Sunday, May 02, 2010

Tinker, tailor, plumber, carpenter

I get many emails from founders of startups seeking advice. Many of them just ask for a bit of publicity. So here it is - a bit of advice, and some free publicity to a few entrepreneurs taking their baby steps.


Vaidyanathan Ramachandran from IIM Ahmedabad's PGP X program has founded this biz which aims at providing 'clean, reliable and hassle-free home improvement services'.

Although the name is 'fix-all', as of now they focus only on electrical services in the city of Chennai. This needs to be communicated more clearly, right next to the number given on the homepage.

Is there a need?: Yes, certainly. There should be a lot of people willing to try such a service.

What could be better: The website is basic, pictures could be better. Some information on who are the people behind this venture would inspire more confidence.

The pricing for chhota mota jobs is Rs 90 for labour only. Which my mom thinks is high (the local electrician charges Rs 30). But for complex jobs - like an entire home's electrical fitting, I may be willing to pay a premium for reliable and knowledgeable service.

Pitfalls: What if the electricians under contract with Fix-it start doing freelance on the side. Once I have the cell no of a workman, I can bypass Fix-it and pay him Rs 50 and get my work done. Not saying it will happen, but it's a distinct possibility.

Parting advice: Training and motivation of workmen is key to the success of this venture. Polite, punctual fellows who do their job with sincerity are what you need. Uniforms and smiles would add to the attractiveness of the package.

The website name is a little tough to remember but I guess you can't have everything!

Well, great minds think alike and more so in the competitive world of business.

2) A similar service - but with its own USPs - is Liveazee.

The site is broader in scope than Fix-it. Right now they offer two services:

1) Electronics repair: TV repairs are done at your home, audio systems and DVD players are picked up and repaired at the service centre.

There is a 30 day guarantee in case the same problem recurs. Charges range from Rs 100-500 + parts.

2) Bill Pay: In a world where ECS and online payment mechanisms have reduced this hassle, there is apparently a large enough market to merit a home pick up service for your utility payments. It costs Rs 150 a month for 10 such pick-ups.

A killer app - in my opinion - is the EazeeBox where a box is installed in your society for this purpose. That makes the service far more economical. (I live in a building full of senior citizens and that makes a big difference!)

But the most unique service this site offers is a 'Home Staff Register'. The idea is to register the personal information of all your home staff - cook, maid, driver, nanny etc.

Now this is something we all know we should, but rarely do. So let's say I download the 3 page form and fill up all the details. I am not clear what is the benefit of putting the info online... May as well go to your local police station and register the domestic with them, no?

Other services like plumbing, electrical, carpentry etc will be offered on the site soon.

Is there a need?:
Probably - different takers for different services.

What could be better: The website could use some user testimonials and information about who is behind the venture. Another thing - in the Home Staff Register that I downloaded I did not see any space for a photo.

Pitfalls: Same as above. Finding and retaining reliable workmen, and making sure they are working only on company payroll will be a challenge.

And again, the name. I'm sorry but it did not make much sense until I saw the website. It's Live + Eazee -LIVeazee. (Maybe, it's just me).

Parting advice: Cities where the service is available should be clearly mentioned. Since the target audience would include a lot of working couples and bachelors weekend and late evening services (upto 11 pm!) could be offered. If I am saved the trouble of taking a half day from work to get my flush fixed, I would be willing to pay a premium.

I'm sure there might be a few more young entrepreneurs in this space (like there are in juices!) . Well, the good news is the market is big enough for all. It's a completely chaotic and unorganised sector which makes it a huge opportunity, as well as a huge challenge.

In response to my last post Dhruv Kakar left this comment: "Don't these ideas look like copy cats...what is their USP....How they are different....I think something is missing... something like different...why everyone wants to be CCD or entrepreneurship is just a fad."

Well, some years ago I would have reacted like Dhruv. Ki bhai kuch karna hai to unique karo, nahin to mat karo. But I realised there are many routes you can take in entrepreneurship.

If you have a unique idea and faith in it - go ahead. eg Give India (ref. Stay Hungry Stay Foolish).

But if you don't have such an idea.. well, you still gotta start somewhere. Sanjeev Bikhchandani started a small company producing reports - came later. In his case, he had the idea of a job directory in 1991 but only with the arrival of the internet could he make that dream a reality.

Because he was already an entrepreneur, he could grab the opportunity and run with it.

Similarly, these juicewallahs and electrical contractors are learning what it is to do business in India. With time, they will get very good at what they do - maybe spot another opportunity before anyone else. Or simply scale up their own operations to a level where it becomes a force to reckon with.

I am reminded of Ganesh Ram of Veta (chapter 3 in my new book 'Connect the Dots'). He started by giving maths tuitions himself. Then set up an all-subject tutorial center. In time, he decided to focus only on English and set up a distance learning program. Today his company runs India's largest chain of spoken English training centres.

So, kuch kariye - as Sukhwinder Singh would say. And karnewaale are welcome to drop me a mail at rashmi_b at Will try and feature as many as possible in this space.

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  1. I am a long time reader - three years and counting.

    I miss your routine posts.

    Now all you do on this blog is promote your books/other start-ups.

  2. Sorry but both websites

    Have design which makes them look as if they were made in 2002.
    I hope their owners are looking at the comments here.

    There design is downright pathetic.

    They could have easily spend few ~50$ for a better looking design from websites such as ThemeForest.

    When your frontend is a website then i expect them to do at least a descent job. Worse their website is functionally lacking. Consider Craiglist which even though has a horrible design, yet it succeeds in functionality as one can post/search for their specific requirements.

    To indicate why i am good enough to comment on website design
    My Personal Website :

  3. The great thing about having this ENtreprenial mindset is that the moment you have this kinda mindset, your respect for the neighbourhood kiranawala, home delivery bhaji-wala, Dhobi, Chai ki tapri wala etc essence, they are eking out an living doing their own thing...

  4. Nice post.

    Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this topic so thoroughly. I look forward to future post.

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