By Rachit Singh
As a digital marketer, I’ve worked with dozens of founders now, I’ve been lucky enough to be closely associated with and work with these minds to understand how they think and approach situations & how they tackle them.
Lately, I’ve been working with Abhyank Srinet, founder of mim-essay.com and mentr-me.com.
Being someone who’s always into research mode, learning mode, and analyzing people, it’s habitual for me to pinpoint habits of people that make them the person they are.
At this time around, I wanted to document it.
When I started working, the very first thing I noticed was his craze for learning and sort of helping others learn. The man gifted me a bunch of books too.
Over the time, I’ve learned multiple things from him. With this Interview, I wanted to share some of the things and his mindset that can help entrepreneurs be more successful.
Abhyank is the founder behind mim-essay.com, a study abroad consultancy, founder of mentr-me.com, a venture that’s fairly new and is taking shape. Here is a brief interview with him:
Ques : Tell us about that one approach that differentiates your approach towards your startup than most young entrepreneurs. And if not differentiating, you deem has helped you build what you have.
Ans – It’s difficult to write down one approach because as you learn new things as you read different things it gets convoluted. It integrates one on top of each other to create a new unique approach to things.
One thing that we do which is very different is we focus on extreme value addition. In this age where it’s easier to run behind capital. As I would say a lot of our competitors do have capital.
We have bootstrapped our way and been able to beat most of the competition for the simple reason that we have been focused on value addition. People are taking money and getting growth by putting ads and other things.
We have definitely focused on our marketing but we have also focused on figuring out what was going wrong and having an absolute focus on improving it.
By just having alternative improvement 1-2% per week. Which keeps on adding on has given us a huge advantage in terms of technology, in terms of the social following we have on our website which is extremely difficult to emulate or even copy.
What we are doing is kind of innovation stacking. We are stacking each and every advantage and each alternative improvement. And you end up with something that nobody can copy.
No matter how much funding they raise. So, finding problems and just doubling down on them.
Stacking innovation on top of them gives you a competitive advantage that we do. This way we grow significantly compared to our competitors.
Ques : While on a start up journey, everyone has that one moment where you feel like it’s time to wrap up the dream, did you have any? If yes, what was it and how did you overcome it?
Ans : Frankly never had this thing of wrapping it. There were times where things were hard. It has become very normal to have 14 hours a day. It becomes unnatural if you take a break.
Feels like you should be working, you’re wasting time. At times it gets overbearing. There are of course bad days and everything. But that said never had this thing of backing out. Sometimes we think we have done a lot in this sector.
Once we think of it we realize that we still have so much more to do. We are just scratching the surface which we realized this year when we launched our new company. It has given us 4 times 5 times growth.
When things get tough max to max we just thought let’s sell this off and move to something else. But then again we are starting something big and there are problems in the market.
And we’re not doing this for money, we are doing this to create value. To create a bigger impact to grow into one of the biggest ed tech firms, one of the best study abroad consulting firms.
And that’s kind of kept us going. So for me it’s more about building new stuff, creating some value, being able to create a new value, creating new stuff it keeps me going.
Ques : The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is building a team you can trust. What was your biggest challenge while you were building your own?
Ans: Well the challenges have not stopped. It’s very difficult to find good people.
A lot of people claim to get things done but there are less people who can actually get it done. Finding the doers is the difficult part.
We have definitely grown. I have personally taken thousands of interviews and hired hundreds of people.
So with every mistake we realize that this is what we could have done better and frankly we have developed this sixth sense, this gut feeling that we understand within 5 minutes if this guy is worth it or not and then we take it further.
The hardest part is knowing when a person is bad and wants to give another chance thinking that he can do better and giving him more chances then he may actually deserve.
That chance could have been given to someone more deserving that can give you more value. So it’s kind of brutal in that area telling people it’s not working out, moving ahead.
Maybe just letting people go when you know that they are not a good fit is one of the hardest part. And finding good people overcoming bias is also one of the hardest things. The team building part is not over, we have meetings, every week we keep learning new things.
Ques: Your vision is what makes you the leader, where do you see that vision leading you?
Ans : It’s pretty simple. I like building stuff. I like reading. I like creating value and once you create value, create something innovative that has a useful outreach.
There are a lot of players in the market in our sector who are just focusing on service. But we focus on value.
That’s why we keep on innovating. Aur belief is simple: we want to be the best study abroad consultant company in India and of course later, in the world as well.
And we are well on the way but not just as a service but as a place where people contribute.
A place where people can find schools that’s why we are integrating a lot of different business models. Earlier we were just a service we are not now moving to SaaS.
As a product where we can give software service to schools, we’re also going into the subscription model where we are giving a low cost solution to our premium services that a lot of people can get.
We want to create a platform related to study abroad where you can get everything and anything related to study abroad and study in India as well.
Ques: What is the most exciting thing about the Indian Startups in 2022? Why should we encourage more youth to start their own business when it is already a red ocean?
Ans: I would say a red ocean depends on the industry that you are in. We had a huge red ocean.
