Startups
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Startups

Zenmer

Oct 2018 - Present Bootstrapped | 1000+ txns every day | B2B SaaS Corporate Travel | India & UK | Single Founder

Zenmer is a TPaaS based Online Booking Tool for Travel Management Companies (TMCs) and Corporates to migrate their complex offline travel fulfillment processes to an online cloud application with a totally new-age user experience and great supplier content.

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Quick journey in brief - toggle me
  • One can't move forward to build the MVP (with a booking engine) as a stand-alone travel-tech company without partnering with a TMC first, due to the restrictions of supplier content being available only to TMCs and not everyone.
  • After a lot of hard work and luck, we got a TMC from New Delhi to trust us, including a paid contract with an advance payment from them. To know more about how an amazing conversation and a secret market opportunity led to starting Zenmer and getting this first enterprise contract, you can read here:
    What led to starting Zenmer
    .
  • We launched the private alpha version of MVP Phase 1 in January 2019 with our first client, and soon doubled our team size to 12 people in total.
  • By May 2019, we onboarded two more TMC clients including TravelVoyages from Mumbai which was using Zillious (our biggest competitor having largest monopoly market share in India) since 3 years. TravelVoyages did $50mn+ in annual sales with a strong corporate client portfolio like Piramal group, RPG group, CEAT Tyres, Zensar, T-Systems and more. This was Zenmer's biggest contract with product still being in private beta.
  • By August 2019, we were doing ~100 transactions every day. We implemented a customer support team to deliver cloud based customer support quickly from anywhere.
  • As the transaction volumes started to increase in the coming months, our product became more robust, modular and flexible to handle extremely complex travel processes for large enterprises in India.
  • The immediate next step was to expand out of India due to better revenues for the same product. We signed our first Reseller Agreement with a UK-based company in Apr, 2020.
  • At this stage, we were processing ~1000 transactions every day among all our existing clients in India, and then COVID happened to bless us in disguise - All the potential contracts, sales cycles and strategy got postponed as travel industry was the most affected globally.
  • We were working from home from Mar 22nd, 2020 on Zoom. In March end, there was a steep decline with hardly 10 transactions happening every day.
  • We used the calmness of lockdown to expand our MVP for the international market and add tons of new things which would give us a solid edge for the international market penetration.
  • By June 2020, we had developed the new key features and started working on a new risk-management product 'Travel Radar', which allowed TMCs and corporates to evaluate the risks, regulations and suggestions before booking an international trip by offering COVID intelligence around border status, quarantine status, health regulations and company policy. We were able to gather great interest from TMCs and were recently covered by BTN Europe.

You can read about our detailed journey here

: A big chicken-and-egg problem before building MVP, getting international customers, battling COVID and the future.

Airhob

2016 - 2018 Grew our family travel business 2x within one year | B2B Travel APIs

Airhob has a B2B online booking platform for small travel agents to book flights with frequent flyer miles intelligence that wasn't available on any B2B platform around the world. Airhob also provides Developer APIs for travel startups to make real-time bookings for flights, hotels, sightseeing, trains and euro passes.

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Quick journey in brief - toggle me
  • The plan was to take a break and explore the online travel space by scaling our family business go online. I re-branded our entire brick-and-mortar offline business to AIRHOB.
  • We struck partnerships with Sabre to power our flight inventory and by Sep 2016 the mYwindow team had our MVP ready to onboard travel agents.
  • By Nov 2016, we started adding other revenue divisions like hotels, sightseeing activities, trains, euro rail passes and packaged tours to Airhob. We hired 4 new female developers, increasing our team size to 7 people.
  • Within just six months, we achieved the revenues from previous year (of our family business), which in-fact were stagnant since last 2-3 years due to heavy impact on the brick-and-mortar businesses with online e-commerce booming around the world.
  • We launched our Travel APIs in Aug 2017 with start-of-the-art RESTful APIs serving data over JSON. The API supported 40+ currencies from day one and any global product could integrate our booking-capable APIs for free across flights, hotels, sightseeing, euro passes, and trains.
  • Within two months, we had 50+ travel startups and developers using our APIs.
  • In Oct 2017, we introduced a paid plan with a small upfront ($400) fee that gave them commissions on each booking, making the free plan available for startups that are just looking for booking capabilities without any commission expectations.
  • In November 2017, I started exploring another market in the travel industry - corporate business travel.
  • SATTE 2018: We exhibited Airhob in the biggest B2B travel trade exhibition in New Delhi 'SATTE'.
  • I met the ex-VP of FCM and got hold of a secret market lying around in corporate travel. It was so intriguing that we didn't pursue corporate travel as Airhob a TMC, but creating a new business altogether - ZENMER.
  • I finally understood where I wanted to focus in travel space and decided to focus full-time on Zenmer. Since May 2018, I just intervene within the major technical decision-making while the team beautifully takes care of the daily ops. Read how a meeting in Mumbai led to starting ZENMER here
    What led to starting Zenmer

