[Year in Review 2019] Top startup 'Turning Point' stories our readers enjoyed this year
Today, everyone wants to start a company. Although starting up might sound easy, the founders often face many obstacles through their journey. From finding the right people and pitching to an investor to overcoming market risks and reaching out to the customers, the startup journey is often filled with challenges.
To celebrate these moments in an entrepreneur’s life, YourStory introduced ‘The Turning Point’ series in August this year. It is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. It talks about their struggles through the early stages and what they did to overcome them.
YourStory lists top 10 stories in the series the readers enjoyed this year.
Intra-city logistics company Blowhorn was started by Mithun Srivatsa and his college friend Nikhil Shivaprasad to aggregate and organise the otherwise fragmented market of mini trucks.
Co-founders Mithun (L) and Nikhil (R)
Mithun was thinking around existing problems in the logistics space, with the entrepreneurial dream nagging him from the back of his head. He realised it was not the lack of supply of truck drivers, but the lack of a common platform that would aggregate and bring together the very fragmented market of mini trucks. He also thought that if this model could work well in transporting people with Uber and Ola, then it could work for goods transport as well. This led him to build the next Ola and Uber for logistics – Blowhorn, along with his friend in 2014.
Blowhorn is a tech-enabled platform that enables mini-trucks to transport goods to multiple cities across the country. Blowhorn’s algorithm works similar to that of the unicorn cab aggregators. While loading and unloading of goods is part of the service, it also allows real-time tracking of goods.
Ashwarya Pratap Singh’s new Ford Figo, which he hardly used for an hour every day but spent a good amount for its maintenance, met with an accident, he realised that many people her age might be facing the same conundrum.
This was the lightbulb moment for Ashwarya, who was joined by his college friends Hemant Kumar Sah, Vasant Verma, and Amit Sahu to come up with a new concept - JustRide. The platform allows people to rent cars to self-drive. The founders also roped in Abhishek Mahajan, who was working at an investment firm, as Co-founder.
Initially, they began with leasing around 250 cars. Today, the platform, which has been re-branded as Drivezy, has expanded its services to include 4,000 cars and 16,000 two-wheelers. The team also launched operations in San Francisco in the US in August this year. And now, the team intends to expand its services to 10 cities in the US with a fleet of 1,000 cars by next year.
Kabeer Biswas was sitting at a restaurant in Bengaluru when he thought how nice it would be if there was someone who could complete your tasks by just telling them what you want.
This was the eureka moment for Kabeer, which led to the WhatsApp version of Dunzo. Kabeer was later joined by Ankur Aggarwal, Dalvir Suri, and Mukund Jha as co-founders.
Dunzo Founders - Ankur Aggarwal, Mukund Jha, Kabeer Biswas and Dalvir Suri
Kabeer bounced his idea off a friend and together they started running tasks like picking laundry, pick and drop facility, and buying on WhatsApp for over a year. From a WhatsApp-based model, this hyperlocal “task- running” business evolved into a rudimentary app, where customers can create a list of whatever tasks they need done.
Today, 80 percent of Dunzo’s tasks are completely automated and run without any human intervention, and this has enabled them to scale.
From managing products at Flipkart and heading the furniture category at Pepperfry, Geetansh Bamania kept moving around Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Mumbai within a span of three years.
Geetansh, Founder and CEO, Rentomojo
While Geetansh was part of the furniture business, his brother living in the UK used to rent or lease pretty much everything, and Geetansh started thinking on similar lines. However, renting furniture and appliances was not his first idea. Geetansh initially thought of renting out toys to children, as they are expensive, and children use them only for a couple of days as they get bored easily.
But with a background in furniture business, Geetansh felt it would be a more known path to trade in. He quit Pepperfry and launched RentoMojo in November 2014. The startup received its first order in the first week of December in the same year.
While working for McKinsey and EY, Jayant Paleti, Rohit Chennamaneni, and Chaitanya Peddi realised these companies did not have the best HR systems despite them being people-oriented companies.
Darwin founders Rohit, Jayant, Chaitanya
This is when the trio decided to start Darwinbox, a HRtech startup, with an investment of less than Rs 30 lakh in 2015. The startup acts as a one-stop shop to streamline HR processes and has an evolutionary talent management system catering to every philosophy. Its solutions combine workflows with intelligent insights and smart interfaces.
Today, the team claims that its customer base has increased 5X and revenue has grown by 900 percent.
