Chapter 6, The Portfolio Chronicles
Once in a while, you come across this second-time entrepreneur, even more wired than his first stint as a founder, even though she or he has a very good (sometimes, great) story already chronicled. When you chat with Sreevathsa (Prabhakar) and see him operate, flying from city to city to convince brands and service partners to be onboarded onto his new baby, Servify, its remarkable to witness the energy levels.
Sreevathsa’s first venture, The Service Solutions (TSS) was acquired by B2X, one of the companies under the German supply chain solutions conglomerate called the Barkawi Group. Sree had painstakingly convinced brands like Apple (no less) to hand over their entire backend for authorized service (software, outlets, parts, warranties etc) to the service store chain he set up for them in India. It’s a commendable bootstrapped story and since it’s a private company that’s now in B2X’s hands, I can’t reveal much. Let’s just say that B2X is very happy (revenues are now at 6x from when I first ran into Sreevathsa 4 years ago in a different context) and are, grudgingly yet willfully, happy to see him leave a new leadership team behind at B2X India and launch himself into the most challenging of problems – fixing customer service across all electronics and white goods brands in your home or office.
Clearly, from the TSS experience, Sreevathsa is the rare founder who knows how to build frugally and bootstrapped, all the way to a sizeable exit. And while this is a tougher consumer play and requires much more upfront capital to scale rapidly, he didn’t need to work with Blume from the earliest days, given his personal resources from the exit. But he chose to; and for that, we’re both glad to have partnered. We’ve always said that Blume is not about the money and we love working with founders who get that the most about Blume! Its about having a partner for a lifetime. This rare ability to know that greatness comes from partnerships is why everyone loves Sree. And he’s begun to add them in all directions – most importantly, building a versatile and seasoned leadership team: Pravin, Chandresh, Anupam, Mahesh, and Sriram; adding to the team he had when our cheque went in – Vivek, Swapnil and Naveen). Servify has already onboarded 20+ brands to work with the company. And most recently, we added Teru-san and Beenext to this party! They’re great co-investors and great allies to have, as Servify will explore South East Asian pastures sometime soon.
Sreevathsa has always believed that Customer Service and After Sales Support are seen by the brands as a pain to deal with. These are never perceived as cool jobs or departments inside companies and in a resource-starved country, top talent is NOT likely to be opting for these functions as a first priority. Its not surprising that nothing has seemingly changed even after a few decades of large foreign brands entering the country. Whether its your water purifier or an air conditioner or a TV or a mobile or a laptop, whether the frequency is once a quarter or once a year, installation or service or repair, the average experience always seems to end with an emotion = “what a nightmare!” One prays that they don’t ever have to call that brand’s service center again till they’re ready to replace the gadget / appliance.
That’s where Servify comes in!
Stripping out the nuisance of dealing with over a dozen brands, that are likely present today in every household, is going to be the promise to deliver on, for Servify. Would you guessed that the average middle class household they surveyed had between 15 and 35 different gadgets /devices/ appliances per home?! (basically, anything that needs electricity and is not a light bulb or a fan) It’s staggering when one puts the size of the problem out there as a sum total, even if we just added the numbers amongst the top 50 Indian cities. (Clue for scale prospects: And the ambition doesn’t stop with India)
And contrary to popular opinion, only about a small % of the entire market is serviced either a) outside of its warranty / extended warranty period and b) by a non-authorized repair shop. So, while every “aggregator” out there is struggling to bring sanity to this “unorganized / non-authorized” market opportunity (which is just like adding a layer of unreliability to the existing nightmare), Sreevathsa and team @Servify know the ins and outs of what they’ve done for over half a decade – delivering authorized service and the best possible service / parts / installation that you can get. In this organizing of the service network and delivering standardized pricing and predictable service levels lies the holy grail of this problem.
Servify will change the way you map your household and not deal with the randomness of gadget and appliance servicing. Next time the TV or refrigerator or your laptop or phone breaks down, don’t fret or sweat yet; see if the brand is covered by Servify. In a year, if not earlier, they should’ve mapped out close to the top 75-80% of all brands in every category!
I’m already a happy customer, with a TV repair done and a full home A/C service package scheduled for later this week. I can see every one of my gadgets getting onboarded over the next 12-24 months, as and when they are needed to be serviced, replaced or installed anew. (you can download Servify on the app store / play store and enjoy the same luxury)
Our bets on the founding teams of Dunzo and Servify are testament to our thesis on a remarkable pattern of seeking new ways to solve for the new Customer Service / Customer Delight paradigm in India. Wherever these journeys leads the founders and us, we know we’re going to be delighted by the journeys that will unfold. (We’re on the verge of announcing a third company in this space that will further augment the value chain in Customer Service in mobiles, complementing our Servify and Cashify investments)
Investment announced: 2016 (Blume Fund II) + Follow-on Investment announced: 2016 (along with Beenext and existing Round I investors)