Interview with Nitin Malhotra, Co-Founder at 247around

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We all have a number of appliances in our home for our convenience and they make our lives all more comfortable and easy. But the discomfort arises when we start facing operational issues with any of them. The situation is even worse when the product is out of warranty and we end up not getting a good repairperson for our repair needs. A company that is focussed on easing out the discomfort during an appliance installation, service or repair is a Delhi based startup 247around.

247around is a startup that provides on-demand appliance service, repair and installations services to homes and institutions. It is a company that provides single contact point for all the appliance related needs of a customer irrespective of the appliance, brand or model. The company which was founded by two ex-Texas Instruments employees, Nitin and Anuj in 2015, focuses on combining Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and IOT for giving a seamless solution to this unaddressed pain point for the customers. The company’s app also has a self-diagnostic tool which allows the users to do an initial diagnostic of the problem to figure out the issue with the device and also estimate the repair charges for the same.

We caught up with Nitin Malhotra, the co-founder of the company, to know a little more about this unique startup.

What motivated you to start the company and what is it all about?

Passion to build a successful consumer-centric organization led us to start 247around. Having designed and sold IOT based solutions around appliances and electronics in our 13+ years of professional experience, we realized we could enhance the life of the gadgets and make it a memorable experience for consumers when going for a repair or service of appliances. The experience of working with the top semiconductor and electronics organizations across the supply chain shaped our decision to build 247around. My ex-colleague at ST and TI Anuj shared my vision and we started to build 247around.

247around is all about integrating Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and IOT to solve some of the key issues of quality in appliance servicing and repair. Through our android app platform 247around, you can book an appliance installation, repair or service. We enhance user experience when dealing with service and repair personnel. Our app provides a single contact point to our users for all their electronic repair needs, irrespective of the product brand and model. At the same time the Analytics Engine of the app provides a first level self-diagnostics tool for the users to decipher the issue and estimate the approximate costs associated. Our robust network across NCR is enabling us help hundreds of customers every month.

Are you an app only Platform?

We can be contacted through our website or android app 247around or on call at 011-39595200

Our readers would like to know about your core team and their roles?

247around was founded in 2015 by Nitin Malhotra, IIMA – Vilcap finalist, the recipient of young entrepreneur award and the winner of the PERC Enviropreneur award, USA.

Nitin is responsible for business strategy, marketing and operations at 247Around.  Nitin led the technology solution sales for Texas Instruments in North & West India before following his dream to become an entrepreneur. He holds a B.E in Electronics & Communications and an MBA from Symbiosis.

Anuj Agarwal is the co-founder at 247around who worked with Nitin at Texas Instruments and ST Microelectronics. Anuj is the techpreneur, responsible for the product development initiatives at 247around. He leads the technology development including app, analytics, website and partner solutions. Anuj is an astute technical professional who has a deep experience of electronic systems and its operations.

What is the current Team Size?

We are a team of 8 which comprises of Technology, Marketing and Operations. Besides the core team we leverage a robust network of partnerships as it provides stability to the organization and help us solve some of the deep rooted problems for customers, OEMs and our partner channel.

How did you hire your initial team? Which recruiting channels work best for you? Referrals/Job Boards/ Staffing Agencies?

Our philosophy has been to hire interns for the technical roles. We take smart students with some minimal technical skills and groom them for the required role. It has been successful so far as it turns out to be a win-win for both the intern and our organization. Post an initial internship, based on the performance of the person and their interest we offer them a full time employment with 247Around.
We hire technical interns and other technical positions through electronic job boards like www.workspot.in. Graduates and under graduates for field positions are hired from staffing agencies. Adecco has been a long term partner for us for hiring for field jobs as we strictly follow government norms of minimum wages and employee benefits.

What are the key factors that you look for in a potential candidate?

Performance at undergraduate level, attitude and passion for the role are three important things we keep in mind. We give equal weightage to these parameters as the first one helps identify consistency in performance and the other is an indicator of the enthusiasm, energy and sincerity one will bring to work. In the past many a times we had decided not to recruit some best minds due to the lack of some other parameters.

According to you how much is the competition in your vertical? How big is the industry? Who all are your competitors and what are your views on them?

After-Sales Appliance market in India is more than 7B$. Every year 150M+ appliances go for repair. The opportunity is huge as today the market is mostly unorganized. Organized players are offering diversified non-appliance related services and lack focus in this area. We want to be a majority player in the appliance repairs. We have built a strong foundation in terms of the product and service delivery which now needs to be scaled.

Users like our App Platform as it provides repair analytics which is impossible to get elsewhere and is a great reliever when in trouble. This acts as a go to place for customer when in trouble and eliminates the need of a second opinion. The stickiness of the product is high as it gives a personalized experience to the user by way of appliance wallet. Our backbone of service centers are finding great value with business users apart from direct consumers.

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What are your marketing strategies? Do you take help of Social platforms to promote? Which channels have been very effective? Which marketing channels have been super flops?

Strategy is to intercept the customer at the point of demand and not lose money in unnecessary distractions.
We leverage both online and offline search engines apart from building a very robust organic SEO.

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 the comfort of their home.

Channels which have running demand have been successful. All the offline marketing initiatives like posters, flyers, SMS etc. have a low conversion as we are broadcasting the service collateral hoping that the viewer has a need and will approach.

What has been your experience with paid marketing channels?

Online and Offline search engines have worked for us but considering that we are still a new brand, most of the channels are expensive and conversion takes time.

As we have an engaging in-App Analytics for repairs which helps consumers save time, money and effort, the repeat and referral usage of App is high. So at this initial stage we are going with the channels despite the high cost. Our lead-to-conversion percentage is as high as 95% which is an indication of high quality information that a customer gains from us in his short interaction with us. This is complimented by the service quality at ground level.

Can you elaborate on the Challenges in promoting your website/ App?

The critical factors for promoting a website are good primary content, value proposition of App and investment to reach out to more audience.

We have moved steadily in all the three directions. Our website is powered by self –learning analytics engine and has content that is a collection of facts for any appliance problem one can encounter. Our App is a personalized Appliance buddy which can save your appliance information and keep adding value at each phase of appliance lifecycle from installation to its disposal. Currently we are in the process of raising Investment to fuel our growth and take this awesome product to wider audience in different cities.

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What is the current traction? Can you share some numbers on Usage and Revenue?

Currently active in NCR, we are doing 500+ jobs every month. Majority of the traffic comes from our App and website. We have a fully automated backend which has no manual interference. Engineer trainings add to ground level customer satisfaction. We aim to scale across India with a team of just 200 people. We will be reaching 2000+ monthly Jobs soon. The average transaction size is Rs. 1000 and the highest transaction reaches 20,000Rs on the platform.

Are you trying to be in a red ocean of local services as many other players?

Our consumer centric approach and features like analytics based problem solving in appliance repair takes us much ahead of any competitor. This is just the tip of the iceberg and you would see some very differentiated feature launches in coming months. Customers have all together a new experience and we give a technology knit solution to services problems.

Secondly we have tuned our platform to cater to both individual and bulk customers. Through this consumer-mix we achieve revenue balance and eliminate dependency on a single category. We are now set to grow the consumer presence by doing brand marketing.

Based on your experience would you have any advice to the new Entrepreneurs / Startups?

Entrepreneurship is a steep, uncertain, often unpredictable journey and success is not an obvious outcome.

Being persistent and having the right value proposition is most important. Persistence is an individual trait that comes from within and value proposition one needs to keep calibrating based on customer feedback. You need to be flexible in your approach to refine the model till you begin to add value across your suppliers, customers and stakeholders.

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