The story of Dineout, the dining-out and table-reservation platform, goes back to 2010, when Ankit Mehrotra was working as an investment banker at BNP Paribas Wealth Management in London.
Ankit’s school friend, Sahil Jain, was also in the US working with Mu Sigma. The duo often planned their trips to India together and hung out in Delhi. Every time they visited Delhi, the question remained the same over the years – 'What are the new places in the city? Where do we go out tonight?'
Ankit Mehrotra, Cofounder and CEO of Dineout
Facing the same problem for three to four years on every visit to India, Ankit started pondering over it. He reached out to Sahil, and they decided to do something about this. The duo started working on the concept and business model.
In February 2011, Sahil quit his job in the US and shifted back to Delhi. Soon, bored with his mundane work, Ankit followed suit. They convinced two of their school friends, Vivek Kapoor and Nikhil Bakshi, to join them. In September 2011, they registered Dineout as an online table-reservation platform.
In 2010, two IIT-Bombay students, Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, wanted to head out on a weekend trip. Like most people, they found it difficult to book a cab. Being techies and engineers, they thought of an idea: would it not be cool to be able to book a ride on an app? That thought led to the birth of Ola Trips, a Mumbai-based tour and travel operator.
Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati - Founders of Ola
Bhavish would be out in the field trying to sell trips, while Ankit stayed holed up in an old apartment near IIT-Bombay, coding the website. Ola Trips quickly pivoted into a ride-hailing service when the duo realised that was the real market. Two years after setting up operations and getting an angel funding, the team decided to shift base to Bengaluru. Since then, there has been no looking back.
The Bengaluru-based unicorn, with a valuation of close to $5 billion, now has a presence in over 250 cities across the globe.
Back in 2011, Ajith Mohan Karimpana was working as the Vice President at Goldman Sachs in New York. After having spent more than five years in the company, he moved back to India to head one of the company’s verticals out of its Bengaluru office.
During this time, Ajith went and bought some furniture from the local stores. According to him, the online players were not available then, and he had no idea about the furniture market in India. But at the end of the first year itself, while moving to a new house, the furniture started breaking. The process of spending, buying, reselling, and buying again only to realise the poor quality of the furniture had to be taken care of. This made him wonder if he could have furniture as a product or service kind of philosophy.
Driven by his gumption and knowledge, Ajith quit his job at Goldman Sachs and founded Rent Ur Duniya in October 2011. However, Rent Ur Duniya didn’t sound like a billion-dollar company for Ajith as it was colloquial. He did a branding exercise and launched Furlenco in 2012.
The food delivery unicorn’s parent company Bundl originally started out in the logistics space, which was shut down soon.
As things with Bundl didn’t pan out as expected, the founder duo - Sriharsha Majety and Nandan Reddy - saw a huge opportunity in ecommerce. Understanding the importance of having a core member with the right technical know-how, Rahul Jaimini joined them.
Founders of Swiggy. (L-R - Nandan Reddy, Rahul Jaimini and Sriharsha Majety)
The three BITS-Pilani alumni started brainstorming for the ecommerce sector. Eventually, they landed on the idea of a foodtech app when they themselves wanted to get food delivered at their doorstep. They thought - why can't we just get any kind of food delivered to our doorstep whenever we want it? So, in late 2014, they decided to take the plunge and started Swiggy.
At present, Swiggy is one of the biggest food delivery startups in the country, and has completed over half a billion orders. Present in over 500 cities, Swiggy has on boarded around 147,000 restaurants and has over 2.1 lakh active delivery partners.
Before digital payments and mobile wallets became a norm, small and medium merchants in India had a huge problem accepting card payments. Manish Patel, who owned an alcohol franchise - Sante Wines and Beer in Mumbai, had witnessed this problem closely.
He approached HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, and SBI, but they only seemed focused on selling their banking services and increasing their customer base. He saw that their core value proposition was all about opening accounts and offering lower interest rates. After some research, he realised that India was a very under-penetrated market when it came to PoS terminals.
Manish Patel, Founder & CEO, Mswipe
Keen to build the necessary technology for low-cost and reliable PoS terminals with good battery life and connectivity, he put together an engineering team and created an end-to-end technology stack.
MSwipe Technologies was thus born in 2011 as a network provider that allows small and medium-sized enterprises to enable card-based payments through mobile devices. The startup now has a merchant base of over 5,00,000.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)