Frustrated with corporate work culture, Mayank Pratap built EngineerBabu in his hometown Indore
EngineerBabu is a web, graphics and app development company with a difference. Based out of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, this IT services firm was started by Mayank Pratap, a computer science engineer and Aditi Chaurasia (MBA in Finance and Marketing). Mayank who hails from a middle class family found that getting a B.Tech degree was not a small deal for a resident of a small town called Palera (Tikamgarh). Given the name of ‘Engineer Babu’ by the people of his town, Mayank believed that unfurling the flag of engineering was of paramount importance. Currently the company is bootstrapping by proving full stack IT services and has worked with several leading startups to complete their development projects.
On asking - What if EngineerBabu had not happened, how different would things be for you?, Mayank candidly replied, "There is no chance EngineerBabu would not have happened. Somethings are just meant to be" and we knew this guy was born to be an entrepreneur.
We got Mayank Pratap to feature in an exclusive interview with us to talk about the interesting journey of their startup. His answers bring about a lot of positive energy and we are sure you'll enjoy reading them as much as we did.
CE: How was your life before EngineerBabu?
Mayank Pratap: EngineerBabu was always a dream, but it was an unplanned event of my life. Before EngineerBabu, I was engaged with many companies in Bangalore.
Having worked in many such corporates, I realized that humans were equalled with machines. There was hardly any consideration for the human resource at such places. Work was not done out of passion or desire; rather it was done out the fear of being kicked out of the firm.
It was then that I had decided that when I build my own firm, the situation will be entirely upside down. And today EngineerBabu is known to have one of the best work cultures among all the startups of Indore.
CE: Tell us about your journey from engineering college days to working at corporate.
Mayank Pratap: While at college in Indore, I could not spare even a second wasted. I kept myself always engaged in entrepreneurial activities, arranging for events, socializing for the purpose. In my third year, I had created a Facebook page where I gave suggestions about the college placements, solved queries related to job dilemmas, and thus performed the role of directing people in the right direction.
Getting placed in a reputed company could not satisfy my hunger for plunging into entrepreneurial activities. I had resigned to live my dream. After clearing several extremely tough technical rounds in Google, I found the world of startups more promising and worth my caliber.
CE: We would like to know about your experience of working on the MeRiCAR, MaalGaadi and JustRide Mobile App.
Mayank Pratap: Working for Startups like MeriCar, MaalGaadi and JustRide was exciting because when you are a solving real-life problem, you don' know what will come next and you have to be ready for that.
For instance, we created an app for drivers, where after taking booking meter will start. Once the driver accepts the booking, the billing should begin. But what if he got a call from his wife and they fought one whole hour? It will get reflected in billing even if that customer has not moved from his location at all. We got this use case and resolved the issue.
CE: How did you meet your co-founder Aditi Chaurasia?
Mayank Pratap: It so happened that circumstances at my home demanded me to move back to Indore. Back in Indore in 2009, I started taking my MBA entrance classes. It was then that I met Aditi who too was preparing for her MBA entrance exams. Her passion towards work always drew my attention. I very soon realized that MBA was not my cup of tea. However, I could not find a better Co-Founder than Aditi for EngineerBabu. Her enthusiasm, compassionate nature and at the same time a bold personality was what was demanded by EngineerBabu at that time.
Earlier she used to manage EngineerBabu along with her job, but later on, her passion to be an entrepreneur took over, and she joined EngineerBabu full time.
Aditi Chaurasia, Co-Founder - EngineerBabu
CE: What was the motivation behind starting EngineerBabu? Tell us the behind-the-scenes story of how EngineerBabu came into life?
Mayank Pratap: As I have mentioned, while in the corporate world, I had always realized that the employees were treated like machines. There was no consideration for the employees. With all the pressure, treating your boss like your God and an overly formal behavior at work always overwhelmed me. I had decided that my workplace would not be the same. I wanted to redefine work and corporate culture. This was the main motivation for starting Engineerbabu.
Very frankly, I had started my company with just three members including myself. Before I came up with this idea, I was involved in teaching software to young students.
The place where I was teaching got shut down. My students, who had paid huge fees were then in a dilemma as they had lost their money and could not complete their course. Voluntarily, I decided to continue educating them at no fees. Later, when I started this company, two of my students were the first ones to join the same. And today, I am so proud of this fact that till date they are still with us working fully dedicated.
We began with just three members, two computers, and a laptop and gradually the team has grown up to be a big family.
CE: What were the major challenges you faced while running this startup in its initial days?
