An interview with Mr. Rahul Chidgopkar, CEO and Founder of IZZI Deals
by Hoshang Pathak, Content Writer of BMS.co.in
- Tell us something about yourself
By education, I’m MBA from IIM Indore and B.E. in Electronics & Telecommunication from Mumbai University. I worked for three years in Hexaware Technologies (IT) and 6 months in Sales in Bajaj Auto. When I got tired of not learning anything interesting, I decided to learn how to be an entrepreneur.
- Tell us something about your business. How were you inspired to take up this entrepreneurship, its vision & current status?
My basic inspiration was boredom. I did not have an epiphany that I wanted to start up in a particular field. I just wanted to avoid the banality of my job. When I was working, I had two-three ideas in different sectors brewing in my head, but a regular paycheck and chilled-out life was not allowing me to pursue them seriously. So, in a very filmy style, I just went to office on my birthday and typed out my one line resignation email and then thought, “OK, now you got to do something serious”. I took some time to figure out what I wanted to do and worked on two business ideas and scrapped them in a few months and finally zeroed in on my current venture.
My venture initially started as location-based, video advertising service. However, as it was very capital intensive, I transformed it into a simple mobile coupons platform. The service is already live and we are in the process of building with mobile operators and apps to market it. My vision is to make IZZI Deals the number 1 mobile coupons service in India by 2015.
- What is your philosophy towards work?
My philosophy towards work is simple – enjoy it, but don’t obsess over it. If you don’t enjoy it, leave it and try something else. That said, I’m not a workaholic. I don’t take pride in working day and night and have had a policy of taking the Sunday off from day one. But if it’s your own venture, it draws you to work automatically.
- Whom do you admire as your role model? And why?
I don’t have a specific role model. I like Richard Branson’s flair, N R Narayana Murthy’s humility, Azim Premji’s generosity and Steve Job’s creativity. There’s something to learn from everyone, but I don’t want to emulate anyone. I’ll try to be my own person.
- “Management is core to every individual, organization & society.” Give your views on it.
Management is partly inherent and partly learnt. One might be a great entrepreneur but a terrible manager. Management involves being organized, methodical and it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Classic example is Larry Page & Sergey Brin of Google. They are terrific entrepreneurs, but they brought on Eric Schmidt to manage the company.
If you startup and can’t manage it well, bring someone onboard who can do a better job.
- Name 3 qualities of prime importance that an entrepreneur should possess.
Believe in yourself: If you are not willing to believe in yourself, don’t start up. Most start ups are not encouraged by majority of people. It will put doubts in your head. But you have to learn how to believe. Remember, if you can’t sell the dream to yourself, you won’t be able to sell it to anyone else. I’ve been told that deals space is too crowded, but I continue to believe that there aren’t any compelling propositions for deals on mobile, so I continue to persevere.
Be flexible & learn to iterate quickly: Your idea might be good but execution might not be going as planned. Learn to identify mistakes and iterate quickly to correct them. In my exuberance to do powerful analysis, I made the user registration form for my application 33 fields long. In one week, I realized people were not signing up because of the lengthy form. I slashed in down to 10 fields. One more week later, it was down to single SMS registration.
Network well: It’s one of the most important aspects of running a successful business. You need to take every opportunity to go out there talk to people about what you do and identify right opportunities to collaborate. You might not be born with great networking skills, but you can learn it.
- According to you, what are the challenges for Entrepreneurship today?
Getting your family onboard: Many families don’t get around to accepting that entrepreneurship is a worthwhile endeavor and advise aspiring entrepreneurs to stay put in a safe job. If you want to start up, convince them and get them to buy into the idea. Without your family’s unwavering support, it is very difficult to survive the gestation period.
Finding a good team: Managing a single-person startup is a difficult proposition. I have personally faced a lot of problems since my co-founder quit because of poor health. Always start with co-founders you share good chemistry with and can trust. It helps you feed off each other’s energy and creates a fantastic working environment.
Too many people chasing the same opportunities: Many budding entrepreneurs jump on to the ‘hot sector’ bandwagon without too much thought. Ecommerce is a classic example. It’s cheap to set up but complex to execute. But everyone wants to partake in the boom so they go ahead and start one without thinking of creating a USP and genuine value for consumer. Flipkart succeeded because of maniacal focus on customer experience. New ventures have to think ‘What is my USP?’ Don’t get enamoured by sectors, identify genuine opportunities and build a differentiated business.
- Can Entrepreneurship be taught in B-Schools/Management Institutes/Colleges?
In one word – NO. Coming up with an idea and drawing up a BPlan on paper is the easy part and that is what B Schools prepare you for. It’s tough to go out and execute.
IZZI Deals is actually planning to initiate a IZZI Deals Student Engagement Program in which we will come and train students in various management colleges in business development and help them gain some real-life, hardcore sales experience. The objective of this program is two-fold:
- Give students an out-of-classroom learning experience and help skill building
- Help us identify talent early to recruit the right people straight out of college.
If any college/student wants to partake in the pilot with us, please feel to reach out.
- Do you think today’s economy is conducive for a new venture to start upon?
It’s much better than it was a few years back and it is improving constantly. Fledgling businesses need mentoring, networking and funding. In all three aspects, the ecosystem is improving. There are more people coming forward to mentor through platforms like Mentoredge. There are a lot more startup-focused events being conducted by organizations like Headstart, TiE, NEN, etc. which are excellent places to meet with mentors and network with potential partners, investors, etc. More angel funds are starting which are offering seed capital for good ideas.
- Is the Name of the Institute from where a student pursues his/her Graduation/Post Graduation or other courses important while setting up your business?
NO. I’m from ‘IIM’, but my clients don’t give a crap. It’s all about how good a businessperson you are. The institute helps insofar as networking with alumni are concerned. Great ideas everywhere can succeed.
- “Earning more & more is the motive behind any business.” Is it justifiable?
This is a philosophical question and I’m not good at answering these. But I’ll try. I believe this statement is justifiable. As a business, you have an agency-principal relationship with your investors. And investors have a legitimate expectation of improving their ROI through more earnings. So you have to earn more & more.
However, there is always a wrong way and a legal way of doing things. Make sure you are on the right side of the law. ALWAYS.
- Share with us the most enjoyable & most embarrassing moment you had experienced on work.
The most enjoyable moment ought to be the moment the first coupon was taken from the portal. It was culmination of 11 months of highs and lows, so it’ll always be special.
Embarrassing moments are plenty. Some occasions where I proudly whipped out the phone to give a demo to the client and it bombed are the most embarrassing ones.
- Your feedback for BMS.co.in?
BMS.co.in is a good initiative. I’ve met the founder, Kartik Raichura, a few times and he is doing a fantastic job with managementparadise and all his other initiative. From a startup perspective, we need more such platforms for connecting with young, dynamic students.
We launched in Jan 2011 and worked on two business ideas before zeroing in on mobile coupons. We partnered with MTNL to launch a coupons service in Mumbai in April, 2011. But because of technical issues, we were unable to launch our services. So, we decided to launch it online. After wasting some more time chasing other operators, we launched online in October 2011. The next few months were spent fine-tuning the product. Now, we are looking to build partnerships with mobile operators, mobile apps, etc.
Vision: Create simple solutions to day-to-day problems.
Mission: Become the number one mobile coupons company in India by 2015.
- Products & Service-
IZZI Deals – Easy-to-use mobile coupons service which allows users to get deals by sending a simple SMS. The objective is to create a coupons service without the hassles of online payments and coupons print out, so that anybody without any knowledge of computers can also use it.
Try it out by sending IZZI DEMO FNSAB to 56767. If you want to get a coupon, you have to type – IZZI BUY <DEAL CODE> to 56767.
- Marketing Strategy-
Partnerships: We are partnering with telecom operators, mobile apps providers, etc. on a revenue sharing basis to reach out to a larger audience.
Going forward, we might do some SEO, SEM and SMM as required.
- Existing Market Presence-
We are currently present in Mumbai and plan to expand to other major cities by July, 2012.
- Future Plans-
Expand to other major cities, expand our partnerships and create more services/products to supplement IZZI Deals.