of the week!!
I’m almost 22 now and have already failed FOUR times before starting HippoCabs and now it is my 5th startup which looks pretty promising.
I started my first venture, Grab the Fashion in 2012 with my brother, Sagar, right after I finished my high school. It was an e-commerce portal for fashion industry. I mention venture and not startup because I didn’t even know what a startup was at that time. Irony was that when I started Grab the Fashion, I had no clue about Fashion and the e-commerce industry, I started it just because I wanted to start something of my own. We worked on it for about 3 months and that was the time when I got to learn about e-commerce and little bit about the fashion industry. That venture never took off as I had to move to US for my college, but it was a great learning experience to understand what all it takes to start up.
When I moved to US, it was my first time on a foreign land. I enthusiastically explored the new culture and the experiences that place had to offer me. I found out about a certificate program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and registered for it along with all other classes.
On the first day, professors gave us a list of books that we had to buy for that semester. I went to the bookstore and found out that they cost about US $500, that’s about Rs. 30,000. I called a senior who helped me arrange used books; that still cost me over $200. Eureka Moment! PROBLEM SPOTTED!! Next Sem, I launched my second startup named Sell on Spot, a marketplace for students to exchange used books, a win-win situation for everyone! We received a positive response from students but couldn’t continue due to seasonality of the business.
Looking for new opportunities, I found out about the exchange program with a German University and moved to Germany to continue my education. There were various reasons why I decided to move to Germany a) Because of their excellent mechanical engineering curriculum b) It would save me a year c) It would cost 40% less than my current university. Makes perfect sense for an Entrepreneur to go for such an option!
I reached Germany on a Friday evening. On a fine Friday Night, what sort of scenario would one expect in a college dorm? Everyone was partying and having fun and I joined them. Next day, the story continues. I eventually got bored of this routine as it lacked the excitement. In my first week, I made some good friends, talked to some seniors and shared my plans of finishing up my degree in two and half years instead of 3. The reaction to this conversation was – next to impossible! To this day I do not know the answer to that, as I haven’t finished my degree yet. I do plan to finish it as there is only one semester left, but do not have any certain plans as of now.
My city had a very vibrant startup ecosystem, so I attended a startup weekend. I went there, pitched my idea but nobody joined me, neither did I. There were 4 others like me so we decided to form a team to brainstorm and come up with an idea . We created a business plan and a working prototype in just 48 hrs, pitched to jury and won the competition. There were two angel investors sitting in the Jury, who offered us investment on the spot. I was full with joy and hope. We met the investors over lunch a few days later and closed the deal. It was like a dream come true for me.
As we all know, good things never come easy! There came a major problem, my visa status! I talked to my lawyers but things didn’t work out as our idea was not relevant to my field of studies, which means I was not allowed to pursue this venture in Germany.
I worked on that startup for about 2 months before I had to quit. It was one of the saddest moments of my life.
Well, time for another startup! Keeping the past experiences in mind, I carefully chose the Indian market to avoid any visa issues.
A company named Trekking Toes, An online portal to connect tourists with local people. Initially it wasn’t my priority but we received some good response from people. By this time, I figured that to work on any idea I need more time, so to expedite my degree I took as many courses as I could during this time. I managed to finish almost half of my degree in one sem.
With proper time devotion, we managed to win several business plan competitions in Austria and India. This kind of response made me consider working on it full time instead of part time due to college studies. This led to the change in plans, and I made the tough call of coming back to India to pursue this startup. I am fortunate enough to have supporting parents and an elder brother, who believed in me and supported me in my decision of coming back to India for this.
Interesting things happened before I finally moved, I got a lucrative offer of joining an internet giant in Berlin as their growth manager. I did consider it as one of the options, but chose my own startup over it because of their delayed response. Meanwhile, my interest in Trekking Toes started decaying due to the expectation of getting the offer from the company. In a startup, if you aren’t excited from within, it becomes really hard to make your idea successful.
Now, I finally moved to India, everyone asked all sorts of questions. Instead of giving explanations to anyone, I chose to sit back, because sometimes ignorance is bliss! I was confident of my plans and continued my work as determination for survival is the only way forward.
The heart of my current venture really lies in my journey back from Delhi to Jaipur on my way from Germany. Usually I book my flight to Jaipur, but this time it was till Delhi. From there, I could either take a cab or a bus. Cabs are expensive for individuals so I took a bus. The bus ride was not as comfortable and annoyed me to the core. That’s when I came up with the idea of HippoCabs, an intercity shared cab service.
As we started working on the plan, we realised several roadblocks and pivoted strategically around them to change our model from shared cab to complete one way cab. We recently launched a new portal to connect travel agents and help them find customers for their vacant returning cabs.
With HippoCabs, we envision to change the way people travel from one city to another.
This has been an amazing journey so far, every day is a new challenge and a great learning experience. My failures led me to where I am today. If there is something that I have learnt in this journey; it is not how many times or how hard you fail, it is how strong you bounce back after that failure. That’s what defines you. Giving up to those failures is easy, but fighting back with twice the magnitude is the essence of entrepreneurship .
Tweet me @sahilagrawal26