Not too long ago, people spent several hours a week running errands — paying utility bills at various collection centres, buying groceries at the supermarket, booking tickets at the railway station, and mailing letters at the post office. These tasks can today be done with a few online clicks from the comfort of one’s own homes. Gravely doubted a decade ago, online commerce, is firmly entrenched in the Indian consumer’s psyche, and now has a market of well over Rs 10,000 crore. Perhaps the sweltering Indian summers have something to do with it!
Today people are investing in homes and jewellery online, but there are doubts about whether the final frontier — legal and professional services — can be effectively offered online, mostly because of the bureaucratic interaction required for the same. And yet, Vakilsearch has proved that this is not the case.
Vakilsearch, with offices in all major Indian cities, is handling a large chunk of business owners who are open to getting professional support online. A majority of new businesses still place their trust in face-to-face interactions with lawyers, chartered accountants, and company secretaries. But the Vakilsearch team believes that the convenience, cost-effectiveness, and transparency of their services make it only a matter of time before this mind-set changes.
Hrishikesh Datar, an alumnus of the prestigious National Law School, founded Vakilsearch in 2011. Being a true blue Chennaite, he had Vakilsearch headquartered in Chennai. Hailing from a family of lawyers and being a part of the legal community himself, he was well acquainted with the issues faced by practitioners as well as clients; and hence the desire to question the status quo and help the industry evolve motivated him the most.
Vakilsearch has now grown into a 120 person strong operation that facilitates businesses in: starting up, business expansion, intellectual property protection, complying with tax laws, legal documentation, and now, through their partnership with Intuit, accounting services as well.
Their vast client base, which includes Taxi For Sure, Housing and India Property, have done all this and more completely online.
For 2015, Vakilsearch has bigger plans. It will soon be renamed okitsdone.com (logo design is in the works) and is currently developing India's first fully self-service platform for professional services. Since the legal sector in India is quite unorganized, this kind of platform not only lets users engage with the website to get their legal, compliance, and accounting work done, end-to-end but also simplifies things for the practitioners. The aim is to make professional services as easy as buying a phone on Flipkart or a ticket on makemytrip.
To this end, Vakilsearch is already offering "Make-A-Doc" (makeadoc.vakilsearch.com), where basic legal documents are available free-of-charge, and will soon launch INKORPORATE, a unique service to make company incorporation stress-free and affordable.
Vision and achievements
The vision at Vakilsearch is to reduce the stress of dealing with a frustratingly complicated legal and taxation system. Perhaps they have been successful in this, which is why the startup has been able to retain a good number of their customers, which has enabled them to record a 300 % year-on-year growth historically.
Hrishikesh Datar, CEO of Vakilsearch says that he hopes to repeat the feat this year as well and aspires to end up on Forbes’ billion dollar company list.
Challenges and future plans
The biggest challenge Vakilsearch faces is working with Government agencies, whose approach is laidback. Whereas the nature of their client base, a good part of which is comprised of startups, is to expect quick results. Paradoxically the reforms and new schemes in the legal sector introduced by Government have been a huge contributor to Vakilsearch’s growth.
As far as the market in India is concerned, it is still expanding – and with the startup boom, there are going to be many new businesses in India, which could translate into new customers. The Vakilsearch team feels the unique nature of Indian clients are that they are very particular about quality while being fastidious about the cost factor too, but that they tend to be very loyal once they receive prompt and efficient services at a reasonable rate. That is the path that Vakilsearch intends to follow to realize their dreams and they believe sky is their limit.