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Isha Singla On How Jugnoo's On-Demand Rickshaw Service Thrives In India's Cab-Dominated Market
Brought up in Chandigarh, Isha Singla comes from a services background and is a first generation entrepreneur. Her father is a Chief Engineer in Public Health department and mom is a housewife. She considers herself very lucky as services held great respect in her house. She has full support from her family for doing something as unconventional and adventurous as being an entrepreneur.
After completing her chemical engineering from IIT Delhi in 2011, Isha worked with Click Labs, InMobi and McKinsey & Company, before being a Chief Process Officer at Jugnoo.
Jugnoo is an online on-demand auto-rickshaw service platform. It also provide different services from delivery of food & grocery through auto-rickshaws (Jugnoo Meals) to providing other hyperlocal delivery services (Jugnoo Fatafat). Jugnoo currently operates in Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jaipur and has raised $5 million in Series A Round from Snow Leopard and Paytm.
In an exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers we got Isha Singla to talk about how Jugnoo came into existence, the various services they provide and how they are here to disrupt the hyperlocal commerce market.
Isha Singla, Chief Process Officer - Jugnoo
CE: What made you choose 'Chemical Engineering' in IIT Delhi back then? How did you make the shift from a career in chemical engineering to becoming a manager and then a startup owner?
Isha: I always found this branch intriguing and Chemistry lab sessions were always something I looked forward to, wearing a white lab coat. I crack IIT JEE, got into IIT Delhi and that's where the exposure began. I was introduced to diversity in every sense, be it people, thoughts or career and that people are no longer afraid to venture into. The immense support such institutes give to budding entrepreneurs and the grooming done to develop that strong personality is what placed the idea of being a part of a start up in my head. My brief stint with Mckinsey and InMobi, gave me the right exposure in terms of meeting people from different backgrounds, learning a lot from great people both these organisations had. But the will to do something more exciting made me leave the corporate lifestyle behind.
CE: How did Jugnoo come into existence? Tell us the story of its inception and your chief team members aka Samar, Chinmay, Varun and Harsh.
Isha: It was an idea thrown at us by Samar. He always would say that things cannot be this complicated. There has to be an easier way to get things done - a more convenient way. That's when we brainstormed and identified few challenges that we as common people face in day-to-day lives. Then began the strategy to combat them and hence Jugnoo was born.
CE: Why auto-rickshaws? How has your experience been in working with auto-rickshaw drivers?
Isha: It is the most economical and efficient means to transportation available in abundance in our country and yet it is underutilized. We realized this and thought of building something on the auto-rickshaw network.
The experience is rewarding and empowering, once we get the drivers on board and hear how this has changed their lives and helped them not just financially but also in their personality, it gives you a good feeling.
CE: When did you think about introducing WhatsApp helpline? How does that work?
Isha: Well, with Whatsapp's popularity, it was an obvious thing to do. We revolve around making things simple and at the frequency and comfort with which the consumer uses Whatsapp, it had been staring at us to get ourselves on it. It's pretty basic. Just ping us on our number, order anything and we get it delivered.
CE: Do you consider Autowale.in as your major competitors? How do you hope to be better than the competition?
Isha: Well, we don't really look at anyone as our competitors rather we constantly encourage collaborations with anyone who wants to use our network of autos for their services.
What sets us apart however is, we are the only ones doing deliveries on top of our autos network, our technology and our easy interface.
CE: How did Jugnoo Meals and Jugnoo Fatafat happen? What was the reason behind branching out to these additional domains?
Isha: Their inception also revolves around the desire to make things convenient. We already were using autos for consumer rides, and with everyone being so pressed for time. It made sense to get such services out there for consumers to be able to better utilize their day.
CE: What are your thoughts about hyperlocal commerce? How do you plan to disrupt this arena?
Isha: Hyperlocal is here to stay. The idea is very simple and everyone has thought about it one time or the other, but execution has to be just right, the service has to be impeccable. The way I look at it, very soon everything that we do on a daily basis will get on hyperlocal. Most of it already is.
CE: What were the major challenges you face while running Jugnoo? What do you do to tackle them?
Isha: I would say to get drivers to use the technology. It requires a lot of motivation. It is a good problem to have because it is predictable. We knew that it won't be easy to get them out of their comfort zone and hence prepared well. Once we showed them how easy it is to use the application and how convenient it is to get double the rides, the rest just fell in place.
CE: How many transactions do you do on a typical day? Tell us a story about the team being overwhelmed by the response.
Isha: On an average around 3000. Initially we were really skeptical about the transaction numbers. We were not uncertain about being accepted but yeah, we were not sure that in how long will we hit decent number of transactions. The breakthrough happened when in 3 months we touched 500 transactions with just a 20 people team.
We would bet with each other and put our prized belongings at stake just to be right in predicting the day's transactions. It was overwhelming to see the faith in our service get stronger and stronger.
CE: What are the expansion plans for Jugnoo? Which cities are on the radar apart from Chandigarh Tricity?
Isha: Apart from Chandigarh, we already have our presence in Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jaipur, Gurgaon and Indore. Expansion plans are huge. We would like to go Pan-India.
CE: How big is the Jugnoo team right now? How do you go about hiring professionals who are passionate about Jugnoo?
Isha: Our headcount would be approx 300. While hiring, we rely big time on employee referrals. More than half of our team has been built like this. We find it the most efficient means of getting the right candidates who fit well with our vision and culture. The expectation setting done through referrals is more transparent.
CE: Tell us about the the experience behind raising $5 million from Snow Leopard and PayTM.
Isha: I learnt so much during this experience, the preparation that went into it, the research we did, the due diligence carried out, the pitch we made, all done so passionately by all of us.
CE: Any message for young engineers or aspiring entrepreneurs?
Be practical and realistic. Refrain from biting on more than what you can chew and seek mentorship shamelessly. Never get too comfortable.