Startup Spotlight: TaxiForSure.com : IIM-A Grads Who Quit Their Jobs To Startup
Last week, we had the opportunity to meet the founders of Taxiforsure.com at their office (Bangalore). It was a good 45 minute discussion with them. Interested to know what this IIM-A duo are saying about their startup, the story, the taxi market? Read on for juice!
What Taxiforsure.comis into and what problem are you trying to solve?
When we started, it was to solve what we wanted – access to nearest available taxi. The platform that we want to build is to enable all operators with technology, in simple terms we want to be the aggregator for taxis. Our platform will ensure customers have access to multiple operators whoever can service them at the earliest, depending on your urgency and your purpose to get a taxi, it’s up to you to choose what you want to pay and what type of car you want to book. There are multiple modes of operation like: point to point transfer, airport transfer, local hire, outstation hire – no player had put all these together.
When did you conceive this idea? During your college days? Work days?
Aprameya and I (Raghunandan) knew each other for 14 years. We graduated from same engineering college – REC, Suratkal. Aprameya (Apra) did ECE and I did CSE. Then, Apra worked with Infosys, me with Texas instruments and Feedback Ventures. After that, we did our MBA in IIM-A. We were discussing and exploring business ideas for long time. Since I was a consultant and Apra a business development guy, we used to travel a lot. Wherever we went, getting a taxi was a major pain. We wanted to address this problem, we did lot of research and discussed with friends – all were facing the same issue and that’s when we decided to quit job and do it full time.
When you started taxiforsure?
The brand was incorporated on Feb 14 2011, Valentine’s Day (giggles), but we went live on June 5 2011.
What were your family members reactions when you said you want to quit corporate job and start your own venture?
Raghu: Apra is unmarried and am married (to my college mate). I don’t come from an entrepreneur / business family background, am from typical middle class family. Parents were asking me to get a government job. Parents were lost when I told them that I am going to quit and start our own. My wife was very supportive; she understood that this idea had good potential
Apra: First time my parents panicked when I told them. At IIM A, I had no clue what running a company was, only after graduating and working with corporates I got an idea of how a company was run. MBA education (with all respect) doesn’t tell you how to run a company; it tells you all aspects of business. You are trained on how to become manager for somebody else, rather than to run a business. Never in my dreams had I thought I would start a company. It took me 1.5 years to convince my parents. After 1.5 years, my mom asked me “when are you starting”!
Did you receive any funding?
We approached our IIM and REC college mates and seniors – they helped in funding. Lot of effort went in from PPT stage to the “day we got traction”. There were a lot of coincidences that happened. Our company name is “Serendipity Infolabs Pvt Limited”, the state we are in now is mostly because of serendipity and we were at the right place at the right time.
We checked the premium cars that you have in your website, do customers care about luxury cars for rent/hire?
We aggregate across different car type, different products, across operators and across geographies. A typical customer would require all kinds of products – point to point, local hire, outstation, airport transfer, type of vehicles. If the company pays, probably he will go with whatever he is eligible for. But, if he is paying then he will go with an Indica or indigo non AC. A customer who books Camry, Corolla in most likelihood never books an India non-AC.
We wanted to have a different section where people could choose from various car types, few of the premium cars that we have served to customers: BMW 3, 5 and 7 series, Merc, Rolls Royce and even a Limousine! Different premium cars are available in different cities. Premium cars create curiosity, lot of people enquire about premium cars. Even if they don’t hire, they will still keep the brand in their name.
Did you get any setback in the initial months/years? Ever thought that you will go back to regular jobs?
Challenges – there plenty. But, did we revisit the decision? No. We never regret the decision. Is there anything that we would want to do differently? Yes, there are lots of them. So far we are happy with where we are, we could have done some things lot better.
Keeping your mind focused is very important; you never know where you will reach. Keeping away things like loans, etc. – has been a challenge on personal front. On the work side, getting the right people at right time is a challenge. Because if you have good people –it becomes easier, if you don’t have right people – it goes on and on. We spent quite a bit of time to search for right person to help us in technology. Fortunately we found Ashok. Being a startup, there is no formula to get the right people.
Do you have any offline office or it’s only online?
We do serve online and offline, our offline is our call center.
What’s your USP?
Actually we don’t have any specific USP. There are lots of things we do different. You wouldn’t have noticed taxiforsure in the media; that’s a differentiating factor. But if you go to review sites like Mouthshut, Tripadvisor – you would notice that taxiforsure is discussed. We haven’t done any PR in Pluggdin, Media Nama, Yourstory and Techcrunch. We don’t want to go and paint the town. We don’t want to be perceived as yet another online car rental portal. We are focusing on delivery, if the customers are happy about our delivery, they would talk about us. This has been a conscious decision. We are a very customer centric brand. Over a period of time, we want the customers to tell us what our USP is. That’s the day we would be happy about one of the many USP we had in mind is standing out. We want the customers to speak for us than we speaking for ourselves. We don’t talk much but our competition still does keep a close watch on what we do.
Do you have a target customer base number or number of bookings goal for this year?
We should be the number one brand recall when someone thinks of taxi or car rental. That’s a subjective goal. Whatever it takes for us to get there, we will do it. The numbers would follow.
Are the prices cheaper in taxiforsure than other taxi services?
We are. Indian market has taught us that – good service should be provided at a cheap price, value for as less money as possible! Unless you give good service at the best price, you will not be able to make it. We are working on lot of features that we are going to add. Today Meru has set good benchmark in terms of customer service, but our benchmarks are to go beyond that. Meru owns their cars and it’s probably easy for them to implement service quality. We probably have taken a harder task to implement all facilities with somebody else’s car and driver. Amongst the direct competition as far as we understand, we are the cheapest.
What’s the customers’ reaction towards taxiforsure so far?
More than half of our bookings come from repeat customers, and I would leave that number speak for itself.
What’s your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
We are still entrepreneurs and still budding (smiles). Believe in your idea. If you are passionate about it and not afraid of making mistakes – go ahead and give yourself an opportunity to explore. If it fails, then you will be valued much more in the job market and you would have gained good experience, if it works then people will come to you and ask you this same question.
Author: Karthick Prabu