Self-funded, the founder duo have started up twice in three years, and running both companies successfully.
At a glance:
Startup: Engineer Master, Mahakaal Stores
Founders: Akshay Chouhan and Kapil Karda
Year of launch: 2015 and 2017
Where it is based: Indore
Sector: IT, Ecommerce
Problem it solves: IT solutions and customised merchandise
Indore-based Computer Science engineering graduates Akshay Chouhan (26) and Kapil Karda (25) have a unique claim to fame – of having started up twice in three years, and running both companies successfully. But it was not an overnight success.
Friends since childhood, Akshay and Kapil come from middle class families. In order to help their parents, they started distributing newspapers door-to-door when they were in Class 11 and 12. This helped them to save enough to pay their college tuition fees.
“We went to a local engineering college. We joined an IT startup for an unpaid internship to learn about software and website development in our first year. For four years, we attended only half day at college – with permission from authorities,” Kapil recollects.
The duo was also giving home tuition for school students simultaneously. “During festival seasons, we used to sell items like Rakhi on the streets,” Kapil remembers his humble beginnings.
After graduation, Akshay and Kapil worked in two IT startups – EngineerBabu and JSM Infosoft respectively. After a year, the duo decided to start up.
Akshay and Kapil launched their first venture EngineerMaster in 2015 with their savings. Engineer Master Solutions provides app and website development, digital marketing, graphic designing, and database among other services.
“We rented out an apartment in Indore and used to work nearly 22 hours a day. Our families were supportive about us leaving stable jobs to embrace entrepreneurship. They told us to try and make it work in six months. Thankfully, we were profitable from the first month itself,” Kapil recollects.
The company has so far delivered more than 1,000 projects in three years. Today, they have a team of 45, and are working with about 200 overseas startups.
Engineer Master’s clients include Samsung and Airtel. The co-founders claim that the company is now worth Rs 4 crore.
Stepping into ecommerce
Two years later, the duo decided to venture into the consumer internet sector along with ecommerce. Taking a personal loan from a bank and hiring one more person, they launched MahakaalStore.com in February 2017 as an online retail store for customised mobile covers, keychains and t-shirts.
“We started Mahakaal Store to print t-shirts, mobile covers, and keychains. But following customer demand, we started customising it. We named our venture Mahakaal because as we believe in Mahakaal (Hindu deity Shiv). Most of our orders come from rural areas,” says Kapil.
When it comes to customising t-shirts, Mahakaal’s competitors include Alma Mater, Tees Hood, Vista Print, and Print Land. Mahakaal’s products are priced between Rs 49 to Rs 179. Kapil claims their average ticket size is Rs 100, and they have a margin of 40-60 percent. He says they accept only online payments.
For minimising cash burn, Mahakaal Store’s promotion is done via influencer marketing. They source cotton fabrics from Ludhiana and the t-shirts are manufactured from a local vendor. They customise the t-shirts with in-house printing machines. Logistics is managed through third-party courier companies and India Post.
Kapil claims the monthly revenue of Mahakaal is between Rs 2-3 lakh, and the monthly growth rate is 30-40 percent. They make 15-20 percent profit on each item.
Mahakaal’s website gets 5,000-10,000 daily page views, with 12-13 percent conversion rate. Currently, they get 1,500 orders on an average per month. Their target is to generate at least 1,000 orders per day.
Additionally, they are launching new categories – including shoes, watches, and perfumes.
Building Engineer Master
Engineer Master mostly targets startups. Charges are tailored as per their product development, with different prices for different concepts. The services they provide include website development, website designing, CRM development, ERP development, mobile applications, and digital marketing.
The company hired freshers and trained them in order to minimise cash burn. “We have to work closely with every fresher to deliver a pixel-perfect project. It took some extra time and effort, but we are able to deliver,” says Kapil.
During this fiscal, Engineer Master hopes to setup office in at least two foreign countries to get clients. They will also expand to at least two cities in India, either Pune, Bengaluru or Noida, to target local market.
Rising from Indore
Indore was famous for its cloth mills till a few years ago. But today, it has evolved into a strong startup ecosystem. Kapil says, finding resources was easy despite very little promotion, as their work is completely online.
However, he feels that Indore stories do not get enough media attention. “Also, investors are reluctant to invest. We had tried our hands at a content website in Hindi and English, but had to shut down due to lack of capital. But things are changing now. More than 300 startups are already listed in Indore,” says Kapil.
Both Mahakaal and Engineer Master are self-funded. Kapil says they have no plan to raise external funding. “We believe in earning money from our clients, and not by any investor,” he tells YourStory.
Hopefully, success stories like these will inspire more entrepreneurs and investors in Indore.