Sripad Panyam says that while still as a student at IIT Delhi, he was already passionate about startups. The 25-year-old Vice President, Products is known as “The Wall of UrbanClap” at UrbanClap, where he is the youngest VP.
After completing his Bachelor of Technology in Electrical Engineering (Power) in 2012, Sripad joined Yepme.com as Assistant Manager, Digital Marketing. He remembers the day when he got a call from UrbanClap. “One day, Varun (Khaitan) called me and we had a conversation about the opportunities at UrbanClap. I enjoyed the conversation, but I wasn’t really keen on shifting from Yepme. I was settled there, I liked the company, and did not want to change,” says Sripad.
However, he did have a series of meetings with the UrbanClap team. Sripad says he really enjoyed the initial conversations he had with the three founders. “One thing led to another and I realised that this may be the right time to move.”
Sripad says he wanted to relive the feeling of joining a small team and asked himself, “Boss, can I do this or not? Can I add value to another startup? Do I have that mettle in me or not?” He says he also believed in the area the UrbanClap team was providing solutions in, and decided the time was right to join them as Manager, Marketing and Products.
“I have this notion that if you are looking only for your designation, your focus will not be on your work. So I joined UrbanClap as manager, but over a period of one year, that was changed to Vice President of Products,” he says.
When Sripad joined UrbanClap in April last year, he was the first person to join the product team. He says when a company starts scaling, one needs to bring in hierarchies, and as the engineering team was growing, they started working on multiple products. UrbanClap was started as a mobile on app initially. “Our focus was on this. But as demand increased, we branched into other products such as the mobile website and the desktop website,” says Sripad.
Speaking about UrbanClap’s growth, he says challenges were amplified because they had no counterpart. “When e-commerce companies started in India, they had an existing model to look up to. However, we were not copying an existing product or making a few changes to suit the Indian market. We were building a product that provided a solution to a problem that was till then unsolved.”
With all these products coming in, they needed a bigger team. “The culture here is to nurture talent from within the company. Opportunities are given to people who are looking to scale along within the company. The entire founding team supports this ideology. When you are managing one or two people and you move to leading the entire product, it will be a tough transformation,” adds Sripad.
It was important for the founders and the entire team to have someone who could prove themselves and take the company to scale. “In such a situation, the faith that the founding members and the entire team had in me is what helped me grow from a manager level so soon,” says Sripad.
Speaking about how UrbanClap evolved in the past year, Sripad says, “I can’t imagine the way we were a year ago compared with what we are now. Today, we are transforming almost each and every product of UrbanClap as we know it. We are transforming customer applications, personal applications, everything. We are heavily focused on the reverse auction model. A customer comes to us and goes through the set of questions specifying their requirements, and we find that right professional who is correct for the customer. Now, over a period of time, we realised that the customer wants to go through the profiles and understand what is on offer even before deciding to take the service or not.”
He says that the one thing startups don’t have is the luxury of time. A typical day sees Sripad reach the office at 8.30 am and stay until 10 or 11pm each night. His colleagues say that if there's any issue with any product, Sripad takes personal ownership and doesn't give up until the issue is resolved.
Raghav Chandra, Co-founder, who oversees the tech team, says, "Sripad is the ultimate perfectionist. He is the most profound and thoughtful person I have met. I love his ability to take feedback and come around with solutions. And once he's locked in on an idea, I have no way of beating his thought process.”
His colleagues also say that Sripad is the kind of person who would never turn away anyone who goes to him for help with a problem. Shy to the point of almost being reticent, they say the only time his face lights up and he talks animatedly is when someone asks him anything about UrbanClap.
And what is it that Sripad likes best about working at UrbanClap? “I really cherish the people I work with. It rarely happens that you get a team where each and every person is motivated and wants to achieve their goal. Even after one year, the level of motivation here does not cease to amaze me.
“We are bunch of people who come together, huddle together, hustle together, and try to solve the problems. If we are struggling with a product, one member from every team in the organisation comes down and we sit together to come up with a solution to the problem.”
He cites an example of when they were facing a problem where they were not getting enough responses from service providers for plumber requests. “Multiple requests were not getting answered. Deepak from the business development team actually travelled with these professionals around the city to understand what the problem was. We found that when we send a notification to a professional saying that this particular customer is looking for your services, the sound was not audible because they were in heavy traffic. That one insight transformed this problem and all we had to do was produce a louder notification.”
For Sripad, satisfaction comes from solving a basic human problem. “We are solving the problem of getting good work done without spending a lot of money and time. When a service provider is building a business, they are spending time on a lot of things like marketing and getting customers and not developing their craft. We help with that.”
He gives the example of a yoga instructor who had studied in Benares and was passionate about teaching yoga. He had returned to Delhi and realised that he would have to join a gym or another yoga school at a salary of Rs 10-12,000. He even considered a call centre job as it would pay more. He thought of starting a school, but realised that would not be financially viable. “I spoke to him personally and he agreed to come on board. Today, he is making more money than he could have at a gym or call centre and his business is growing 100 per cent each month.”
He also tells us about a lady who was working at a salon in Gurgaon for a Rs 20,000 salary. After joining UrbanClap, she started taking home Rs 97,000 within three months.
Sripad says that in a country with a population as vast as ours, prosperity will only come with the rise of micro-entrepreneurs. “When I first started thinking about joining UrbanClap, what I really liked was that they were creating opportunities for people to pursue their own livelihoods and be financially stable. When you can see the value of the work you are doing day in and day out, that is what keeps the entire team at UC motivated.
“It’s this thought that keeps me going every day.”
This article is sponsored by UrbanClap.