,” he exclaims.
Keerthi shares that the market’s response to his venture has been heartening: “We are currently working with startups in Pune. We have had several repeat customers and recommendations. We haven’t invested much in terms of marketing our site; however, we plan to do so in the near future. Our business is growing primarily through word of mouth for now. Our most popular service is Logo Designs for just Rs.100.”
100rupis is currently bootstrapped, with the majority of funds coming in from Keerthi’s savings. Family and friends have pooled in and they are on the hunt for both angel investors and VC’s. “A Bangalore based VC firm has shown interest in our Startup. We are negotiating terms with them at this point in time,” he shares.
“Work is the only fun thing at the moment,” says Keerthi on the travails of becoming an entrepreneur. “Fun weekends and frequent outings are not a part of my life until I make it big. Once you decide to be a full time entrepreneur you realize how crucial the burn time is and it’s what makes all the difference. You need to allocate enough resources for the startup to reach a certain milestone, keep a watch on the gas and make sure you don’t burn too much fuel before the investors come in. Financial hurdle is one of the biggest obstacles that an entrepreneur faces. Never giving up attitude and creative planning helps overcome those obstacles.”
The fulfilment that comes from concretely contributing to the economy has been, for Keerthi, the best part about starting up. “Following my passion has been a great feeling. With a mission to bridge the gap between value and talent, I feel blessed to contribute to the economy. When we have thousands of people earning money from our site will give me and my team a sense of satisfaction. ,” he says.
To that end, Keerthi has grand plans for the future of 100rupis. “My 2020 vision for 100rupis is to have one billion users and Rs.10,000 per month income for every user. We are very ambitious and would like to help millions of people get work and give them the freedom to do what they love to do,” he asserts.
Keerthi has heartfelt advice for fellow and aspiring entrepreneurs. “Being an entrepreneur is not about being your own boss. It’s about loving what you do. Bringing your thoughts and ideas to life is an achievement in itself. Financial help is one of the most important factors when you plan to start a venture. Planning creatively goes an extra mile. Many entrepreneurs start well but lose their focus. It is imperative to be focused if one wants to succeed. Persistence, focus and fun-work (not hard work) are the secret ingredients to success,” he signs off.