The journey of how Mayank Pratap built EngineerBabu- A Profitable IT service company company staying bootstrapped.
India is world’s fastest growing startup ecosystem where 3–4 new firms are born everyday. We have grown significantly in the past five years and are expected to grow 10–12% YOY for the next five years till 2020.
This boom has also led to the evolution of many IT service companies catering to the requirements of the startups.
But these companies have just evolved in numbers, with close to no differentiation in the offering and no innovation in the product and business process.
This is where EngineerBabu is changing the game and trying to become leaders of this startup market.
Read through this interview to know:
How Mayank Pratap built EngineerBabu- A Profitable IT service company generating $50,000+ per month.
Check out our previous interview on “How I built one of the most active startup communities of India” if you happened to miss it.
🕴Who are you?
I started my career as Techie -> Sales -> Marketing -> Content writing -> Sometimes I clean my office too.
I got my first job as a Sales Executive in the year 2008 (2nd year of college), left it to start my first venture which got closed after 1.5 years of struggle (family expectations, my dream, secure MNC job), worked in Tech Mahindra as a Techie for the next 2 years before finally quitting and working on EngineerBabu.
EngineerBabu is a profitable startup clocking over $50,000 monthly recurring revenue. We have an intentionally small team with tons of happy clients. Still, a long way to go.
🤔 What’s the deal with EngineerBabu?
For most of the entrepreneurs, technology is an integral part of their startup, but it is not their core area of expertise. Building and managing a tech team is cumbersome, and founders usually end up wasting a lot of time, effort and money.
This is where EngineerBabu comes into the picture.
We are specialized in building MVP (minimum viable product) for startups. Almost 80% of our clients are entrepreneurs who have a rough idea, need fast execution at lower cost and need a quality team which is approachable.
They come to us with an idea, and we help them build their tech infrastructure. In short, we are a startup made to help other startups.
We have also developed many products for enterprises like Samsung. We are currently working on the following three in-house products:
- EB for Startups: Product development for Startups.
- EB for Enterprises: Providing technology solutions to Enterprises.
- EB Marketplace: A curated marketplace for IT services.
💯 What motivated you to start EngineerBabu?
After I left Tech Mahindra, I came back to Indore and started working as a part-time lecturer in a coaching institute. I still remember them charging lakhs of rupees for placements.
One day when I reached the institute, I found it closed. We called the director of the institute, but he didn’t answer the call. It took us no time to realize that it was all a scam. There were around 23 students, and few of them were from poor backgrounds.
That day, I decided to teach them without taking any compensation. I created a Facebook Group (Now more than 1 lakh members) so that I can help people at scale. The aim was to help engineers get placed. After 3-4 months of hard work, a few of them got jobs.
Read more here:
Answer: EngineerBabu was never planned, I never thought that I will make a company like this. www.quora.com
While helping the developers get placed, I got a good understanding of this market. I often use to hear that Indian developers are not good enough. But soon I learned the following truth:
Indian developers are not good in India, but once they go to the USA, they become the CEOs of Google and Microsoft.
There were some intrinsic problems in the work culture and hiring processes of IT companies in India which disabled people to work at their optimum potential.
That’s when I decided to work on a solution and…..Bang! EngineerBabu was born to resolve the following issues.
- Hiring the right candidate is a three-month-long process (Interviews — Filtering — Selection — Notice Period — Joining — Training).
- Managing the tech team is a complicated task for a non-technical founder. Most founders end up hiring the wrong team.
- Fixed Infrastructure cost (Systems, Rent, Internet). With time, systems become outdated and infrastructure requires maintenance.
- Hiring a team in India is 70% cheaper than hiring a full-time team in the USA with the same expertise.
- Monthly fixed salaries (People get appraisals based on months of experience rather than enhancement in skills).
🤝 How did you get your initial clients?
When I was working with Tech Mahindra, I made a lot of connections in the Bangalore startup community.
When the idea of EngineerBabu struck me, I discussed it with my connections and got few of them interested. I met my first client at one of the startup events in Bangalore.
He had an idea and was looking for someone who could help him with the development. It seemed like an excellent opportunity to start with, so I extended my help to him and developed an MVP for him.
He was delighted to see the product and referred us to a few of his friends.
We got all our initial clients through a referral from existing clients.
A few of our clients fetched million-dollar funding using MVPs that we developed, and the chain reaction started. We were proud to be the source of the chain reaction.
It is a challenge to fetch the initial customers, but if you value their time and their trust, and deliver an excellent service/product, they will stick with you forever.
Finding Clients through Tinder:
(Business is all about connections)
- Seven people from our sales team subscribed to Tinder’s paid account.
- We changed our locations to Melbourne, Germany, Chicago and other ‘rich’ cities.
- We targeted people above the age of 50, irrespective of gender, as usually they are rich and no one checks them.
