Meet 5 startup co-founders who brought family into leadership roles and scaled

Instead of a brand new team to break into, having a family-run support system in a startup can be the clincher in following the same vision and objectives.

In the startup ecosystem, a co-founder is up against the ominous statistic that over 90 percent of startups fail. Instead of a brand new team to break into, having a family-run support system can be the clincher in following the same vision and objectives.

That is what these five entrepreneurs and co-founders relied upon, and are running successful startups today.

Army man and the army kid: SportVolt 

The ‘sportlight’ has been shining on illustrious sports stars who are flying the Indian flag high on the global stage. Be it the rise of Hima Das, or the sprint of India’s very own fastest woman Dutee Chand, or the accolades to Saina Nehwal. The realm of Indian sports is filled with success stories. Yet, there is so much more potential lying untapped, and an ecosystem to harness. 

Kshitij Tiwari, 29, understands this cry for help. To fulfil his dream to make sports mainstream, he launched SportVolt in 2016. It provides sports curriculum, trained and affiliated coaches and sports infrastructure to educational institutes. 

He roped in his father Colonel Prakash Tewari as the co-founder and chairman of the company, and now has a mentor and guide too. In 2017, SportVolt partnered with a semi-government organisation under the Delhi government - Academy of Sport Science and Research Management (ASSRM) which helped SportVolt access students’ with potential in sports while providing other sports-related infrastructure.

Colonel Prakash Tewari, and Kshitij Tewari

Starting up with zero investment, SportVolt had a revenue of Rs 60 lakh in the first year, and then clocked a turnover of Rs 1.4 crore in FY18.

“We groomed 35 national players from APS, Dhaula Kuan. We have set up a one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art sports lab for the Government of Delhi. In every school we work, we groom an average of six to eight national players a year,” adds the sports-loving Kshitij Tewari.

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Couple bonding over books: Qwerty Thoughts

This husband and wife turned their passion for books into a business. Launched in early 2019, Qwerty Thoughts, founded by Jasleen Khurana and Prateek Gupta is a multilingual social book reading, discovery, and self-publishing online platform, where readers discuss books with people that have similar interests.

The idea was conceived four years ago when Jasleen started offline groups in Delhi-NCR related to storytelling, book reading, creative writing, and discussions. She realised that geography was a challenge and only Delhi-NCR-based reading enthusiasts could meet and connect.

Being a problem solver, Jasleen decided to bring the community online, and roped in her husband Prateek Gupta as co-founder and CTO to start Qwerty Thoughts. 

Qwerty Thoughts Co-Founders Jasleen Khurana and Prateek Gupta

Jasleen has seven years of HR experience while Prateek is a techie and a history buff. Working together at a multinational company earlier, they bonded over books and Jasleen invited him to one of her meetups, and their friendship culminated into marriage in April 2017.

Qwerty Thoughts Media Pvt. Ltd onboarded its offline community online and attracted 1,000 registered authors from the US, UK, Germany and India. The startup caters to a potential 500 million vernacular language internet users in India, and book lovers across the globe. Currently bootstrapped, the couple has invested Rs 8 lakh of their savings for R&D, technology, product development, content, events, and legal requirements.

In terms of revenue, the startup earns when readers pay for a book, and from authors who use promotional tools and services they provide which is a major source of revenue. The startup has already clocked about Rs 50,000 in revenue. Having surpassed 6,000 registered users, it has more than 1,500 books for reading uploaded across all genres - romance, thriller, fiction, non-fiction.

With more than 1,000 registered authors and overall traffic of around 40,000 per month, the couple expects to cross the one million user mark by 2020 end.

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Brotherhood: TrackMyPhones

Bengaluru-based twins Srihari and Shrinidhi Karanth, both computer engineers are passionate about website and app development. Working in different companies, the brothers found time to dabble in app development, in particular, how one’s smartphone can ensure a user’s safety. This gave birth to their startup, TrackMyPhones.

It all started as a hobby in 2014 when the brothers developed the app Thief Tracker which took pictures from a smartphone’s camera, and mails it to a user when someone tried to unlock a device, and fails multiple times.

The app had garnered attention globally, and when the twins saw 15,000 to 20,000 installs every day, it spurred the brothers to start up with Track My Phones in 2016.