You can read about our detailed journey here

: How we built something unique within the competitive travel market, building developer-focused Travel APIs, doubling revenues within 6 months and more.

Corselo

2015 - 2016 Bootstrapped | EdTech

Started with an idea that any offline course which requires students to be physically present with the instructors, wasn't organized on an online marketplace for creators to create and list courses online and for people to book, pay and leave verified reviews on courses they take.

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Quick journey in brief - toggle me
  • We built the MVP in 4 months by Nov 2015 and onboarded over 5000+ courses
  • We saw initial revenues with few bookings happening every day.
  • Bad unit economics: After a few weeks of slow and steady revenues in June 2016, we started to realize that it's a volume over profit business and revenues came only when heavy marketing dollars were spent because the end-product and experience wasn't in our control.
  • After spending 12 months and $25k personal money. If I were to go back, before even starting to design the front-end, I'd first speak to at least 10 course academies and consider moving these physical offline courses to online learning in form of a structured video curriculum, allowing course creators to create online versions of their physical courses through our platform where the entire course is consumed on Corselo as well.
  • Market research and cold talking to potential customers before even building your product is one of the most under-rated strategy in building successful startups, which I learnt at the expense on building Corselo as a solo founder.
  • After a lot of thought, in August 2016, I decided to pause working on Corselo as running multiple projects in parallel being a solo founder didn't seem like a good idea to me.

You can read about our detailed journey here

: The Google API hack to onboard courses in bulk, quick revenues, seeing unit economics fail, and learning why volume-over-profit strategy never impressed me.

mYwindow

2011 - 2016

Creator Economy & Community | B2B Payments | $1mn annual sales | Bootstrapped

Started with an idea in late 2011 to allow creators build a portfolio-like media-rich profile and connect with like-minded people within their community.

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Quick journey in brief - toggle below
  • Got an invite for the International Startup Festival in Montreal, Canada.
  • Got an invite to attend Y Combinator Startup School in the Apple's Cupertino office in Oct 2013. One of the biggest highlights of the trip was to meet Steve Woz at his favorite restaurant in San Jose.
  • The most important learning from my US trip was that the creator economy and early adoption around online communities was way behind (almost non-existent at that time) in India compared to the US market.
  • From Jan 2012 to Sep 2013, we had spent way too much personal and family money and we were soon not going to have enough funds to survive.
  • My article on 'Incorporating in US as a foreign national' which got picked up by several popular online media sites. It went really viral and and while interacting with a few people who were wanting to incorporate in US mentioned that their main goal to do so was to get a payment solution (use a payment gateway GUI tool) to accept international card payments from outside India at scale.
  • EUREKA: This is when it struck me that we could pilot a pivot project in mYwindow where we allowed small businesses, consultants, and freelancers to accept international card payments from their clients outside India.
  • Within 4 months we had processed over $60k, by Feb 2015 we were processing around $40k each month and round March 2016, we had crossed ~ $1mn in transaction volumes in mYwindow.
  • In April end, everything went to ZERO. Our banking partners noticed high chargeback ratio in our transaction volumes. It all came down like a nuclear attack one day due to our lack of knowledge around that time about card regulations and that we didn't filter companies which crossed a certain level of chargeback ratio. We were just letting the companies come, start accepting payments and automated all parts of the processes without worrying about any red flags or risks.

You can read about our detailed journey here

: Our initial success, my first silicon valley experience, running out of money, pivoting, succeeding above expectations, solo traveling and then why everything went south.

Full Startup Journey

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