In Jan 2013, I quit a well paying credible profile at a Big 4 to venture out into the sea of entrepreneurs. I was all of 23 then, with hormones raging high and ofcourse it was a cool thing to do back then not realising the pitfall it brought along. The Flipkarts, Ola, Redbus, Zomato and housing of the world.
So in partnership with an acquantaince and a few more people, we started a beautiful journey of Theek Kar Do. But alas, I had to exit it within a year due to grave difference of opinions (End of a Chapter).
Then I took up a professional assignment that came my way just to keep myself occupied and figure out what next before my bank balance reduces to zero. But life had other plans and I started enjoying my work that I kept myself engaged with the same and growing by leaps and bounds. It was a rather relaxed profile which included a lot of travel and I was having fun. But just like my past, after 3 good years, I was done with and I called it quits. Immediately after my last working day, I flew to Ladakh for a 15 day trip with simply no plans of what to do next. I was not going to be that typical secured job person.
I took almost 6 months off meeting people and exploring options. While at it, I also engaged myself with various additional activities like working out, eating better, toastmasters, travelling, stock market, etc And then when I realised I had been on the sidelines for really long, came an offer to set up a service line in partnership with a electronic chain store (something very similar to what we did at Theek Kar Do). I was skeptical at first, one because I had started preparing for my GMAT (doing an MBA abroad has been on my list for quite some time now) and secondly because did I want to go down the same route again. But not being the most practical over thinker, over night I accepted the offer and that is simply how Service Saathi was born.
The firm was registered in December 2016 and operations commenced in Jan 2017. Its been some amazing 27 months of building the dream. There were a lot of leanings from last time – the first one being, do not brag about it till you have made it big. And over last 2 years the team at Service Saathi has done an amazing job. We cover all the regions of the Mumbai Metropolitan – South Mumbai, Western Suburbs, Northern and Central Suburbs, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Palghar. We have even started limited operations in Pune.
Till date we have served close to 30000+ customers, more than 30 service partners work with us in sync with 150+ technicians and an office staff of 15 odd people. We now operate out of two offices, one in Mumbai and one in Navi Mumbai. We work directly with major brands like Carrier and TCL and indirectly with brands like LG, Hitachi, etc.
The focus of the venture has been on 3 simple parameters : a) Quality b) Price c) Time. The service industry values and performs well only when you have all these 3 under control. We take customer feedback extremely seriously and have derostered several technicians for non compliance. Documents of every technicians is uploaded on our system. I am not saying we are the best at all of these parameters but we have made a lot of positive progress in the last 2 odd years and getting better everyday. Taking care of small things like sms updates, uniform, ID card, GPS tracker, standard rate chart has made the operations really smooth and also gone on to build a solid customer network.
We have made mistakes, there have been months that we have lost a lot of money, made a few wrong hiring choices, let go of some good candidates, not able to crack some deals, new customer acquisitions costs shot up, operations going for a toss, almost losing a contract. There were days when we had no idea where we were going and how to breakthrough the lull period. The team motivation was lowering, focus was moving away from the task at hand and the on field staff was working way below optimum capacity.
But at the end of it, year on year we grew at almost a 30% and been cash flow positive. When I look back today, I am happy with how we have maneuvered ourselves through the storm with total support of my business partners. Ofcourse aspirations are higher, and we fell short of the target but the learning from last 2 years has definitely made me a better business man and manager. I understand where to intervene and where not and where the growth is going to come from and where not to focus at all. We do not learn this at a business school. A good amount of credit goes to the office staff and the on field team who help keep the Service Saathi standards high.
While doing all of this, we also wanted to ensure that we build a better working environment for the on field technicians – by not only giving them regular work but also ensuring that they are trained well. We have invested a lot on soft skills training, technical training and other non monetary benefits which they miss out on being called the blue collar job people or labourers who are generally looked down upon. We are happy that with Service Saathi we are impacting 150+ families every month and I am sure the numbers would double in the next 1 odd year. They are our real service partners and we exist and do a wonderful job because they do an amazing work at customers residence. They are the one’s who keep customers happy and help us retain our customer base. They are our real brand ambassadors and we’ll be using them for marketing campaigns in the days to come.
Over the last 3 years, I have intentionally abstained from talking about my work life and that has left a lot of question marks. The answers to what are you doing and what are you not doing have been numerous but I chose to take Strategic Time Out to build something wonderful before showcasing it to the world and I felt this was just the right time. Last time when I had overdone the promotions, it was a little difficult to go underground. Now, life is a lot more sorted.
But after 2 years of running a profitable business, what next? There are a few players in the same space and doing pretty well for themselves. How do we stand out and will we just be another service aggregation startup? Is there any room for innovation which we can work out.
After a lot of brain storming and delays, we have been proud to launch Service Saathi Z+. It is the first of its kind monthly subscription plan for all household where for plans starting for as low as Rs 199 per month, we cover 6 home appliances being AC, Refrigerator, TV, Washing Machine, LED and Microwave Oven. It is an unlimited service/ visit plan for a household. All you pay for are the spares. You can choose to activate/ deactivate at will, basically paying only for the month you use the service. We are building Service Saathi to ensure that repairs and maintenance of electronic products should neither be painful nor expensive. Download the Service Saathi app here to activate the plan.
We just wanted to have a no frills plan for the customer, where simple 2 clicks could book a service request and it doesn’t drain the customers wallet either. This Z+ plan is what we are betting big on in the days to come. It is a novel business concept and an experiment indeed, but the guy in me believes – this will change the entire service industry norms in the next few years to come. We are all moving from on demand to subscription based services – so that we can live a peaceful life while all these unproductive work is taken care of by experts from the comfort of the sofa of our living room while binge watching on Netflix and hogging on to Swiggy delivered chinese food.