How Shaifali Agarwal Holani Started EasyFix, The Handyman Biz
Shaifali Holani was at the ideation stage and couldn’t predict the real challenges which were about to begin. With no entrepreneurship experience, Shaifali started EasyFix — to solve the problem of available handy workmen. Most investors did not take her seriously because no one ever promoted women entrepreneurship so much at that time. “We are the ants in the entrepreneurship Jungle,” Shaifali told SheThePeople. Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Many reasons and people have inspired me to start the journey. Entrepreneurship is like playing a sport, you have to learn it to be able to perform and win. The initial 2-and-a-half years of my journey were more like a learner and I became a real entrepreneur only 2 years ago when EasyFix transformed from a vendor to an enterprise.
I experimented, made mistakes and learnt – a lot!
I have been inspired by my mentors to never give up. They mentally prepared me that I will get beaten and injured but I must go back home to recover and rejoin prepared. I experimented, made mistakes and learnt – a lot! I also grew as person, professional and developed organization management capabilities.
My husband, Sundeep Holani, was my biggest inspiration to start my entrepreneurship journey. My father, Ram Avtar, has always inspired me to never take ‘no’ for an answer. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about having an idea, it’s so much more, winning the game is about time and persistence in gaining stamina and technical skills for winning the game.
How and when was the idea behind starting ‘EasyFix‘ born, how does it work?
EasyFix started in 2011, when entrepreneurship and fundraising weren’t as popular. In my initial plan, I wanted to make EasyFix a National services company within 1 year after starting the business, but the reality was far different and it took me 4 years to launch in 10 cities.
The journey has been challenging, but exciting. Since I started, I wanted EasyFix to solve the problem of available handy workmen. I wanted a plumber and carpenter when I moved to my new house but it wasn’t an easy or pleasant experience. With the initial funding support of Sundeep Holani (my then boyfriend), I started EasyFix and bootstrapped for Admin, HR, Finance support function to Sundeep’s company, ChannelPlay.
During the ideation stage, I pursued EasyFix because of two reasons. first that I could foresee it to be a money making business, and second it was not a copy paste business idea. No one had done something like EasyFix before and I was super thrilled to create something that did not exist. First two years went in figuring out how to penetrate into this really-really rough industry where making money is not easy. Frequency of services is low, ticket size is small, marketing cost is high, supply doesn’t understand what demand expects and is a highly manpower dependent industry. In short, it’s a market where unprofessionalism is a culture amongst servicemen and customers. On one hand, serviceman is opportunistic, lacks integrity of words and is unpleasantly groomed while, on the other hand, customers negotiate, don’t pay on time and don’t treat the serviceman with respect.
In my 3rd year with EasyFix, we started to work for corporates and pivoted to become a B2B Services Marketplace. We identified our core competency as execution and started to focus on delivering full-stack, hassle-free, customised solution to our corporate clients. Pivoting to B2B was like cracking the growth hack to make a successful business in blue-collared handymen industry, with 1 client in 2013, 4 in 2014, 11 in 2015, today we have 75+ clients in our portfolio.
On one hand, there are customers who demand workmanship from skilled, polite and customer-friendly workmen and, on the other hand, the Indian market condition for handy workmen is unskilled, unprofessional and culturally undisciplined.
Workmen face challenges in getting regular income source, identity and respectable working environment. EasyFix bridges the gap, creating a “community” of EasyFixers whom we shortlist, Filter, Train, Develop & Retain to provide a better earning & standard of living. We generate demand for workmen by generating business from corporates who face difficulty in getting work done from the unorganized market.
What future plans do you have to take it to the next level?
The plan includes retention of existing clients and signing up with new clients. Alongside, we will continue to develop our army of trained and trustworthy handy EasyFixers to represent EasyFix at site.
What makes your venture so special than other competitions?
Well, other than the culture that I and my 35 co-founders have created, we differentiate ourselves by calling us ants in the ‘Entrepreneurship Jungle’. We have created a niche and it doesn’t bother us what others are doing as ultimately what matters is who makes it financially profitable first. We are the only company that has experienced profitability and we strive to do the same at larger scale too. We are heavily dependent upon technology, which makes our business operationally future viable.
Moreover, I do not have crazy money to spend on marketing, thus I have no option but to make it profitable 🙂
What got you interested in Digital Media?
Digital media lets you get in touch with the world within seconds. Communication is one of the keys to success and getting engaged with the customers via digital media is just another ingredient for any startup or enterprise for brand building or customer acquisition. However, with the changing times and monetization opportunities in the digital media, we see a lot of clutter.
What are the biggest challenges you‘ve faced as an entrepreneur?
Building a startup isn’t a bed of roses. Sure, we enjoy flexible working hours and various employee perks that will incite jealousy from our peers in the corporate world. But behind the scenes are blood, sweat, and hard work that the public is oblivious to.
The biggest challenge was to not be able to make money and thus live without a salary. I was blessed to have family support but yet, being financially dependent isn’t a great feeling when you have once tasted independence.
Another challenge was to keep calm, as an entrepreneur we are expected to be perfect and we need to constantly keeping everyone happy & motivated.
Could you also tell us what does the term ‘women entrepreneurs‘ mean to you? And, how important it is for India‘s progress?
It means – “Change”. Women entrepreneurship will bring a change in the status quo on common perceptions for women. Financial independence makes all other decisions very easy.
What are the innate strengths women have which make them successful entrepreneurs?
In India, since childhood, women are taught to adjust, listen, manage, be humble and behave like a “girl”. We end up becoming tough as we manage home and work. At that time, we are virtual entrepreneurs who run the show at home or juggle between home and job. Our upbringing makes us adaptable, team player, multitaskers, organized and in general a ‘happy’ entrepreneur with good professional and personal life balance. Moreover — unlike men — women have always had an option to choose if they wanted to earn money or stay at home to manage family. Whatever we decide to become, our upbringing helps us perhaps a little more than others.
India today has almost a million women entrepreneurs. What do you think about this change?
Women entrepreneurs are setting examples and their success is creating a ripple effect in the global ecosystem. I was inspired by my ex-boss, Ambika Sharma. I think the time is not far when each boardroom would have healthy men-women ratio.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Please don’t expect to learn entrepreneurship skills as soon as you jump in. If you are mentally prepared for the struggle and hardship, then validate your idea at a small scale and build organisational strength to scale it up. If you have a business idea through which you can make money, then just figure out from where will you get the early capital to pay your bills.
Join Us on https://www.facebook.com/SheThePeoplePage
Follow Us on https://twitter.com/SheThePeopleTV