The co-founders then launched a new version of the Thief Tracker app called “Track My Phone,” that tracks the location of a phone using a website, and sends remote commands including a siren, pictures, videos, making a call, enabling or disabling the GPS, data connection, Wi-Fi, etc.

The company also has about 20 apps focused on anti-theft, remote monitoring, parental control, and women’s safety. The founders did not need external funding while starting up or a large team. Even today, the twins run the show with monthly operations costing Rs 35,000. Profitable, they earn revenue from app ads. All the apps are free for users.

Until last December, the twins were running Track My Phones, and busy with their respective jobs. Now, however, they devote all their time on developing new apps, and business development. Speaking to YourStory earlier, Srihari said that they will continue to make innovative apps for end-users and will also look to move into the B2B space to get stable revenue.

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Mohali brothers: Hotshelf

We know it’s clean up time at home when we start finding outdated products. Most specifically, healthcare products that come with an expiry date. While we do not think twice before discarding those pills, businesses dealing with such expensive healthcare products in huge quantities incur losses in lakhs or even crores if they fail to move their “deadstock” on time.

Though there are software systems to keep a check on expiry dates of medicines and medical equipment, there is seldom a way to move inventory out soon. Mohali-based ecommerce platform Hotshelf decided to solve this conundrum. The company’s co-founders - brothers Vaibhav and Anubhav Sethi, started up in 2017 with an online marketplace that gives life to dead stocks that are on the verge of expiry.

“With integrated retailers, wholesalers, and buyers, Hotshelf is putting up immovable stocks of expensive medical equipment for sale at pocket-friendly rates,” says Vaibhav.

It is also in the process of tapping other industries which deal with deadstock such as FMCG, sports, fashion, and home appliances. The brothers are bootstrapping the startup and have invested their own money to the tune of Rs 1 crore to develop and promote Hotshelf.

The startup earns its revenue as a commission on sales from the seller, which ranges from five to 20 percent, depending on the value and volume of the non-moving inventory. Vaibhav says the startup has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the healthcare industry, and discussions are on with others to get on board.

In terms of revenue, the co-founder says that Hotshelf will be profitable by FY 2022. The distribution base covers Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.

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Mother-son duo: Koolchas

That our mothers are the best cooks ever is something we all have uttered at least once. Meet mother-son duo Gaurav and Sunila Bahl who decided to turn their love for food into a business with Koolchas. Across North India, a traditional plate of kulcha - hot, crisp, flaky, and slathered generously with butter - is served with a side of chole, spicy chutney, pickle, and chopped onion.

This mother-son duo wanted to make the dish world famous. Koolchas is basically a chain of QSRs (quick service restaurants) which aim to bring the omnipresent chole kulche to the organised retail ecosystem.

Gaurav Bahl with his mother Sunila Bahl

The startup offers hygienic and diversified variations of kulchas with “secret” homemade spices and fresh vegetables at affordable costs at its QSR outlets, and also grinds and blends its own spices.  It all started in May 2016 when Gaurav, an architect found he had ample time during a slump in real estate.

Armed with an MBA, Gaurav has had over 20 years of architectural experience, and is a foodie by nature. The co-founder decided to pour business sense into food and launched Koolchas with his mother.

“The pain point that we are trying to solve is the hygiene, quality, and clean environment to have kulche chole in various forms,” says Gaurav. His mother, Sunila Bahl, looks after the quality-checks at the QSRs. All the recipes used by Koolchas are her own.

The first outlet Koolchas was launched in July 2018 at Sushant Lok in Gurugram, and soon, a second one opened in Delhi-NCR. The startup claims to have registered about 10,000 customers within a year of operations. So far Koolchas is bootstrapped, and the founders have invested more than $500,000.

“Sales at our first outlet have grown from Rs 2 lakh in the first month to Rs 6 lakh per month within 10 months of starting up,” Gaurav says.

The company is now expecting a growth of about 500 percent this year, and is planning to open 10 to 12 outlets in Delhi-NCR in the next fiscal. The startup is also looking to raise its Pre-Series A funding to achieve scale. “Eventually, we will be targeting to have about 40 outlets operational in the next two years, and evaluate other metros in the country,” Gaurav added.

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(Edited by Suruchi Kapur- Gomes)


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