In study abroad consultants you’ll find from every scale from 2 people to 2000 people. So I don’t think it’s the Red Ocean. If you just into service, it’s a red ocean. But if you are going into software as a service recruitment services then its a Blue Ocean.
It’s more about how you think of it. And one thing that is interesting is there are different ways of looking at things and if you are able to crack that if you are brave enough to approach it follow the path that is least followed. That is where you get a lot of opportunities.
That is what maybe a startup has to do although a lot of people are just copying others. That’s fine that is going. But then again that leads to Red ocean.
Most exciting thing is that there’s still a lot of Blue Ocean out there if you think about it. You need to move away from the conventional copy this copy that part and try to stack some key things upon what is already being followed.
By all means follow it to get to start, but then innovate on it don’t stop on innovation.
If you don’t innovate then you would be just like anybody else. But if you create something of value, you stack innovation on an already followed model then that is interesting and that is what I would suggest it to all.
Ques : Every person has a point of inspiration that motivates them to wake up everyday and give it their best. What is yours?
Ans : I am a very big fan of improvement. I want to do better and better things. So my goal is to become stronger and improve every facet of that part. And that kind of boils down to work as well.
It allows me to work longer than other people smarter than other people reading a lot and then integrates more thoughts. In the end, it all boils down to me doing 4x the work.
If you can work 4x to 8x more than the other person you will of course outrank them. My point of inspiration is making myself better and in entirety, making my company better.
Making a better workspace for the employees who work with me. So that they enjoy coming to work. It makes me happy. So it’s basically creating value.
Ques : How does your product fit the market and what kind of market size do you estimate you can capture?
Ans: Earlier we were just into service that also only provided high end premium services related to the best schools abroad. So we realized we are just typing maybe 1% or less than that of the market.
That’s why we started affiliate services in a lot of parts of India already taps. And we are creating business model innovation on top of that. We are integrating more tech with it, more CRM with it and so on.
We are creating more value giving stuff for free which people were charging for it, and that has allowed us to grow at a tremendous pace. At least in terms of growth numbers if not in terms of revenue.
Because that’s a deferred revenue model. Our product is basically figuring out what a person wants and getting that service that we offer. Some people are willing to pay us money.
Some people are willing to spend less money, some people are willing to spend more money. We already had good service in the premium market.
We are building it down for people who want to pay no money and giving them affiliate services. We also have a subscription model in which people want to pay less money.
So there are different ways in which we can cater to the whole market and expand. It’s very difficult to provide the size of the market because there is no real data on this.
But if you are even able to capture 10% of the market that is huge. Although our goal is to just grow and keep on growing and figuring out how we can improve.
There is no growth figure in mind, we don’t want to set 10 or 20%. If you work on the product, creating value work on the reach growth will automatically happen.
Ques : You seem to have a great hold over your vision, why the delay in finding a well fueled investor? Are you apprehensive about something?
Ans: We never needed an investor as I said we were always focused on value addition and that has allowed us to be cash positive and stay profitable, whereas other people were not.
We were also mindful about spending money if I’m spending one rupee I would rather know where I am going to spend it. The problem is when you raise investment you suddenly have so much cash that you start taking unnecessary experiments.
We have competed with ventures which are running TV ads. I don’t see any sense of it. When you can run highly targeted ads on Instagram and Facebook. It’s more about knowing when to raise money and not just raising it for the heck of it.
When you are being profitable then you don’t need to find an investor. We can easily find a investor and we have had a lot of interest as well but we dropped it.
We were thinking of raising some money around this time last year but we dropped because we realized we are already capital positive. Frankly when you are looking for investors they ask you that you already have money why do you want more money that is a problem.
When you are running a business where you are getting deferred revenue to an extreme extent.
There is a new business we are going into maybe now we will raise money. Aur let say where you are getting paid off after huge investment then you need investors.
If you are already profitable you don’t need investors, it’s more about the timing and the business model.
Ques : Did you know since the inception that this is what your startup would look like in 6 years or did you develop with the idea with the business?
Ans : To be honest I did not have that Idea. That we won’t grow beyond a certain figure.
And now we are tripling that figure within this year. The market is so big we will be growing decently and we have no intention of stopping. It’s something that was formulated.
We saw different opportunities and different figures. We just kept on working on it. We didn’t stop saying hey this is good enough let’s just stop, let’s make money out of it.
We are still innovating, still in improving stuff as we move along. If we are creating value, opportunities will show up.
We were very apprehensive about the business market. It was basically a personal inhibition why should I go for tier 2 schools and tier 3 schools but the thing was that market was moving that way.
People wanted to go to that school, so it was stupidity on my side to think otherwise.
If you want to grow and remove your personal inhibition, you see where the market is going and you go with it.
It’s a very nice thing that I saw that from one another founder\s point of view. It doesn’t matter how hard you rowing, it matters which boat you are in.
So we are also trying to get into bigger boats. So that we move with the current we move faster. That is something that will help and allow us to grow as well!
(Rachit Singh is a Professional Marketer & 2x Best-Selling Author. Rachit writes about Entrepreneurship, Building Businesses & Self-Development.)