It is the era of digital transformation. Customers are now used to get anything they want, everywhere they are, in the shortest amount of time. The world is literally at the palm of their hand, with a constant overflow of data, products, ads, all fighting for a micro-second of attention. Not just embracing the transformation but enlarging the scope of what digital transformation can achieve is the idea of WizCounsel. Within a span of year since the first line of code, WizCounsel has established a trusted marketplace to find Lawyers, CAs, Accountants & Book-keepers online for Legal Services, Tax Services, Accounting & Book-keeping services and other compliances.
Ranu Gupta, Founder – WizCounsel, is a Chartered Accountant by qualification. Today, he is a designer and a performance marketer and wears multiple other hats too! He found his calling in product design and decided to explore and test the waters until he was satisfied that his aptitude is strong enough for him to establish something at scale. As of today, WizCounsel has raised INR 1 crore in its angel round led by Kapil Dev, former Indian cricket team captain , Sunil Kumar Gupta, Founder and Chairman of SARC Associates, and Manas Fuloria, Founder and CEO of Nagarro.
Ranu Gupta’s founding story is not just hunky-dory. In a freewheeling chat with Chennai Insider, Ranu shares some interesting insights about his start-up journey and his learning thus far.
Chartered Accountant – Cracking “The Non-Technical Founder” Thing
4-5 months involvement with an early-stage tech start-up got me fascinated. I got acquainted with product design. As a CA, you would really not delve into too much of product and business models. When you are part of the start-up ecosystem even in a small way, you tend to research and read a lot. Design is something that you learn through exploration. I explored a tech product every week in its entirety — right from their UI, UX to the tech stack. I also watched YouTube tutorials, read articles on Medium and analysed sign-up pages to landing pages of various products. These gave me a strong product and design sense to understand what products all over the world are doing. I also started freelancing and designed for a few Silicon-Valley Companies and Indian Companies. This made me believe in my abilities more rather than just functioning by instinct.
Starting up and failing, or rather the beginning of the better
You may fail, but that is how everything begins. Prior to WizCounsel, I found a start-up called Arcade. Arcade was one hell of a experience that taught me a lot. The idea of Arcade came up when I was interning with the tech start-up that was into gamification. I built Arcade to be a social gaming network – One app with many games. You can tap and play the games without downloading them, challenge other users real-time. You could say it is something similar to Mobile Premier League.
There was no utility from games however. In India, everything is around utility, isn’t it? Moneyback, Savings or discounts. Also, the gaming industry was gaining little attention from investors. So I was bootstrapping. First time starting-up, a dozen wrong decisions later, I was at crossroads. It was late 2017, early 2018. Should I go back to doing the work of a CA or continue in design? I was also contemplating MBA.
At that time, a friend of mine was looking for a good lawyer. That got me thinking. A lot of my friends have always been asking advice for financial planning, taxes etc. If there was a way in which people could hire someone instantly to get their work done, track their work progress and pay accordingly, the problems of both parties would be solved. That is what WizCounsel has accomplished today with a transactional value of INR 8 Lakh so far.
As an inexperienced Founder, you can only scale by committing mistakes and learning quickly and second, by reading about mistakes committed by other successful founders.
Who can put skin into the game matters more than skill !
For Non-Technical founders like me, you would need a person you can trust to take up the tech leadership. This is one of the most important hiring decision you would make. I would suggest taking the time to make this decision and not rushing into it. It took me 3 months to eventually find my tech lead.
I had probably gone through more than 100 profiles and interviewed more than 60.
Hire for attitude, morals, talent, skills, college in that order. Have aggressive hiring and firing policy. This is something I learnt from a successful Founder’s blog. In early days, you cannot let a bad hiring decision sustain and eat up your capital. Probation means probation if you find out the person is not the one you gauged at the time of hiring, tell them honestly yet subtly to leave. It is going to be hard but then you should know the start-up plunge you have taken is much harder and at times requires you to be ruthless.
WizCounsel’s USP – Milestone Based Payments, Escrows and Workflow Automation
Many freelance professionals face the problem of not getting paid on time and running behind brands for money. There is also another side to the coin. The customers sometimes are at the wit’s end when they have made the payment but have not been delivered the promised output. WizCounsel through its seamless and transparent payment and escrow mechanism addresses these challenges. We have worked heavily on workflow automation. There are pre-fed milestones on work schedules. The milestone based payment mechanism keeps the customer informed on work-progress and they can thereby monitor the cash-flows.
We went live in March-April of 2019. Since then, we have had 200 people on the platform who have paid 8 lakh rupees to various experts. The vision remains to build a distributed professional workforce which the whole world can hire. We would also like to bring more SME’s onto the platform. We don’t take any commission currently, the platform is free for experts. The experts who register themselves on the platform undergo an interview process with us. Thereby we ensure we have technically skilled experts who possess the right attitude to deliver the work on time. We have seen a lot of repeat customers on the platform – the user experience has been overwhelming and the users love the WizCounsel Assurance and 100% moneyback guarantees and the sheer idea of being backed-up by a third party at no extra cost.
A Few cents on Marketing & Distribution
I would strongly advise to start thinking about distribution from early days. How will you market your product, how will you educate the market, whether yours is a content intensive product then start writing quality content, do you need people on the ground then start finding right partners, if the market is niche — how to be around early adopters, if you an exclusive subscription-based product — start a waiting list and sort of carve out an initial distribution plan.
You love your product, every founder loves their product. Sales and distribution is something you don’t really focus on. But you should start right from the first day, right from developing the product. Study the market acceptance. If market is not ready, educate the market. Demand accretion is a task in itself.
We are currently using paid media- Google and Quora ads for promotion. We also plan to start sharing stories of customers who have used our platform. Strategic partnerships can be good for us but we are too early for that now. We are probably one market place dealing with the most intelligent people in the country, so our marketing has to be creative and engaging !
Investment is trust in you, rather than the idea!
I kick-started with personal investment initially. In the Angel round, I required INR 1-1.5 crore. I approached Manas as I knew him earlier. He was one of the clients of our CA firm. He called me for a meeting and he gave me the validation that I was doing something worthy and he was ready to bet on me. He also gave us some insights which we incorporated right-away. Manas’s investment was more of a trust on me. A very few people will bet on your idea. It is important to find people in your network who believe in your work-product and how invested you are in it.
After that, I approached Kapil Dev (who was also in my network) from whom I got a big No. He liked the idea but he wanted to see the product. I went back to him after product was ready in February, and then he agreed to invest.
With the angel investment, we can’t spend heavily on marketing. As we are scaling, we are looking for funds again, this round it is about INR 7 crore. We have started looking for VC’s. It is always better when firms approach us. This is going to be a huge learning curve and I am looking forward to it!
For more insights, head to Ranu’s post in Medium – https://medium.com/swlh/a-year-since-the-first-line-of-code-51c287aedbe1
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