Demoport Founder MV Praveen On How His Hyperlocal Online Marketplace Merges The Best Of Both Worlds
By - CrazyEngineers • 7 years ago • 34k views
Born in a middle class family in Chennai, MV Praveen finished his schooling in Don Bosco, scraped through his graduation in English Literature and in the middle of his career also did an MBA in Marketing. Mediocre in studies, Praveen was always a back bencher. As far as he can remember, he always wanted to become an entrepreneur.
After finishing his graduation, Praveen worked for about 7 years at several companies including Eureka Forbes and Bajaj Electricals. In 1998, his first stint at becoming an entrepreneur was with his water and waste water treatment company - MORF India Ltd. By 2003, MORF became a public limited company and spread its wings across southern India over the period of next 10 years. In 2012, Praveen signed a licensing agreement with Electrolux for manufacturing and marketing water and air purifiers under the Kelvinator Brand in India and Sri Lanka.
In January 2013, MORF raised close to 2 million USD from a Swiss-based PE Fund. In a sudden turn of events, Praveen decided to sell his shares and exited MORF in October 2013. After a brief hiatus, founded KORGEN Technologies Pvt. Ltd. in February 2014.
In an exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers, MV Praveen, Founder & CEO - Demoport discusses how he built a Hyperlocal Online Plus Marketplace that enables people to quickly discover and connect with genuine local dealers for a pre-sales chat before placing their orders online, the challenges they faced building this startup, their road ahead and a lot more. Read on!
MV Praveen, Founder & CEO - DemoPort
CE: When did you first think about creating Demoport? What kind of research and planning went on before you took the idea to the inception stage?
MV Praveen: When we started KORGEN as a multi-brand and multiproduct direct selling enterprise, Demoport was not even an idea. In the course of running the company for about a year, we gained deeper insights into the offline shopping dynamics and why people preferred to buy certain categories of products offline despite many of those being available online.
Meantime, we realized that it was going to be really hard to build and scale this direct selling business quickly. But we also learned that if we could tweak this model a little and online-enable it, that would present a much larger opportunity. And we would be able to address some very real customer pain points in the shopping space, across India.
The concept of Demoport, India’s only Hyperlocal Online Plus Marketplace, was thus born in Jan’15. Six months down the line, we launched our MVP - Beta Version.
CE: What were the initial challenges that you faced while running Demoport? How did you tackle them?
MV Praveen: We did face some challenges that were typical of a startup environment. For instance, every time we tried to get a market validation through pilots, we received feedbacks that questioned a few fundamental assumptions that went into building Demoport. But such feedbacks helped up pivot quickly for the better.
Along with a few modifications in the business model, the beta version of Demoport underwent substantial changes in the next six months, thanks to these market feedbacks.
Secondly, expertise of our team was primarily in the offline selling space and it took us some time to understand the basics of how online shopping portals work and about the key business drivers.
Thirdly, we had to put in a lot of efforts in evangelizing and getting the team aligned with the concept and vision of Demoport.
CE: Hyperlocal marketplaces are crowding the startup world. What differentiates you from your competitors?
MV Praveen: Firstly, the space in which we operate may appear crowded at a superficial level but it is actually not. It is a fine niche that we have discovered and trying to leverage, where an overlap with most of the existing players is very small.
Assuming that competition emerges in future in this space, the market is pretty large (and getting larger by the day) that several of us can coexist happily.
Now what differentiates us. Simply our business model (Online Plus). We use technology to online-enable the existing offline shopping practices. Eg. people can discover genuine local sellers, connect with them for a pre-sales chat that helps them clear their queries, get customized deals / exchange offers and then place their orders online from the comfort of their home. This convergence of online and offline interface gives greater comfort to the sellers and buyers since they don’t have to adopt new behaviors to shop on Demoport except using an online platform.
CE: What is the typical work culture in Demoport Office like?
MV Praveen: We are a passionate lot. We believe that we are here to make a huge difference to the way customers shop online. Therefore, we are attentive even to the smallest of the market feedbacks and all our thinking springs from the customers’ point of views, always.
No hierarchies. Completely open and transparent. All have a say and everyone is constantly encouraged to share his or her views. Recognition for good ideas is almost instant.
Being a small team with multiple tasks at hand all the time, we work very hard and many times to the extent of seriously disturbing our work-life balance. But then, as a team we believe that this won’t be for long.
CE: What feature of Demoport are you the most proud of?
MV Praveen: One thing we are proud of is the way our business model has encouraged offline shoppers to come onboard and shop online at Demoport. On the other hand, people who were comfortable buying mobiles and apparels from other online shopping sites came to us for buying water purifiers, air purifiers, inverters, home electronics and appliances.
CE: Share a feedback story that lives in your memories.
MV Praveen: Once we received an order for a water heater from a retired government employee. Being one of our early customers, our team contacted him for a feedback on what made him to shop online at Demoport and this is what he had to say. "Look, I always love to buy products from trusted dealers in my locality though going to these shops in person is increasingly becoming a not-so-exciting activity given the kind of traffic snarls we see today. You guys just helped me do this from the comfort of my home and this is the first time I am shopping online."
CE: If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently and why?
MV Praveen: I wish I had a better understanding of the customer pain points what we are addressing today.
Well, if I had to do it all over again, I would start much leaner, hired the right talent early, sought mentorship or formed an advisory panel / sounding board.
I believe if we had done this, we could have cut down the product development time by at least 50% and saved a lot of capital.
CE: What do you love the most about being an entrepreneur?
MV Praveen: The foremost one is the freedom to explore and experiment with new ideas, innovations and creating value out of those. That’s addictive. Then the excitement of being on our toes and taking decisions and corrective measures quickly.
To answer a question that you didn’t ask, the worst part of being an entrepreneur is to be prepared for people discarding your ideas without even understanding it and whispering at your back that you are nuts.
CE: What is your advice to those who are just starting up? Any message for your readers?
MV Praveen: Advice to those who are just starting up - Start lean. Have a team with complementary skills and a shared vision. Keep experimenting and stay inspired.
Throw away that damned box. The world is changing at a never-before pace. Read, listen, observe, think, experiment and keep growing.
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