Entrepreneur, Mentor, Author

India & The Passion

Rakesh Sidana in a repair workshop : Picture take by The Economic Times Team in 2012

We all learn as we grow and keep learning in our entire life. My last 15 years were life-time learning from the “Indian market”, “my circumstances” and “people around”. I always look to pursue that is something “new” and “first” to do in the ecosystem and that can inspire others to explore, build and follow.

Always try to be “first”, that kind of nature, I think, comes from my father, whose first business was providing tubewell-service into 80 villages for farmers at a time when there were no great pieces of equipment to solve water-issues for farms in villages in 1980. You can call it anything like out-of-the-box, uniqueness, disruption, and innovation.

Last 10 years, I have seen India growing from 52 million to 560 million internet users and Today, India has become the second-largest online market. There are more “unorganized markets” in India than anywhere else and there is enough potential to play here in the “Modern Bharat” with your startup ideas.

“Innovation is solving a problem that everybody know and nobody is even trying to solve” 

2008: FIRST BABY STEP YEAR: It was a good day on 14th Aug 2008, as I stepped into my office in hurry and I had printed “promotional leaflets” that had a mention of an offering for people on “Happy Independence Day”. We had no choice, the Day was mention on all promotions and wanted to launch a website the next day as we could count the amount of loss (even this was a small amount) if that promotion did not happen timely.

“Have No Choice means you are Fast and Focus”

We wanted to promote the website offline because nobody searches “car mechanic” online and even there was no website for the car servicing at that time. In India, Internet users were only 4.4% of the population in 2008. The website was launched at night and the next day there was the utmost joy of achievements when 15 customers logged in and registered on the website the next morning.

2009: EXPERIMENTING & INSPIRING YEAR: This was the start of a great year. We got selected for many events. It was my “second” venture that inspires the world with “mechanics have a digital platform in India” and the startup that had a network of 5000 Garages with 1,00,000 customers with 18% repeat customers in the later years.

2010: ENTREPRENEUR AVTAR YEAR: My business plan was selected amongst 74 entrepreneurs and I was invited at IIM Ahmedabad where I got a chance to know about the “Startup Life” cycle like building from scratch, getting funding, merging and exit. When I met like-minded at IIMA I got to know that “I am Entrepreneur” and then I also published an article titled 6 Inborn Qualities of Passionate people that matches my qualities. After meeting them all, every entrepreneur had similar kind issues of cash-flow, sales, hiring the right guy, finding the right investor and family pressure to do a 9-5 job.

“Meeting Like-minded is like seeing yourself in the mirror”

2011: DON’T QUIT & SEED YEAR: I didn’t remember how many times I had thought of shutting down my startup but I didn’t quit after convincing myself many times by coining one self-made formula, that’s – Ignore & Delay.

“Quitting is a result of a fraction of a second, that you need to ignore and delay”

I used to read every startup funding news, was going to every startup event to meet investors. Due to the unique concept and new category, it was not easy to convince investors, everybody thought the automotive aftermarket is a Niche Category. One investor even advised me on the TV show that I should step back from what I was doing after my Elevator Pitch on ETNOW Starting Up. Having no competitor was another red-signal to all investors as there was no one, except my startup in this category.

The video is produced by using song “Bulla Ki Jaana Main Kaun” which is orignally sung by– Rabbi Shergill ALBUM: Rabbi (2004) SINGER: Rabbi Shergill

“When nobody believes you, only you can challenge yourself to prove yourself”

In the same year 2011, when I decided to quit “almost”, somebody asked me to reply 10 questions in the email, then met in the same month and he invested within a month. We got our first seed fund from an investor firm from Mumbai. It was “My First Cheque” of my startup life. We used that fund to experiment with the “ground” market when we knew online market was still not mature for this industry. I got a great “mentor” and friend who listened to me, my professional and personal struggle and believed in me as a passionate person who wanted to bring “change”.

Before ending the same year, I was invited by ET Now Lufthansa The Pioneering Spirit TV Show to present my startup idea. The video got popular with 1,06,705 views (till date). The show was classy in itself 🙂 I talked about what changes were going to happen in India.

Interestingly, after many years, even today, my words are still relevant and this “unorganized aftermarket” has great potentials to do,

“Just a few can see the large Vision and check if that was YOU. Celebrate and Inspire!!”

Today, the aftermarket in India is a USD 9.2 billion market and growing. Due to technological complexities in the vehicles, technicians and mechanics have to be supported, up-skilled on a platform to ensure better service and customer satisfaction (source: ACMA)

“CHANGE is not a competition, Change is not a startup, Change is a collaboration”

2012: ANGEL YEAR: “Angel” Investor came into my “startup life” when somebody noticed my SMS with a tag line “taking care of your car” and invited me for a meeting. At the first meeting, he showed his interest. It was “TIME-thing” that Google had a report saying the maximum keyword that drive traffic on the search engine was “car”.

“Success is right TIME, right PEOPLE, and money will follow”

Even today, whenever I visit any Management Institute for a guest lecture, I tell THIS to students.

