A regular office; people glued to their laptop screens – some working diligently while some browsing through YouTube. An iPad lies on the desk of a cubicle; the blue light emanating from its screen suggests that device is not in the standby mode. Both the iPad and the cubicle belong to one Nitin Malhotra and little does he know that the screen content of his iPad is about to change his life forever.
Nitin is an electronics & communications engineer, who holds an MBA degree from Symbiosis. The cubicle was part of the Jasola office of Texas Instruments—a global analog and digital semiconductor IC design and manufacturing company—where Nitin worked as the regional technical sales head (North, East & West India). He has been bitten by a bug and was completely in love with its aftermath. Instead of finding a cure, he enjoyed reading articles on how to amplify the condition. However, his close friend and colleague Anuj Aggarwal found out about his condition.
One day, Nitin’s reading session was interrupted by some urgent work and he left his iPad on his desk. That was when Anuj walked to his cubicle, saw the iPad and read the article Nitin was reading – he quickly recognised his condition. He asked Nitin about the articles and surprisingly, confessed to him that even he was going through the same condition. Anuj proposed that they should completely give in to this condition, together. Before you get all teary-eyed about the situation of these two friends, let me break it to you that it was the entrepreneurial bug that bit them and the articles and magazines were on entrepreneurship. Soon, the duo succumbed to the condition and came up with their startup 247Around.
What Goes Around, Comes Around!
When it comes to home appliances, this is exactly what Nitin and Anuj hope to offer with Delhi-based 247Around. The company, as the duo claim, serves as an appliance buddy app for all home appliances after purchase – from installation to disposal.
Through its web app and mobile app, you can schedule various services like installation, repair or regular servicing of your appliances. On its app, you can select your concerned appliance, select a service, check the prices, fill in the details and book a service. Within a few hours, the company sends a technician to your doorstep.
These technicians are part of the team of 1000 on-the-ground engineers who provide services across Delhi NCR & Mumbai. The company claims that all its technicians are experienced and have undergone background verification and behaviour skills trainings.
The prices mentioned on the platform are labour charges and are inclusive of service tax. However, the customer has to pay extra for any spare parts required for the service/repair. In case the technician arrives at your place but you don’t want the repair done, visit charges are applicable. Rescheduling and cancellations are free of charge. Payment can be done during the time of booking or directly to the technician, on completion of task.
The home appliances that 247Around currently handles are televisions, ACs, washing machines, refrigerators, microwaves and chimney. The company claims to be 100 percent accountable for the tasks it undertakes and provides 1-3 months service warranty depending on the nature of the service provided. However, in case anything goes wrong, it will either redo it or refund your money.
“Customers can manage all their appliances in a seamless manner with the Appliance Wallet on the app. Features like appliance aging curves, one touch access to appliance documents come handy when in need. For some appliance brands, you get under-warranty and out-warranty experiences on the app thus eliminating the need to have multiple channels. Customers can take advantage of the location and appliance age-based notifications and tips for timely service,” explains Nitin.
Analytics And Artificial Intelligence For Appliances; Too Many As!
Home appliances run the home; even a single appliance gone kaput could potentially throw the entire home management system into disarray and therefore requires quick attention. The stakes are even higher for homemakers; they require the appliance repaired as soon as possible. In most cases, you wouldn’t have the slightest possible clue as to what went wrong. You would have to blindly trust the repair guy and shell out an exorbitant amount based on his whims and fancies. 247Around claims that the answer lies with app-driven analytics, artificial intelligence and IoT.
Don’t worry, you don’t need the help of Skynet to diagnose the problem with your microwave. “As we rely on analytics for each and every repair that we do, we have a robust data engine that fuels a strong content as part of the SEO. This enables customers in their decision cycle from getting an idea of what may have gone wrong in the appliance to determining the price estimate for the repairs with complete accuracy from comfort of home,” explains Nitin.
“Analytics is used as a training tool for our engineers, thereby enabling them to take better repair decisions and challenge traditional models to save both cost and money for the consumers,” he adds.
He claims that users can use the app’s first level self-diagnostics tool to decipher the issue and estimate the associated costs; irrespective of the product brand and model.
For example, if you are facing an issue with your TV, you can go to the app, select the TV icon and see the various issues associated with your device, during its entire life cycle. You can even find out an age-specific issue with your appliance – on selecting the age of your device, you can find out all the issues faced by a TV of that particular age. On choosing the issue faced by you, the app shows you the solution and the repair cost. The analytics tool also shows you the percentage of TV owners who face similar issues with their TV sets.
Why Home Appliances?
After Nitin and Anuj decided to succumb to the entrepreneurial spirit, they started exploring ideas and finally zeroed upon the home appliance post-purchase service space after doing a lot of TAM (Total Available Market) analysis to understand the total market demand for their product.
Apart from the fact that the duo found pain areas in this sector that they could resolve with their services, they also decided to approach the gaps in a unique manner by implementing analytics, AI and IoT. “Having designed and sold IoT-based solutions around appliances in our 13+ year’s professional experience, we realised we could enhance the life of the gadgets and make it a pleasant and stress-free experience for consumers when going for repair or service, and therefore shaped our decision to build 247around,” Nitin says.
According to him, the post-purchase appliance service market in India is worth about $5 Bn, which has an installed base of over 700 Mn appliances, out of which more than 150 Mn appliances go for repairs every year. “Average number of electronic gadgets per household in tier I and II cities is approximately 10 and increasing, thus making this market interesting to be in,” he adds.