Mayank Pratap: The most challenging job was hiring people. We were not ready to compromise on our work culture being hampered. And at the same time, we were very clear about the level of the candidates that we wanted for this firm. We took many recruitment drives. We also wanted to ensure that EngineerBabu provides best services to its clients.
Apart from that, we had started off sharing our office space with another startup. We were short of resources. Arranging for computers, providing the basic comforts at work, without any funding and entirely on bootstrapping was indeed a tough job.
CE: What services does EngineerBabu offer? Could you share the end-to-end process of how any project gets executed in EngineerBabu?
Mayank Pratap: EngineerBabu is concerned with providing IT related services to our clients. We are engaged with developing Android applications, website designing and development, Graphics designing. When a client approaches us, we conduct a meeting with the client where he specifies all his requirements for the project. We prepare a wireframe of the project in case of application development and get it approved by our clients again. On confirmation, we start off with our designing of slices. Taking the slices as our reference, we develop our apps. So, basically, it’s the agile methodology that we follow.
CE: What key problem are you trying to solve? Why is EngineerBabu different from other web/app design & development startups?
Mayank Pratap: We try to focus on human side of both Clients and Employees. We believe in making relationships stronger and work with devotion to if it is your own work. We believe in retention of our employees. As we provide the best work culture and an autonomy to work where our employees are very much free to innovate, hence the output that we get is much faster and of great value. We add value to our projects while never compromising on our work culture. This is what differentiates us from our competitors. We work like CTO for the startups. We take very selective projects and give our 100% to make the idea into a successful startup.
CE: How is the work culture at EngineerBabu? What are the new things your team is focusing its efforts on in the year 2015-16?
Mayank Pratap: By now, I think it has been pretty clear that the work culture of EngineerBabu is our USP. We consider our employees as our family. Everybody unites whenever any employee is in need of any help. While at the office, we have our lunch together without any differentiation between our employees and us. We go out on trips. We celebrate birthdays. We conduct an enormous number of activities. We dance, we play, we celebrate which ultimately helps in giving our best as we believe that if our minds are happy, it surely gets reflected in our work.
Recently, we have finished off with our “100 Hours in a Week” where we ate, slept, worked and did everything in our office itself.
The team after completing more than 100 hours in the office in one week.
We have planned to expand our business from service providing firm to a funding organization. Where we help young startups get their initial IT related work is done for us at minimal prices, and thus reducing their investment in the same and increasing our stake in that particular startup. Also, we have initiated Kopal as part of our responsibility towards society.
CE: Could you tell us more about the 'Kopal' initiative undertaken by EngineerBabu?
Mayank Pratap: EngineerBabu has taken a step forward towards helping the NGOs by means of ‘Digital India’. The initiative has been named “KOPAL”.
It is rightly said that there is no better exercise for the heart other than reaching down and lifting people up. ’Kopal ’ is a campaign initiated by EngineerBabu with the motto of meeting up people who want to contribute to the society in the form of charity. Also, it intends to help out the needy NGOs and raise money for a good cause.
KOPAL is an effort in the direction of ‘Digital India’ which aims at bringing people closer to the concept of charity. There is very little awareness about the NGOs among the people of this country or maybe the effort taken by an individual is not sufficient. But KOPAL is the campaign to awaken people and make them realize that nobody has ever become poorer by giving!
CE: How do you go about hiring engineers at the office? What do you look for in a potential employee?
Mayank Pratap: The first and foremost thing that we hunt for in our to-be employees is their “Attitude” whether they would fit in our work culture. Then comes their technical skills and the skill to think differently. We have never focused on degrees or the CGPAs that students get. Very honestly, I still do not know the qualifications of my employees and the reason is I never got a chance to question their skills until now!
CE: Have there been any low days while running this startup? Tell us about the days when things were not working smoothly. What did you do to keep yourself motivated during such time?
Mayank Pratap: Definitely. There have been very shady days for this company. During our initial days, we shared our workplace with another startup.Very soon, we shifted our office.While we did that, there were a few employees who left our company and stayed with the other startup there. And this, during the initial days is very critical. At the same time, it's very demotivating. The initial days were very tough and tested our patience. But at that time, I always had Aditi to boost my confidence up. She always motivated me and gave me the strength to face the tough time of this company. Consistency and Never Give up attitude is the one key for all the problems in early days of a startup.
CE: What is the one piece of career advice you would like to share with engineering students? Any message for your readers?
Mayank Pratap: Never run for marks. Develop your skills rather. It is the skills that a company hunts for, even if you are an academic failure. Give and live your life to the fullest. Do not waste even a single second of your life repenting about the past. Just follow your passion and look around for the opportunities. You’ll excel. And lastly - Keep thinking about what you want and the universe will conspire to get that for you.