In that year, Angel Investor was discussing and having regular updates but he couldn’t invest as nobody was interested to invest along with him as a group. The good part is that he invested later in his personal capacity.

“Entrepreneur’s Passion & right TIME matters”

2013: MAKE-OR-BREAK YEAR: There was a situation that a group of automotive senior people wanted to acquire my startup and the offering was a few % percentage shares and 2 co-founders from another startup to make a large group. I called my “Angel Investor” (who didn’t invest till that time) and asked for advice and he had given me a deal that either I could become rich (temporarily) or keep running my own startup. I had chosen the latter.

“Your Decision are Yours only, there is nothing wrong or right even if it doesn’t work”

We were never got funded after 2013 and I started losing the ground of raising series and back to bootstrapped-way in this new market.

2014: BORN-TO-FLY YEAR: I wrote my first book – I want to Fly where are my Wings and self-published it on Amazon. My book was a reflection of my own thoughts about what I wanted. The book motivated me to target and spread everywhere across the country and I launched a partnership program to collaborate with entrepreneurs across India to build a network of small businesses. I remember we had 1000+ applications from across India to who wished to become our partner for that “My Dream My City” program and I had two guys from IIM Udaipur to help my team. We worked with 85 partners and we were the only aggregator of car mechanics in India.

“You are born to Fly”

2015: MOBILE APP YEAR: My team had the experience of all groundwork, a network but we were lacking upgrading fast-changing technologies. Organizing car servicing market, worth of Rs. 20,000 crore, was a big challenge.

In India, Internet app downloads reached 3.4 billion in 2015 (source: qz)

We launched India’s First Mobile App for the car mechanic and getting traction needed more investments. We got the first traction of 3000 app downloads just after the launch with retention of 10% download. At that time, retention of 10% download was assumed best parameters as people uninstall many apps on the same day. Making them stick and getting traction needed more investments for distribution. This was a time when everybody was making a mobile app for everything but there was no one search for a mechanic but we were solving a pain of road-side assistance using a mobile app.

2016: HITS-MISSES YEAR: This year shows me more “hits” and “Big misses” and I enjoyed both. I was happy to see new startups following my business model and getting funded. It was a hit as my startup concept was accepted by other Investors but I “missed” that I could not raise funds as I ventured into a “merger” that didn’t work, I accept that failure on my part that deal didn’t work and I left the company after working 6 months and my mind was unclear, confused and like blurred images.

Parallelly, there were HITS that keep me alive and motivated and had a reason to celebrate. I was selected amongst 2500 entrepreneurs and was invited by the Prime Minister Office for “Startup India, Standup India”.

After that there was another great news, when NIT, Rourkela invited me as a guest of honor and I delivered life time speech on a large auditorium of 5000 students and the title was “How passion and persistence become Innovation“. I remember when I was interviewed by NIT Students It gave me goosebumps when they start asking questions about my life and everything that I love to do, even my university things. After experiencing that interview moment, I believe that somebody is there to celebrate you, appreciate you.

“Even you think you are “Nothing”…but there are well wishers, your followers who make you feel that you did INSPIRE them”

2017: FALL & GET UP – RE-START YEAR: After such a low point in the last year, I decided to RE-START my venture again. It took another 6 months to the actual pick up traction again even the website was running without stopping. The first thing that we did was to start from where we can bring CASH in the startup and we put a big-ticket size on partnership program.

“Cash is the only King and make its SIZE BIG”

To scale up, we started selling again web-based software on “SAAS” (software-as-a-service) at a high ticket size (35K) that helps us choose selected entrepreneurs to represent us locally to register Local Businesses by leveraging website abilities to create their listings online automatically. This year was slow and steady and survival for the startup as raising funds after the merger was not easy, many even didn’t know what happened after the merger.

This year, I found my interest in writing daily on Facebook. My hashtag #AskRakeshSidana became popular in the “closed” StartupTalky community of 1,14,000 members and I became an admin and every post touched 10K to 50K views in a closed group.

“You know YOU yourself when you share what YOU know”

 My interview was published by the startup community. Daily Facebook posting became my routine and I made many FB fans. I started noticing the behaviour of users on Fb and startups which are that made me share my second book “Where #Share is like Love” and the message for this modern world as

“Sharing is a new economy”

2018: SHIFT YEAR: We made an office in Bangalore. I later joined Pitstop that offers doorstep solutions to car owners for inspections and general service and helping Garages in a network.

2019 HEALTH IS WEALTH : I had an issue with my health and I shifted back to Gurgaon.

2020 HOT SEAT YEAR : Just before the lockdown, I joined Go Mechanic as a consultant on “Scaling for Spares” project and we built a largest community of youth to sell spares across tier-2, tier-3 cities.

2022 BACK TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP : I left Go Mechanic in March 2022 and launched my 3rd startup again as Meri Garage to faciliate digitization for unorganized aftermarket with SAAS based solutions for garage mechanics.

Checkout, a videographer from Canada, has made a great video of my interview that explains how India is changing to build new markets. (video link)