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Homing in on a good idea

These youngsters hope that their services will appeal to busy Mumbaiites battling inflation, says Humaira Ansari.

mumbai Updated: Oct 18, 2012 01:09 IST
Humaira Ansari

These youngsters hope that their services will appeal to busy Mumbaiites battling inflation.

Hammer and Mop
What:
Hammer & Mop, a start-up less than a year old, provides personalised cleaning and upkeep services to homes and offices.

Who: Sushrut Munje, 22 and Ashish Pingle, 26, are the co-founders. After passing Class 12, Munje joined the Ramrao Adik Institute of Technology, an engineering college in Navi Mumbai. When in college, he interned with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and a web entrepreneur. He dropped out in his third year, in 2010, to launch a start-up. Pingle, a part-time director of the company, is a dentist.

When: Immediately after dropping out of college, Munje tried to launch an online humour magazine, but that didn't take off. He then launched Hammer & Mop in November last year.

How: He began with just Rs 50,000, consisting of his savings and contributions from friends who believed in his idea. Munje rented a warehouse near his home in Kalyan for stocking cleaning tools and equipment. He then hired a seat at Bombay Connect, a co-working space in Bandra (West), for his front-end operations. Every day, from this base, he communicates with his clients and staff. He has a staff of more than 10 cleaners, all of whom live in slums or low-income neighbourhoods.

Munje caters mostly to working couples, senior citizens and people moving into new homes, charging between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 15,000, depending on the nature of the work and size of the flat.

"We're still bootstrapping and earning just about enough to cover our expenses," says Munje candidly. "Also, we are constantly upgrading our equipment."

But as he put various elements of the venture in place, more investment came in, eventually totalling Rs. 5 lakh.

"We are still working on getting the product 'right'," says Munje. "But I do look forward to expanding and raising more funds."

Why: Munje's heart was never entirely in engineering. In college, he spent more time outside class than inside it, getting involved in various campus clubs and in editing a magazine. "I quit engineering because I wasn't inclined to complete the degree for the heck of it," he says matter-of-factly. It took him six months to convince his parents. "If an entrepreneur is able to convince his family about his decision to start up, he will have less trouble finding customers," Munje says. After six months of planning, Munje finally launched his venture, offering to ease people's 'pain point' of inefficient maids.

'I wanted to organise an unorganised sector'
Belita
What:
Belita is a doorstep beauty, bridal and salon service that goes to homes in Powai, Goregaon, Jogeshwari and Chandivli. It operates out of four rented offices, one in each area, and has four hired vans and a team of 50 beauticians.

Who: An MBA graduate, Garima Jain, 28, worked with banks in Indore before moving to Mumbai in 2009 after marriage.

Until August 2010, she worked at a financial consultancy firm and was responsible for syndicating debt and equity.

When: Jain launched Belita in January 2011, four months after she quit her job.

How: Jain invested Rs. 7 lakh of her savings and borrowed some money from her husband to launch Belita. In its pilot stage, Jain didn't spend any money on marketing or publicity. "My team began by going door-to-door in Powai distributing pamphlets advertising Belita and its services," says Jain.

To keep expenses down, Jain offers services only within a radius of 2.5 km to 3 km from Belita's rented offices in its four locations. Her four vans are also on rent.

"I didn't want to focus on managing drivers. I'd rather spend that time training my beauticians," says Jain.

In the first month, Belita offered services to 100 clients. By now, it has catered to 4,500 clients. By the end of the year, it plans to expand to three other localities.

Why: As a banker clocking in 13 hours of work a day, Jain rarely found time to visit a beauty parlour. She had to call a freelance beautician home. "But afterwards, I would cringe looking at the talcum powder and wax strewn across my floor," she says. "Also, I was always worried about the quality of the products."

Then once while munching a pizza in her Powai home, Jain told her husband how nice it would be to have a Dominos-style home beauty service.

"Why don't you start one?" replied her husband, a naval architect and entrepreneur who runs a ship design and consultancy firm.

The next morning she seriously discussed the proposition with him, and he encouraged Jain to take the plunge.

'Downturn or not, starting up will always be a roller-coaster ride'
BookBuddy
What:
BookBuddy sends its employees, mostly all clinical psychologists, to customers' homes to spend time with their children and read books to them. Its clients include working parents and parents who didn't study in English-medium schools but want their children to be fluent in the language. Non-resident Indians also constitute a significant proportion of its client base. BookBuddy also organises trips to farms and nature walks for children between the ages of 3 and 15 years. It provides free services to children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with learning disabilities. It has different package deals and annual tailor-made programmes for clients.

Who: Shyaam Kumar, 33, and Rajeev Kamath, 44, jointly founded the company. Before that, Kamath was the director of operations at Capita India, a financial services firm, while Kumar has worn a bunch of hats in a financial services career spanning a decade. He returned to India from Dubai in November 2009.

When: BookBuddy first ran as a pilot programme for six months starting in October last year, and then launched all its services in April this year.

How: Kamath and Kumar started the venture with their own savings in the belief that rock-solid service would always have takers. A majority of its employees have a Masters in clinical psychology. "Parents may not want to take the child to a psychologist because there's a stigma attached to doing that. We've turned the concept of psychology on its head by taking the psychologist home," says Kumar.

Children who are in its programmes have written short stories and poems, and a few are composing music, the founders say. The duo now has 262 clients. Their company charges Rs. 18,000 for a standard programme that offers clients a mix of mentoring, outdoor trips, farm visits, nature walks, treks, four professional visits and workshops a year.

The founders are reluctant to divulge financial details, but Kumar says that they are happy with the growth so far and hope to break even by the end of the year "I'd advise every person to try entrepreneurship at least once," he says. "It's challenging, a roller-coaster ride. But it's worth it."

Why: After quitting their corporate careers, Kumar and Kamath spent a little more than a year and a half exploring business opportunities in the agriculture and technology sectors. But finally, they decided on the education sector. They wanted to start something that their children would be proud of. "We both decided that we had had enough of the lives we were leading," says Rajeev Kamath.