Rahul Rupani spent all his childhood in Rajkot, Gujarat. Before leaving for college, he pursued science stream at S.N.Kansagra School in Rajkot. Growing up in a business family was the key to learning the important lessons about business and entrepreneurship. Recalling his lessons that he got from his father since a very young age, Rahul speaks about understanding the risk appetite required to sustain business losses and the determination to go on.
Rahul completed his B.E. in Mechanical Engineering and M.Sc. in Physics from BITS in 2014 and worked at several companies like Jabong, ZS Associates. During this period, he also built two ventures which turned out to be unsuccessful. VenueMonk.com is his third attempt at running a business and he seems to have learn't how to lead this game. During his startup journey, Rahul has realized the importance of work life balance and how it affects personal productivity. He fondly recalls, "I could see how dedicated my father was for his work even during family trips and how important that was for him as an entrepreneur."
In this exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers, Rahul Rupani discusses his life before starting up,
Rahul Rupani, Co-founder, VenueMonk
CE: How were your days at BITS Pilani? Tell us more about your experience working for Jabong, ZS Associates and Wadi.com.
Rahul Rupani: Needless to say, spending my college days in Goa was a complete blessing! I learned as much as I enjoyed. My favourite thing about college was their 0% attendance policy. I made full use of this and bunked most of my mechanical engineering classes. Because of this, I could attend courses like Economics, Brand Management and Public Speaking. I will always remember Jabong as one of my best work experiences at a company, and not just because it was my first job. The team and the culture at Jabong was extremely fun. Whenever any new project came to the team, people got excited to work on it, everyone was ready to help! Seeing that made me realize the role of team and culture for success of any business. Working at Jabong, ZS Associates and Wadi helped me prepare for operations and sales roles for my own startup.
CE: What made you first think that starting a company is right for you?
Rahul Rupani: BITS helped me find things I was interested in. It also gave me the confidence to go for what I believed in. I gradually realized that I had a bent for problem solving and selling.This is when I discovered that this problem could surely not be just mine. Also this problem will keep arising for all different occasions ranging from a simple birthday party, office parties to marriage venues. On more research, and conversations I found out that this problem is big enough and that VenueMonk could solve it.
CE: Tell us about the story of VenueMonk. When & how did the business model become clear for your business?
Rahul Rupani: As the newest member as Operation Trainee in Jabong in 2013, I was given the task to find venue for Director’s Birthday Party. I searched for some online option to make venue discovery easier, but I couldn’t find any! Once I realised the scope of the problem, I discussed the idea for VenueMonk with people who had planned events before for their friends and family. They all agreed that the current way was time consuming and frustrating. Finding the correct venue with all that you want and the vendors who perform according to expectations is really tough to find. I consulted the then Operations Director Pratik Gupta (currently founder at Wadi.com and advisor at VenueMonk). He also loved the idea as he could relate to the problem personally having faced many issues planning his own wedding. I was convinced with the idea, so kept learning more and more about the industry. Meanwhile, I took a job at ZS associates. In November 2014, I learned bit of coding and launched a website for finding a venue. With a little bit of promotion, I got my first enquiry within 2 days of the website launch.The customer booked a venue from the suggestions given within 24 hours and VenueMonk got its 1st customer. The highlight of the process was that every step was done online! That’s when I decided to pursue this idea seriously.
CE: How does VenueMonk system works?
Rahul Rupani: VenueMonk works in a fairly simple way, so that anyone can easily book a venue online for their celebrations.
1. First, visit venuemonk.com
2. Then, discover venues based on your event, shortlist & send enquiry.
3. Get negotiated quotes for shortlisted venues + additional venue suggestions.
4. Book venue with secure online payments.
CE: How many iterations took it from the initial idea to the current product? How did you get your first customers?
Rahul Rupani: Over ten major iterations of the initial product have led to the current product. Of course, we keep iterating every week to give our customers the best experience! Through online marketing channels like social media, ppc campaigns, email marketing campaigns etc., we have been able to reach and engage with our target customers.
CE: Tell us about stats.- no. of clients, no. of orders received per day, daily visits etc.
Rahul Rupani: More than 1000 venues comprising of 5 star properties, banquets, farms, resorts, restaurants, clubs etc., in Delhi NCR, are currently on our platform and we help find venues to around 25-30 events every day on VenueMonk.
CE: How did you get funded or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Rahul Rupani: When I started, I put in 20,000 of my savings into VenueMonk. We started getting revenue from the very first day and kept using it to grow the business.I know when it comes to asking for help from people, we generally think nobody has time to help in today’s busy world. Surprisingly if you ask a person for the right help at the right time, he/she would be more than happy to help. Let me give you an example, I asked a friend to help me out with the website for VenueMonk. And he did it, free of cost! The reason was that he had recently left his job at Paypal and wanted to take a break before leaving for higher studies. He loved web development (right help) and this assignment helped him continue doing what he loves while being on a break (right time).
Another thing which helped me a lot was attending startup events on weekends. Why weekends? Events generally have good participation, being a holiday. This means you can interact with more people and people won’t be in a hurry. So, if you find someone who can guide you, you can have long insightful discussions. This way I met many industry seniors and learned from their experience.
CE: How did you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Rahul Rupani: We have focused on improving the basics of our customer experience. Most of our business efforts go in making sure that the - Customer makes an educated decision using the information we give on our website - Time taken by the customer to book a venue starting from when they find our website is reduced. To improve these, we continuously work on giving our customer access to all the relevant and updated information on the website. We work on improving our UI & processes to enable him to take an educated decision and plan the event with minimum effort and in minimum time.Plus our customers get WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) guarantee, i.e., they will get everything that’s mentioned on the website when they book a package through express book on venuemonk.com.
CE: Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
Rahul Rupani: I don’t think it’s possible or advisable to ignore any of these. We try to align our efforts in achieving the right combination of market, product and team. Our company’s aim from day 1 has been to get the right mix of all three and maintain that mix to create a successful company.
CE: Any message for your readers?
Rahul Rupani: Starting up is really hard. You face some or the other problem everyday, and sometimes nothing seems to go right.Doing this really helps me focus on the execution and keeps my mind away from negative thoughts. I believe having a go-to-inspirational sentence which you can remind yourself of during tough times, is really important. If you are facing any problems, try it, it really helps! And if you need any help regarding your startup, feel free to reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you need help to plan your event, visit venuemonk.com!
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