Meet Abhiraj Bhal (co-founder, UrbanClap) who heads operations and service provider on-boarding at this young but huge startup. After IIT-K and IIM-A and before starting one of the biggest services marketplaces in India, he was a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group, advising Fortune 500 companies across India, Germany and South East Asia.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business?
I think like most entrepreneurs the first reason was to be able to work for myself. The second and the most important reason I feel was that me and my co-founders wanted to solve a problem that was essentially bigger than ourselves. We noticed that there was an untouched niche in the market when it came down to hiring trusted professionals with relative ease; and we decided to take the plunge.
How did you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about it the way you do?
This was the hardest bit and also, something that took a lot of effort to crack. Basically, we went out and found people just like us. People who were passionate about what they did. We floated the idea of UrbanClap to them and simply told them that if they like the idea and want to be a part of an exciting yet difficult journey then they should come onboard.
“I firmly believe that employees are of intrinsic importance to a business.”
The good thing is that the best people we met wanted to be a part of UrbanClap. They believed in the concept and more than anything, were keen to revolutionize the world of services. In the first 3 months the most important task was to hire the function heads for UrbanClap, who in turn went on to build their own teams in the same manner we did.
How important have good employees been to your success?
As a startup it is very important that you are able to find employees who can carry out and keep the vision that you have for the company alive on a day to day operational basis. So I’d say that, yes my employees have been key to our growth and I hope that they continue to be. An organization is all about its people, product and service comes later.
What three pieces of advice would you give college students who are keen to be entrepreneurs?
Focus on the basic. Hustle your way through. Work hard and play hard.
If you had a chance to restart your career, what would you do differently?
I have the best job. I have an organization that aims at changing the world. We are 275 people who people that. Can’t ask for more.
What would you say are the top 3 skills to be a successful entrepreneur?
- To be able to focus on the basic.
- To be able to hustle
- To never give up
What have been some of your failures, and how did you learn from them?
Everyday, we succeed at something and fail at something. Sometimes it’s a product change that hasn’t worked, one day it’s a service provider who’s let us down but I don’t let it affect me.
“I simply believe in fixing it and moving on.”
One thing I have learnt though is that it’s important to gauge the pace of each person, some people are faster others a little slower, if we push those who are slow they tend to fall. Over time I have learnt to allow people to work at a pace that optimizes their output and deliver the right results.
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Albert Einstein said and I quote, “I’m no genius, I just choose to stick longer with my problems.” So I’d say that I stick with the “good” ideas until they’re executed.
What motivates you?
My dream and my team.
How did you get investors for your venture?
The same we got our people, talking to them about our dream of rebuilding the world of services. Rohit Bansal and Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal were convinced immediately. With their belief being cemented in dream we got immense support from Accel and SAIF.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Favourite aspect would definitely be the dynamic nature of the job. Every day is different. Our product and model has undergone so many changes over the last year that it amazes me that in just one year we have achieved so much. People grow much faster in startups and we have been able to give them that. The average age of our Vice Presidents is 28. In a corporate, you may not become a VP even at 48.
What has been your most satisfying aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being able to change people’s lives. UrbanClap has changed the way people hire services. It’s just so easy and convenient. I don’t think anyone would go back to the traditional way or hiring services once they use UrbanClap.
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Word of mouth. Always. Happy customers talking about us to others is greatest marketing ever. The moment your people use the name of your company as a verb, you’ve achieved all that you set out to do so.
What kind of culture exists in your organization?
Everybody owns what they do. Right from the customer service agents to the founders, the tasks are well defined and they have complete ownership. We have designations but no hierarchy. Founders take time to reach out to all the members of the team and it’s very important that every knows that they can speak to the founders about anything whenever they feel like it.
Excluding yours, which other company do you admire the most?
I think most startups would definitely admire the fashion in which Uber does business. Their marketing hacks are admired worldwide and their concept of going local in order to go global is a must learn for every on-demand hyper local startup in the market today.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last 3 months?
I don’t think of decisions as tough or easy. Decisions are decisions – they need to be taken dispassionately – always putting ahead what is right for our customers. Numerous decision taken recently, whether to let go of a few non-performing employees, force-capping our marketing spends and focusing on innovative marketing, timing fund raises etc., might seem tough – but for me they are what you need to do to keep the ship moving forward.
Starting up is not easy – and the success of UrbanClap is highly inspiring.
We are proud to be their partners in changing the world for the better.