- We would tell them that we are just exploring Tinder and trying to build an app like it, and not here for a hookup. A few of them replied: Hey guys! Nice to know that. Can you do a web/app for me?
Finding Clients through Events :
(Networking is done pre-event and not post)
Whenever we got to know that a big event is happening in any city:
- We would search who are attending the event using #name of the event.
- Could they be our potential customers?
- How can we help them?
In Global Investors Summit we searched for attendees by using relevant hashtags and tried to establish contact with them via Email and Linkedin.
We used the following format while messaging/emailing them:
It seems like you are attending GSS. Thanks a lot for visiting India- it’s a beautiful country. These are some guides which will make your travel more productive:
- Top 10 places to visit in India (Article Link).
- Top 10 emerging Startups of India (Names).
- Choose OYO Rooms rather than Hotels.
- Food Ordering apps to get food of your choice (Names).
Do let us know if we can help you with anything else?
About 90% of people replied to this email. We also helped some to plan their trips. Some even came to meet us and became our clients.
Sales is like a marriage alliance; people get married only when they trust each other. On an average, we made more than $10,000 from each event, even without attending any of them.
💰 What is your business model?
Have you ever read the story of Tortoise and the Hare? We all know who wins the race in the end, don’t we?
We live in a society full of hares; people want quick wins.
But we decided to take baby steps. Before building our product, we decided to help entrepreneurs by developing their products. We aided them in product development, marketing, and connecting them to the right mentors. After a few of months of doing this, we finally launched our platform.
Pricing is mostly dependent on the functionality and technology requirement of the client, with payments made on a milestone basis. Since the launch of our platform, our revenue has grown multi-fold.
We achieved an average quarterly growth rate of 57% in 2017–2018.
- Quarter 1: 20% Growth
- Quarter 2: 100% Growth
- Quarter 3: 18% Growth
- Quarter 4: 54 % Growth
EngineerBabu is a profitable startup clocking $50,000 monthly recurring revenues.
👬 How did you go about building your team?
Starting up is easy, anyone can start. But you need a great team to build and grow what you started.
I started EngineerBabu alone. After a while, roped in two of my students for Sales and Android Development. Now they are heading the teams of their respective functions.
I also hired two designers along the journey, and that’s how the five-member core team came into existence.
We were a bunch of techies working on client projects without any kind of clear vision, mission, team structure or work culture. I had the tech part sorted, and now was the time to on-board someone for the business side.
Female leaders have inbuilt management skills. Look at our moms; they manage our houses so seamlessly.
Aditi and I have known each other since we were preparing for MBA as we were part of the same coaching class. We also worked on a failed startup together, when I was in my 3rd year. After that, she pursued her MBA and I joined Tech Mahindra.
So, I contacted Aditi and persuaded her to become part of EngineerBabu. It was difficult to convince her as she had a well-paying government job.
Being a founder, you need to convince a lot of people. Your colleagues why they should work with you, your clients why they should do business with you, your investors why they should fund your company.
It took us five months to on-board her. It is not easy for a female to pursue entrepreneurship in a tier II city like Indore in India (Family pressure, Society norms and Culture). But she won the battle and now has become an inspiration to all the people of that society.
We became a company from a group of people after she came in as the CEO.
Now we are a team of more than fifty EngineerBabus:
🏁 What are your future goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
We don’t make long-term plans as they just don’t work. We set short-term goals (3-6 months), learn from new experiences and shape the path accordingly.
Currently we are focussing on:
- Building a curated marketplace for IT services.
In the past three years, we have created a great network of quality IT service companies and freelancers in India. So we have the supply-side sorted out.
To sort the demand-side, we are opening Sales offices in Australia and Germany.
- Providing technology solutions to Enterprises.
We have already started on-boarding Enterprises. Most of the deals come from personal references, as I am in good terms with many influential people in the Indian startup ecosystem.
🗒 What is your advice to Pushstarters starting out?
- The team learns from the founders, just as children learn from their parents. If you are a lazy boss, don’t expect your employees to work hard.
- Sales is stupidity; Focus on Delivery as it brings acceleration with it.
- You need a great team to win the World Cup or a big project.
- Be personal with employees and professional with clients and not vice versa.
- Help people who need you but remember:
“Don’t offer just Gyan, come with a real Samadhan!”
- It is ok to lose money but not ok to lose relationships. In most cases, people do the reverse.
- Whenever you need help, just ask for it. Good people will help you. Let the idiots laugh- they have no idea what it takes to reach there.
- Don’t plan your day; plan your night so that you know what to do the next day.
- Don’t mistake silence for rejection!
It is not the most handsome guy who gets the girl, but the most persistent one. So, be persistent.
✉️ How can we get in touch with you?
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Hey! Neeraj here, the founder of Pushstart, India’s most active entrepreneur community. I release interviews with successful entrepreneurs every week. Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook | Linkedin | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter.