Why I raised money despite running a growing, profitable company — iService
Part 1 — How an individual and an idea evolves
I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now but didn’t know how to convey so much in so little. In this 2 part piece, I attempt to give you some insight into a personal journey which evolves into an idea and then a mission.
In high school and college I was the tinkerer and geek on campus who people went to for tech help. No, not code. But literally technical support with their gadgets and computer. I used to be active on tech forums, build my own desktop computers et al. So when I broke my sweet little second hand, jailbroken iPhone 3G, it was only natural I resorted to fixing it on my own. Thus, iService, as an idea, started out as a hobby in my bedroom to earn some pocket money which I somehow became fairly confident of that I told my parents I wouldn’t take money from them anymore (coming out of an AIESEC Local President term does give you that I-can-change-the-world boost).
I borrowed about Rs. 20,000 from my mom and a friend to kick start this effort, pushed through college while doing this on the side and hence understanding some basics of my first CRM, accounting, marketing and operations. It was tough, realising how broken after sales service is in India. How consumers’s needs are not prioritized or even understood. How complex, difficult this industry and its supply chain is (that deserves a post in itself). I decided to take full time plunge in late 2013 by finally getting a small office/shop/service centre so customers could come over to an actual address instead of meeting me in coffee shops or apartments. It was me and 1 other technician and we set out to change the industry…
In 2 years that followed we grew from the 2 of us to 20. From 1 location to 3. Notebooks to spreadsheets to ERPs. Not very impressive feats one might think compared to today’s startups but we did all this bootstrapped (learnt the term few years later). Focusing on growing our customers base, solving their problems either directly (customer repairs & service) or indirectly (building a full stack high quality supply chain ground up) and hence surviving and more than doubling every meaningful metric YoY. Something I think that is underrated today. I didn’t understand funding, GMV, unit economics, unicorns or cockroaches. Didn’t need to. We just had and understood common sense.
We realised how solving 1 core problem of your business can give you a 10x return than 10 other things which seem really cool and must dos. We realised that there are no shortcuts and more often than not, solving the bigger, harder problems have long term payoffs that compound. We learnt how to not to screw up by screwing up in 100 different areas.
We didnt have the luxury of learning by spending money. We learnt by doing, over a period of time and time teaches you everything.
Personally, I got to travel a lot, associate with causes I was passionate about and generally see myself become 10x the person I was when I was starting out. My dad kept helping me out with the business too which was more help than I am grateful for. I tried to get outside help, find mentors by trying to meet more people, ping few on Quora and understandibly most didn’t reply. But a handful did and I met few great people along the way and some have become great friends, mentors and even angels. Vijay Sharma was one of my first and only external believer initially. He helped me think through and articualte a lot. It was a lonely journey for a while but that teaches you a lot too. I kept going. We kept going. That was the lesson of Grit.
There are times when things are good, you’re happy, you’re financially independent and have a whole bunch of freedom. But you’re an ambitious idiot out to change the world, so you ask yourself — what next?
This was 2015.
More in Part 2 — A Company with a Mission.