Jaspal Sarai has over 20 years of corporate experience in the field of sales and executive management, with deep global market development experience in information technology, financial services technology, utility and smart devices.
In 2015, he founded an on-demand services startup which operates majorly in the B2B market space and has grown exponentially into India, Hong Kong and Australia.
He begins by saying that the idea for this venture came out of frustration.
“It was so difficult to judge the right price, quality, and qualification of the person providing the service when getting anything done at home. Security and cleanliness were other major considerations before getting anyone to repair anything. As I started to talk to other people about this it became apparent that a lot of people are having these issues.”
He planned to start a platform that captured this magical ability to get things done at the touch of a finger. A play on the word ‘Pixie’ (fairy) led to the naming of the startup – ‘CallFixie’ – an app that allowed people to select the service provider based on the aspects that are important to them.
As per Jaspal, CallFixie is generating around INR 70 Lakhs in revenue per month and making reasonable margins.
While defining the current model, he insists that it is a one-stop-shop full service provider. According to him, “Customer calls us > we give a quote based on the job > customer accepts > we dispatch the job to the most appropriate fulfilment partner (contractor or individual trades person) > we close the job with feedback from customer > we settle the bills with customer and contractor. We have tried various models in the past and matured to this one, it works well.”
From Entrepreneur To Founding An Accelerator
But Jaspal was not content to just be an entrepreneur. He wanted to give back and nurture the ecosystem that supported him. With this in mind, he announced the pilot launch of Jaarvis Accelerator in Gurugram in June 2015. Jaspal is the co-founder and Director while Gabriel Fong is the CEO of the venture.
The accelerator takes in early-stage, technology-based startups and helps them rapidly build a sustainable business. It claims to offer mentorship, capital, seed funding, tech, infrastructural support and the nitty gritty that startups need to build a strong and lasting foundation.
He does state that, from a business perspective, it has been a conscious effort to grow and provide the platform to other startups to flourish. He elaborates,
“There was no tipping point as such, but the fact that the Indian ecosystem was pretty much closed to the masses, and only the fortunate few with the right connections and right brand of education were able to access the resources required to fuel their startups, was the main trigger for us to establish our accelerator in India. We wanted to open this opportunity to all, and have a ‘fair go’ platform.”
The accelerator disburses funds starting with $20K to $50K, and as the ventures grow, its partner ‘Incubate Fund,’ further invests $100K to $300K. There are about 11 startups, and the team is in the process of finalising three more startups to undergo the accelerator programme.
Few of these startups are-
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1) Promon.in – Promon offers customers food and beverage deals. It provides a chance to engage with the brand, thereby adding more value to the offer given out by the merchant.
2) Spotwrks – Spotwrks is a platform for non-institutionalised and organic learning.
3) Edurev – It is an educational network based on the largest crowd-sourced library. A platform for students, teachers & institutes with tools to simplify lives and shift from offline mode to the online.
4) Arbunize – Arbunize is a brand management platform that allows users to build their online identity, and manage your brand.
5) Design Dodo – It is a platform that helps users create their own designs in an uncomplicated, easily accessible way.
Other startups include- Sniffer, R2 Robotronics, Psychd, DrinksOnMe, Comparometer and ExtraCarbon.
IoT: Jaarvis’ Big Bet For 2017
Talking about the two key sectors the accelerator is focussed on, he says, “We are focussed on IoT and fintech. There is a lot that needs to be done in this sector and we are well-positioned to capitalise on this with our global exposure and experience overseas.”
The Indian Internet of Things (IoT) market is set to grow to $15 Bn by 2020 from the current $5.6 Bn, according to a report by Nasscom released in October 2016, as part of its design and engineering summit.
Jaspal opines that IoT in India has a great potential, as there are many unorganised sectors that could use data analytics and automation to improve the output. He says,
“The key is to have IoT solutions that create real value, reduce cost and produce tangible benefits. Indian market does not take to ‘nice to have’ solutions, it must serve a real need. We also need to be mindful that not all manual processes need to be automated or sauced with technology, some of the best logistics and supply chain processes are being managed manually and with much lower carbon footprint. We need to be mindful that the minimum wage for an unskilled worker in India is $4 per day, as compared to US’s $72 per day, so savings from automation and reducing labour cost alone is not going to be an easy sell here.”
80 Applications, 3 Shortlisted Startups: The B2B IoT Accelerator
Looking to cash in on this opportunity, Jaarvis is set to launch its six-month B2B IoT accelerator programme in Bengaluru and Gurugram.
As per Jaspal, the accelerator has so far gone through over 80 applications and shortlisted three. “We are looking for startups who are clear on the product market fit and have done extensive research on their competitors from all over the world. It’s a common pitfall where the startup has spent months working on an idea but has not bothered to search the internet for the solution. We had some very interesting ideas that would be applicable in agriculture, green energy, and automation of various services.”
Over the six-month programme the accelerator will develop and implement the solutions in a live customer environment. The participating startups will be able to demonstrate the value and would have clearly identified market, customer acquisition plan, and a business plan that has a clear growth and investor strategy. The accelerator is still inviting more applications and looking for unique ideas and/or innovative technology.
When asked about the journey he has had, Jaspal says it has been a rewarding journey so far. “The drive to do more has always been there and while it is disappointing when things don’t go as planned, it is the learning that makes you stronger for the next time. I have never had a major epiphany as such, instead it has been an evolutionary journey, where one thing lead to another. I believe the key is to assess and take risks,” he adds.
He signed off with a piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who are planning to quit their job and start their own venture. He says, “Be very clear as to why you want to be an entrepreneur. Don’t get sucked in listening to other people’s successes, fame, and money. For every Jack Ma and Elon Musk, there are 1000s of people who did not make it, and even the ones who did have failed many times on the way.”
“Write off 5 years of your life, you need to be in it for the long haul. It’s like one of those movies where everyone has heard of the promised land but no one has seen it, you continue to fight off all the predators in the meantime and stay alive. You have to keep faith and continue to believe in your vision to have any chance of success. Test your supporters, ask every friend that says ‘that’s a great idea, you should do it’ for INR 10,000 as investment, the best advice you can get is a reality check.”
Jaarvis believes in building innovative tech-enabled solutions, whether they be marketplaces or products. Earlier this month, it also launched a co-working space within an active accelerator. It will provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs, independent professionals and upcoming startups to work in close proximity with the accelerator’s tech startups. With his work at the accelerator and the startup he runs, Jaspal proves to be a proactive entrepreneur. He decided to take the bull by the horns and support the startup ecosystem that supported him.