Interview of Rakesh Sidana: Founder of MeriCAR

Interview of Rakesh Sidana: Founder of MeriCAR

He is an open free book of experiences😊. He was unaware of himself as an entrepreneur (by nature) until he was invited by IIM Ahmedabad in 2010. Before that, he was running a web development consultancy and was bidding on International web projects. The people still wonder about the persistence of his last 10 years startup journey. He also writes books, online courses and organizes startup communities and events to share his own experience. He is the founder of MeriCAR and currently, he is working with Pitstop.

What inspired you to start your last startup?

I started my great career job in 1999 and my first job was with IndiaMart. It is the first kind of online marketplace and recently, it just had IPO. I was a web designer whose job was to design a website of 5 pages from a visiting card of exporters. It was the early days of the Internet when even the exporter didn’t have any website. After a few years, I got inspired by IndiaMart and built a unique digital platform for car mechanics in 2008.

What are some of the new ideas you implemented in your last startup?

I had no idea where to start even I saw a great potential and new category in the aftermarket in the automotive industry. Nobody was believing me. Everybody said that It will not work. I was researching on automotive trends globally. The media really helped me to spread my vision for India. I was on the cover of a leading newspaper and appeared on TV shows. It was an early market concept for the unorganized aftermarket.

My team started simply by making listings of all car repair centers. It was not easy to sustain and we were pivoting models for the sake of “cash flow” to save startup. My team started taking the contract for making outsourced call-centers inside the authorized dealers and later we were selling subscriptions for roadside assistance. In 2011, we raised the first fund from Mumbai firm and we got the chance to experiment to actually build the business. In 2012, when my first investor told me this – “Rakesh, show me any recurring model that can save you every month otherwise you should shut down”. I remember how I felt listening to that. The next day, I pivoted the business model for the last time and got it signed 40 agreements from “unhappy” clients by visiting myself.

That was the first time somebody thought of charging “commission on every car” as a sustainable revenue model at a car workshop in India. That was me. Today, almost the top 20 startups follow the same revenue model in this aftermarket.

In 2016, startups started getting funded in the same category. I was happy that I have created a new category in this aftermarket and suddenly there were many competitors. Having competitors is important to scale your ideas.

What obstacles have you faced trying to reach your goals and what steps have you taken to overcome them?

Two things I did it rightly. First, I kept my fixed cost low, was a lean startup when it was tough to sustain. Second, I collaborated with 85 entrepreneurs across cities when I had no funds.

What according to you drive sales to a company?

I am a hustler seller : ) I sell Values. If customers do not pay you higher than the market, you are not building a great value product because anybody can sell cheap products, discount products, free products. I remember I was increasing the ticket size of web software to my franchisee by adding more and more value to the same product.

First time, customers decide the price, but later you can decide the price to add more values into the same or launch variants.

Answer in one line :

Share a quote that inspires you the most?

The World is Changed By Your Example, Not By Your Opinion (Paulo Coelho)

What is your life mantra? Share your original quote.

“Right People at the Right Time, Success will follow. Figure out only the right people, rest will come at its right time, so, stay connected” (From my book – I want to Fly, where are my Wings)

How to be a leader according to you?

A leader is a Visionary and teaches by setting examples.

How do you respond to constructive criticism?

I respond with a smile : ) believing that I am still learning from life. Criticism is an energy that pushes you hard to think again about taking the right decision.

Any suggestions that you want to give to aspiring startups for raising funds?

Build your business for yourself first. You must know exactly what X-amount you need to bring Y-result. You can get it funded if you have exact figures. Read my online course on “Udemy”, I have covered a topic how many types of investors there are. You must also know about their portfolio. There are many who invest 10L or 20L and prefer to be the first Investor because they can negotiate easily on equity share if they are writing the first cheque for you. Raising funds is an art, Investors look at the same startup with different angles. You can get help from StartupLanes.

Share your experience of fundraising and how difficult was it?

I was not able to raise funds because of two reasons. One, my startup was the only unique and niche model that nobody was trying in India. The investor was not sure about its risk. Second, I was a single founder. Most of the Investor still do not invest in a single founder startup. I was running my startup from 2008 and started having “clarity” when I met my first investor in 2011. That clarity and deep knowledge of business concepts helped me to raise my first fund. Then, I raised the fund a second time in 2013 and had smaller rounds afterward.

What’s your opinion about StartupLanes?

StartupLanes is a great network of startup. I like the way Shishir Gupta and SL team is building a great ecosystem across the world by helping entrepreneurs.