Founder Interview: Pricebaba.com
With more choices comes bigger responsibility! Deluged by the incessant marketing campaigns of same-yet-different products, the consumer today is as confused as ever. Various startups have tried to ease the decision making process. Here is the story of Pricebaba.com that is moving fast to solve this problem and help consumers choose the right product.
Tell us something about Pricebaba.com and the team behind it? What has been your driving force? Where does the idea come from and how did it get implemented?
Annkur was fed up with the constant calls he used to get from friends and acquaintances, asking him which phone they should buy and where will they get the best price. As most people in India still research online and buy offline, we decided to build an online-offline hybrid platform with PriceBaba, that would help people choose the right product from their desired shop around them.
PriceBaba is a product research platform tailored to meet the needs of the Indian consumer. It helps connect local retailers to potential customers on the web. At the same time it serves the default buying behavior of the Indian consumer i.e. Research Online, Buy Offline.
The core team members include me, Annkur, Rohan Naravane and Nishit Shah.
Annkur is the C2C at PriceBaba. He calls it Clerk to CEO. A thought leader and growth driver, he touch bases on every team that drives PriceBaba. I lead tech front, determined to create a world-class product that our customers use as well as the management systems that our backend teams and retailers use. Rohan has been connected to Technology since his UTV days. He later was also part of the Retail team at Apple India. As he was looking to get back to his writing, a common friend suggested that PriceBaba could be his doorway. He was already sold on the concept of PriceBaba and the idea of not being a small cog in a big machinery excited him. Today he leads our content team and helps shape PriceBaba’s user experience. Nishit is the head of our operations. He is an enthusiastic, young MBA graduate from Mumbai who met us during an entrepreneurship event in his college. He joined full time after interning with us for a couple of months.
How has college/ education helped you? Or has it? Tell us about your background?
I studied computer engineering from Ahmedabad and was always curious about how things work. I used to read how the actual code was written in Java’s internal libraries. I just wanted to work for a small company and learn new technologies. After trying my luck to score a job in bangalore, I met Annkur on a train journey back home, and that’s when he pitched the idea of PriceBaba to me.
Is formal education important? Yes, definitely education helps you in your career and life. Education defines you what you are. But education simply does not mean a stack of degrees in your folder, but an actual understanding and knowledge in your area of expertise.
What were some of the worst reactions you got from people around you when you started up.
A few people from my home town, not my parents, but few family members, did not understand the concept of a startup. They often ended up judging “the company” that I was a part of by looking at the number of people working in it. It was hard at first, but going from a 2 person operation to a 22 people company today, I guess they’re satisfied and hopefully understand the value of what I am doing.
Tell us about a funny moment on your journey till now?
Not a funny incident, but I always have a smile on my face whenever I look back at this. When there were less than four employees at PriceBaba, we had to change our offices quite a few times. One time it was just a block away. So instead of calling some vendor to shift our computers and chairs, me and Annkur piece-by-piece moved to the new office ourselves. Those were the days. Somebody once said, “everybody cleans the floor”, and I stand by that belief.
How has the vision for Pricebaba changed since you started working on it? Tell us about your plans for expansion to other cities.
Running a startup is not a passive process. It’s quite evolving one. You as a founder, employee, as an employer, as a team leader evolve at every stage with your company. The vision remains quite constant. But the path leading to that vision changes. You learn about your users, your customers and you pivot your business. You evolve. But throughout all this, what has remained the same is PriceBaba’s vision — which is to help users in their buying decision. Now with our ever-increasing field operations staff, we now have a concrete plan to expand into newer cities quicker than before.
Where does your group get its funding from?
We were part of the 500 Startups Accelerator Program. And there were few angels and friends who funded our seed round.
How important do you think marketing is for early stage start-ups?
Marketing at any stage is important for any kind of startup. Unless you reach out to your potential customers, even an excellently built product is of no use. And getting the right customer for your product is critical, as it will help you tailor-make the product for them. Making a product backed by gut-feel is not a very sound strategy. We did couple a marketing campaigns for PriceBaba. A popular one among them is Android Ladoo, which is also given acknowledgement by Google when they recently announced Android 5.0.
What customers do you target or how has the industry response been? What differentiates your products from other similar ones?
Anyone who is confused buying a mobile phone is our customer. And we understand their pain — there are over 500 mobile phones actively sold today, and that number is growing. We make the user’s buying decision easy at PriceBaba. By providing updated offline and online prices along with price trends, detailed specifications, awesome choice of filters and comparison engine, it should help them narrow down to the right choice.
What do you think is the most important skill for being an entrepreneur?
Building a Team. When we start, we wear many hats but it is always important to know when to share that hat with a dedicated person. Many entrepreneurs I have seen during this 3 years of my journey failed to do so. They couldn’t let go. Some unfortunately couldn’t find a right cultural fit for their venture. Building a team and hiring the right talent, not in terms of skills, but even as a cultural fit with the company is pivotal to the company’s long-term success. During our initial days at PriceBaba we use to ask whether the candidate is a biker or not? It had nothing to do with the work profile; but it gave us a perspective about the person whom we have to work with 16 hours a day.
Can you comment on common mistakes a startup could possibly make? Or one thing you wished you knew before you started up? A Problem you had not anticipated when you started up but it nevertheless showed up?
As I mentioned earlier, it is important to hire talent in your company at the right time for any role. It is equally important as a founder to know when to fire people. Often due to certain issues, relationships or dependencies, it is hard do this. And because of this the company and an employee both get dragged into wasting each others’ time. I learnt about this during our visit to the US. One of our friends at Binpress hired and fired a senior executive in a week’s time. As a company we’ve had to say no to people at times. We learn from such incidents and try not to repeat the mistake.
Also sometimes I feel that people hesitate to share their ideas with fellow entrepreneurs; thinking that the idea might get stolen. The truth is that by not discussing their ideas, they might not get insights or real piece of advice from people who’ve had their fair share of success and failures. Heck, these might be their potential customers who will also be their biggest critics. The early you adapt to reality, the more time you save.
What do you think of the whole startup culture rise in India? Or how has the way you /society thinks about startups changed in the last few years?
I am very happy to see that there are colleges encouraging kids to join a startup and promote entrepreneurship. FMS Delhi has an entrepreneurial Break kind of program. Most of the colleges now have E-Cells and they invite startups for their recruitment program too. So I am definitely seeing the startup culture in India growing. To my surprise, kids not only from big cities like Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore where awesome Indian companies like Zomato, OlaCabs or PayTm are based out of, want to work for a startup. Talent from smaller cities also want to work for a small company in their town and be part of the startup world that’s making a dent in the universe.
Advice for young entrepreneurs out there.
Focus. It is very hard to focus when you are building a product. Especially in India where there are lots of people who can give you “gyaan” on everything. Sometimes it is useful but many-a-time, it may not be. You need to decide what suits you the best. So there is only one thing I would advise young entrepreneurs out there to ‘Keep Calm and Ship Your Product’. Learn from your mistakes. And as Dave Mcclure says, “Keep improving your product by 1% every day”