Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Baskar Agneeswaran, CEO of Vajro, located in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Vajro is a mobile application development platform (MADP) business that helps e-commerce stores to build visually appealing mobile apps that provide a great shopping experience to their customers. With Vajro's intuitive drag & drop builder, 200+ built-in features, and 70+ technology integrations, anyone can build high-converting mobile apps with no coding experience. Our customer portfolio includes 2500+ e-commerce brands from a wide variety of segments, including retail, boutique, and grocery stores.
Tell us about yourself
My friends Niwin, Raghu, and I started out when Niwin was still in college and had launched an app for the Microsoft ecosystem. This app was a big hit; it got 2-million+ downloads and helped us figure out that we should continue in the app-development space. Initially, we were developing small productivity apps, but soon we realized that we must take it to the next level. We wanted to help e-commerce consumers find better deals and developed a price comparison app. We had not realized how difficult it would be to maintain the huge amount of data needed to power this app.
And as a bootstrapped business, we just didn't have enough money to keep it going. Even though we failed, this experience helped us learn about the e-commerce market and, more importantly, about ourselves. We knew the price comparison app was a great idea, but it just wasn't a great idea for us. We realized that our strength was in mobile app development and that we were more likely to be successful if we focused on that. Soon after that, we came up with the idea of a SaaS product that helped e-commerce stores quickly and easily create a mobile shopping app. This is the story of how Vajro was born.
To answer what motivates me each day: knowing that we are democratizing the app-building process and helping hundreds of thousands of small merchants to get their apps and get more sales through our platform. That is what really motivates us.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The fact that we were the first mobile app builder to receive a thousand 5-star reviews and subsequently the first to 1.5K 5-star reviews on Shopify. Even to date, we are the only mobile app builder who has over a thousand 5-star reviews. That's probably one of my biggest accomplishments as a business owner.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things is the lack of time for yourself. As the business scales, the founder of a small business has to wear multiple hats. It's not like you can say, okay, I have done my eight or nine hours of work today, and I am done, as there would be days when you would have 14 - 15 hours of work. I have had days where I had my laptop and just dozed off as it was so late in the day, and I just couldn't concentrate anymore. Sometimes sleep basically got the better of me, but that's just how much work an entrepreneur would typically have as the business scales. So you really have to be prepared to put in that kind of time which means you have to make a lot of sacrifices. You have to prioritize and miss out on a lot of things in life. So unless you're prepared to do all that, it's going to be very difficult to be successful.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- The first thing to be mindful of is: bringing a solid use case with the concept of Delta 4. Delta 4 is essentially where your solution is about four times more efficient than the current state. Example: What Uber did in the transportation market. Before Uber, to hail a cab, you waited on the pedestrian path for an unknown amount of time and then gave them directions on how and where to go and so on. Also, pricing was not transparent. There were a lot of downsides to the traditional way, and when Uber came in, the delta improvements were so high for the customers that it became a runaway hit. So this is why the delta that a business provides should be very clear.
- The second tip is what I call the "infinite runway" and what Y-combinator calls the "always alive" concept. Essentially, your mode of survival cannot be to raise funds, as you must do this only to grow. To be in a position of strength, the strategy after each round of funding must be to move towards breaking even ASAP. If not, you would always be dependent on fundraising to survive, and that's not an ideal scenario.
- The last tip is: it is not only about the "product-market fit"; it is also about the "founder-market fit." You must understand your strengths and weaknesses as a founder and align your businesses accordingly. For example, when we did the price comparison app in the B2C space, we did not know the capital requirements to survive as we did not have experience in this market. It is best to start businesses that are centered around your domain rather than getting into something extremely new. This is how you bring down the probability of failure. Even if your idea is not in your domain, you must ensure that the business and the structure are playing to your strengths. Otherwise, it's going to be very difficult.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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