It was December 31, 2015. The world was looking forward to usher in the New Year. But 23-year-old Gaurav Rana wasn’t so sure. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place. The company that he had painstakingly built over the past three years was crashing down around his ears, and there was nothing he could do but hide and watch. Who would’ve thought things could be ruined by heavy rainfall, something he had no control over.
Necessity made Gaurav turn his hobby into a business venture, making money from his paintings from class six. When he was in class eight, Gaurav says that he would go to a kirana store everyday to work; it was a barbershop located near this store that sparked his interest in the barbering trade.
He started learning the trade from a barber near his home in Sonf(Haryana), taking up the profession part-time to ensure that his family had food to eat.
This, however, didn’t stop him from securing 96 percent in class 10 and going on to pursue an Automobile Engineering Diploma from Dayalbagh Education Institute in Agra.
Juggling two worlds
In 2011, Gaurav began his job as a Technical Apprentice Trainee in VE Commercial Vehicles in Preethampur near Indore, and within a year he was promoted to Junior Manager. He also went on to pursue his B.Tech through a correspondence course.
After working at VE Commercial, Gaurav realised that he wanted to do something on his own. Gaurav says:
I always wanted to learn something new and different. And have a good understanding of everything that was happening. That doesn’t happen when you work at large corporates; you are asked to restrict yourself to the boundaries of your work, and I wanted more.
So in 2012, Gaurav started his own event management company– Vocano Events. However, as it was important for Gaurav to get a monthly wage, he continued his job as a junior manager at night, and would work on his event management company during the day.
Starting with every small event he could get, Gaurav slowly learnt the ropes of the trade. Initially, he started making Rs 10,000 per event, and soon it touched Rs 1 lakh.
By the time it was December 2015, Gaurav quit his job and started making a profit of close to Rs 2 lakh every month. However, all of that changed on that fateful New Years Eve. Contracted to conduct a New Year’s party, Gaurav worked hard to ensure that everything was going according to plan until it began to rain heavily.
Picking up the pieces
“The rains just didn’t stop. And in fear of short-circuiting, we had to stop the music. The drinks and food were interrupted as well. It just was 10:30 in the night. The crowd, I guess, was already a little high and was getting angry that there wasn’t any food or drink coming in. Angry shouts and protests soon turned into a mob run of broken tables and people getting beaten up,” he recalls.
Things had taken a turn for the worse, with the little profits that Gaurav had accumulated soon being given away to compensate for destroyed property and damages. All in all, this meant losses of between Rs 10 and Rs 15 lakh in the whole ordeal.
The new year wasn’t beginning the way Gaurav had anticipated. He was without a job, his business had to be shut down and he had no money. He had gone a long way to bring his family from Sonf, Haryana to Indore. Disheartened, Gaurav didn’t know what he would do next, but he also knew he had to be an entrepreneur.
It was then that Gaurav got the idea of Calipso. A platform that works as a beauty services provider where people can book their appointments through a website, a phone call or an app anywhere, whether at a salon or a doorstep.
He got the idea of Calipso looking at his mother, who was working as a beautician. She was fairly well-known and would be called on for house visits. She used to get contracts for marriages, but that was limited to only those people who knew or heard of her. It was then that Gaurav realised that there was a need to bridge the gap.
“In this world of knowledge asymmetry, I felt it was important that people had an idea of every service provider, while being able to understand their ratings and book them whenever they wanted,” says Gaurav.
In order to get this done, Calipso tied up with salons, ranging from the basic to the premium. The team also tied up with independent beauticians and freelancers.
Version 2.0 – building a team that stuck around
This time around, Gaurav knew he had to take the right steps to ensure that he got a strong business and team around him. He met with the Senior VP-Engineering at Eichen Motors, Aditya Kumar Shrivastav, whom he had met through his days at VE Commercial Vehicles.
It was then that Gaurav got to meet Aditya’s wife and Calipso’s co-founder Shubhra Shrivastav. With over 25 years of experience in different fields of online and offline business, Gaurav knew that with Shubhra, he would have the much required business knowledge that would help Calipso scale.
He roped in his brother Mohit to handle accounts and administration; he got in Love Bhatnagar, whom he met at a startup event, as their Sales and Marketing head; and he brought Ruby Saluja, a former colleague, into the company.
Getting Vinod Sood, startup mentor and Managing Director at Hughes Systique, as a mentor was a big boost for Gaurav. He knew that if he had to succeed, he needed good guidance and a mentor. It was coincidently during a stay at OYO Rooms that Gaurav thought of Vinod and decided to reach out to him through social media.
“He told me to call him after a week. I didn’t think he was serious. But after a week, Vinod called me himself and asked me to meet him in Delhi,” says Gaurav.
In the seven months since its inception, Calipso claims to have already completed over 3,000 services with over 950 customers, with order values ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000. The team claims to have between 60 to 70 percent repeat customers.
Gaurav adds that they work through a revenue sharing model with freelance stylists and salons, and they have their own trained beauty professionals on their payroll. The team intends to have a pan-India presence by 2017.
Speaking on why he chose to mentor Gaurav, Vinod says:
There is this fire and passion in Gaurav that I see, which makes me believe in his idea and dream. He isn’t a likely candidate that most mentors would choose. Gaurav doesn’t have a pedigree degree, his English communication skills aren’t perfect, but I know of his journey and there is a fire in him that I believe will make him win. Most mentors tend to back safe candidates, but here it wasn’t about the ticks in the boxes, it was about what one can do with passion.