Starting as a Chip Design Engineer, Nitin has worked with many semiconductor and electronic organizations including Switzerland-based STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments. Anuj has worked with Nitin at Texas Instruments and STMicroelectronics. However, he left STMicroelectronics in 2013 and joined Aricent before starting 247Around. He is responsible for the product development initiatives at the company and also leads the technology development including app, analytics, website and partner solutions. Anuj also handles the digital marketing for 247Around.
It took the duo about two years to start 247Around after figuring out that they want to pursue entrepreneurship. In the meantime, they fiddled around with some other ideas on the sidelines – those models have now been incorporated into 247Around. They were also doing e-waste management under the name ‘edustbin’ and that is a part of the under-disposable segment of their company.
Nitin reached the finals of the IIM A CIIE Vilcap accelerator (Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and Village Capital Accelerator) in 2014 with his e-waste venture. He won Young Entrepreneur Award from Rajasthan Govt. in 2013 and was a IIMA Confluence Finalist in 2012. He also won the PERC (Property and Environment Research Center) USA Enviropreneur Fellow in 2014.
The Current Traction
Up until last month, 247Around was fulfilling 500+ jobs every month across NCR, but the companies aims to cross the 2000 mark within NCR by end of this month. It recently extended it services to all of Mumbai and hopes to cover two more cities soon.
The company claims to be currently achieving 100% month-on-month growth, with the largest transaction on the platform being in the range of INR 30,000 and the average transaction size being INR 1000.
It recently struck a deal with Snapdeal, wherein all the appliances sold by the etailers in Delhi NCR and Mumbai will be installed by 247Around. Nitin claims that the etailer is satisfied with 247Around’s services and is in talks with the company to offer after-sale installation for more products—musical instruments and treadmills—apart from the five key home appliances.
“Our scalable, technology-oriented business model has won us stickiness on both customer and vendor side. Our revenue model is a royalty based total service ownership model wherein we have internal SLAs (Service-Level Agreements) with our service provider partner network,” says Nitin.
He says that the company earns from each job that gets done on its platform. The company has a 50:50 split between its B2C and B2B revenue channels. The B2B channel comprises of the Smart API strategy, wherein its services are integrated through API with leading businesses. “This is a good mix and provides stability to a bootstrapped startup like us,” says Nitin. The company aims to close revenue worth INR 3 Cr this financial year.
247Around’s core team comprises of 10 members, including the co-founder. Its total on-ground team strength is more than 800. “These are all our vendor connections – each vendor will have about 30-40 people team. The vendors are vetted by the company’s due-diligence team and after on-boarding them, assigned specific pin codes to operate,” explains Nitin.
The company has a system of hiring interns for technical roles. It grooms them according to the role and after the internship, based on their performances, they are offered full-time jobs with 247Around. Nitin claims that this model has worked well for the company as well as the interns. The company uses job portals like Workspot.in for sourcing interns and candidates for technical roles. It uses staffing agencies and HR consulting firms, like Adecco, for hiring graduates and under-graduates for field jobs.
247Around soon aims to include phones, laptops, cameras and musical instruments among the list of devices it services. The company hopes to soon introduce IoT enabled remote diagnostics among its list of services. “We are now in 5 major cities and plan to expand fast before we start brand promotion,” says Nitin.
The Race To Repair!
However, unlike these home-service startups that offer a wide array of home services including plumbing, painting, electrical service, laundry and pest control, among others, 247Around solely focuses on after-sales home appliance services.
There are startups like HandyHome, JustLikeNew, Theek Kar Do, Repairingwala, EasyFix, Viyanta, Repair India and Jeeves that operate specifically in the after-sales appliance service sector.
Founded in 2015 by IIT-Bombay alumni, Bonish Gandhi, Kartikeya Datt, Harmin Shah, Manthan Shah, Aditya Gupta, and Akash Goel, HandyHome allows users to book brand-authorised repairs and other services for electronic appliances online. According to recent reports, it has been acquired by Gurgaon-based mobile services marketplace UrbanClap.
In July 2015, HandyHome raised seed funding from early stage Silicon Valley-based Bessemer Ventures and Mumbai-based Kae Capital.
Talking about 247Around’s differentiating factor, Nitin claims, “Most organised players are also offering diversified non-appliance related services and appliances are not their key focus area. We want to be a majority player in the appliance repairs segment before we take up other segments in a similar technology leveraged planned approach.”
“Our advantages over them are technology-driven strategy starting with app-based repair analytics which reduces human interaction in the diagnostics phase bringing in reliability. This brings customer delight which is difficult in a purely-human based services industry without being a full stack model,” he adds.
According to Frost & Sullivan, the calibration and repair service sector in India was worth $103.1 Mn in 2012. Back then, the market was growing at a CAGR of 13.3 percent and as per that rate, it was projected that the industry will be worth $247.6 Mn by 2019. However, as consumer spending increases, the market has grown at a much faster rate. According to TradingEconomics and Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation data, consumer spending in India increased to INR 15915.08 Bn in the fourth quarter of 2015 from INR 15018.95 Bn in the third quarter of 2015. India does not shy away from spending on home appliances and therefore, after-sales service sector has immense opportunities to be tapped.
Although, the competition in the home service sector (which 247Around is partially a part of) is brutal, the focused-approach of the company —concentrating on capturing only the home appliance service market—will hopefully help the company make its mark.
Also, the company is not simply aggregating local technicians to offer the repair and installation services, as many of its competitors do. The founders have incorporated their expertise in the areas of AI, IoT and analytics to come up a consumer-engaging product that doesn’t just offer the repairs, but also facilitate the user to conduct self-diagnosis, thereby saving him/her from being fooled by a technician. This offering, if implemented and evolved effectively, can definitely go a long way in catapulting 247Around from among the other players.