I first met Chandra some time in early 90s. But I really came to know him through a mutual friend in US. After I started visiting India, I used to call Chandra and have conversations. I still recall Chandra saying “every day I go to drop my kid at school and see several parents. I am sure that we may be able to help each other some way in business”. I guess he has been thinking about this for a while and probably one idea led to another and Yokibu was born.
What inspired me to become an entrepreneur?
It is a very difficult question to answer. I cannot say that just one thing made me do what I am doing now. It is partly because of my personal nature of not worrying too much about the outcome of an effort and my restlessness in continuing the status quo.
But certainly my job at USA was the catalyst. I moved to USA in 1995, the beginning of the dot.com era and I found companies being founded with so many ideas, some obviously trivial. I guess I was influenced by the positively charged entrepreneurial atmosphere.
The other reason could be the fact that I was slowly getting tired of pure coding. At the same time I was also getting attracted to brand building. I was excited about how brands are created and registered in the minds of people. My idea of a startup was to build a product or service or platform that serves consumers at large and creates a lasting and trusted brand. I am glad that whatever I am doing now is slowly but steadily getting there.
What products or service do you provide?
Yokibu.com is a specialized portal connecting schools, students and parents.
Who are your target customers?
Students, Parents, Schools and Vendors/Service Providers that target students, parents
How did you get your first paying customer?
Our first paid customer was not someone that we actively targeted or planned to signup. As our online community grew, we had a few opportunities that came our way. Some of our members were employees of a few known brands and they wanted to promote their brand to our community members and we did get paid. This would generally fall into the AD revenue category which was not our core focus.
However, a payment by one of our members from our planned online e-commerce service is what I would call as our first real revenue. This happened after we launched our beta online e-commerce service where the parent paid for an offline class online on Yokibu. The irony though is that he couldn’t pay online through our platform as we had not yet enabled net banking for the bank that he was a customer of. So he had to do an online transfer to our account directly from his account. The trust that we had built with our customers was so good that he was ready to take our bank details over phone do a direct transfer.
What challenges do you face in your business?
We have many challenges. For example, when we started, the schools were not yet ready to embrace technology the way we envisaged. But we persisted and it is paying.
Funding was and continues to be a huge challenge. In businesses of our nature where building a community requires considerable period of time (especially in India) and the revenue model is not yet proven, the Indian VCs (unlike US VCs) tend to wait and watch until the model is proven. In my opinion Funding at the right time can actually make a business successful.
Do you have mentors?
I have no specific mentor. But I seek guidance from many people that I interact with and trust as and when required.
What lesson have you learned that you would like to share with others?
No matter what your idea is, you need to find out how the business is going to generate money first. Once you figure that out, you need to then find out how and when to be profitable.