StartupTalky is one of the strongest community in India and we have a lot of professionals who are doing great in their lives. To share their learnings and inspire as many people as we can, we are interviewing all the StartupTalkers in our "Know the StartupTalker" series.
Today, we have Mr. Subbu Athikunte as our interviewee. Subbu Athikunte is the founder of a rental platform, SimplyGuest. You will learn a lot from this interview with Subbu Athikunte.
You can also check out the Success Story of SimplyGuest.
Who are you?
I am Subbu Athikunte. I am the cofounder of a real estate startup called SimplyGuest, which lets people find affordable houses and rooms to rent.
Describe your product/service ?
SimplyGuest provides fully-furnished homes for working professionals close to their workplaces. These accommodation are completely managed & rent is inclusive of monthly bills: electricity, water, 30-100mbps WiFi, DTH, unlimited LPG, maid services, repairs, maintenance. The flats are hassle-free; we pay utility bills, provide maid services, take care of repairs, replace LPG cylinder. SimplyGuest takes care of finding qualified flatmates, their entry, and exits. Tenants can move to any house in our network when they change jobs at no extra cost.
The houses can be rented on per bed or room basis. The houses are ready-to-move in.
Also read: List of Rental Startups in India
How did you come up with the name of your Startup?
I shortlisted and registered about 5 domains from a list of about 30 domains, and sent a survey to friends and colleagues. SimplyGuest was the second most popular name. I didn't like the most popular as that was a .net domain.
What did you do just after getting the idea?
I started talking to potential house owners to let out their houses. We had our first break through after talking to about 10 owners. Once we had the house, we furnished it, got utility connections, and started looking our for customers.
Tell us about your business model?
We keep a part of the rent our tenants pay for our services. We also provide value added services for a fee.
What is your revenue model?
We earn monthly revenues from all the houses in our network.
How did you acquire your initial customers?
We tried to distribute flyers around offices. But it didn't work. We tried advertising in the nearby restaurants using the digital displays; that didn't work. Flyers in the newspapers didn't help either. Our first customer came from a small display board we put up near the house. Our second customer came from a facebook group; she called after seeing a post looking for flatmates. She brought a friend along, who became our third customer.
Our fourth customer called me from Delhi after seeing an ad on an classifieds platform. She made an online booking, our first.
What options do your customers have? And how are you different from them?
The market has many players. Then there is also paying guest accommodation. PGs are restrictive and caters to the lowest common denominator. Only budget conscious people choose PGs. Our competitors have too many hidden charges and their properties are mis-managed. SimplyGuest has transparent pricing, consistent services, and we take care of everything in the house. Our customers have to call just one number for every problem.
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now and how did you overcome it ?
Operations has been very challenging. Providing consistent services requires a lot of work. We have built technology to automate many things, but operations continues to be a challenge.
How did you meet your team(co-founders) and what is their background?
My brother is my co-founder.
Where do you want to see your startup in the next 3 year?
We would like to increase our customer base in the next 3 years.
What entrepreneurial hacks/online tools/ services/ apps do you use to stay focused and keep your day productivity?
We use WhatsApp for customer support and internal communication. I use barebones Linux servers that I manage myself to save cost. All technology is built by ourselves, it gives us a lot more power and flexibility, at the same time saving us money. Our website, backend, blogs, databases, are all hosted and managed by ourselves. We have integrations with Paytm, Razorpay and Instamojo for our payments. We switch between these for redundancy.
Any suggestion/quote that you would like to share with budding entrepreneurs?
1. We avoid partnerships; they want to make money off of you in the guise of helping you. They might just kill you. Our best partners are the ones off-the-shelf services and products. No hidden cost.
2. Do-it-yourself in most cases has helped us save costs.
3. What works now may not work tomorrow. Some of our initial marketing channels don't work now.