A year ago, an online beauty and wellness platform site Vbooky.com was launched by Manoranjan Ingudam, Subhadeep Guin and Basent V, with a focus on the burgeoning Indian market. Currently, the Bengaluru-based start-up also operates in Mumbai, Delhi (NCR), Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata and other Tier-I cities with about 3500+ businesses registered on their marketplace domain.
In a candid chat with Co-founder of Vbooky.com, Manoranjan Ingudam from Imphal, Manipur. The graduate in Computer Science from R.V College of Engineering, Karnataka, who had worked in top IT firms like Infosys & Huawei, tells us an exclusive story behind his motivation, about the brand and also shared some tips and views on Vbooky and help us get to know the niche industry a little more. It’s easy to think of online marketplace as big businesses, but we forget that they were created by normal people, for normal people, so it’s great to meet those people behind the brand.
Tell us something about yourself?
I was born and brought up in Imphal, Manipur. My family is full of academicians (my parents are both teachers) and all siblings were toppers in their respective school exams. I studied my high school at St Joseph’s School, Imphal and did my higher secondary from Delhi Public School, Mathura Road, New Delhi where I have made some extraordinary life-long friends.
For more than a decade, I worked with Infosys and Huawei, building exciting products and solutions (Finacle and UniBI ) and solving business problems through software, sipping endless cups of coffee. The idea of entrepreneurship twitched me many a times during this stint. So I did some research and started working towards building prototypes for a quite a few. It’s heartening to see some of those ideas had been implemented by other fellow entrepreneurs and found success. It did give me some validations (sic).
Building a team is something that seems to come naturally to me. I always liked bringing team members together for a common goal. During my younger years in Imphal, I formed a team for our Leikai (small locality) for football, raised money for buying football by pooling in our pocket money. We haggled with shopkeepers to get the lowest price, even talked to the nearby football club manager to donate their old footballs. Something in me always aspires to build a team and build a great organization to impact many people in a positive and joyous way.
The portal was started by three of us. We hail from different parts of India. We have worked together for more than four years extensively with Huawei in building exciting product & solutions.
(L to R: VBooky founders Manoranjan Ingudam, Basent V and Subhadeep Guin)
Subhadeep Guin is techie, foodie and entrepreneur. Born and brought up in Kolkata, West Bengal, he had been working in Huawei R&D for developing analytics & reporting product & solutions capability for Huawei. I had developed a great working relationship him during the five years in Huawei and shared the same passion of building product which can disrupt masses.
He completed his B.E in Computer Science, IIEST, Shibpur (West Bengal) and he brings a lot of experience & expertise in building cool UI for both web & mobile. He is a bundle of energy and drive to build new cool features in VBOOKY.COM. He is the night owl of our team. He believes in doing things fast & is a crazy game fanatic. He is a hardcore Manchester United fan.
Basent V is a core techie and an intuitive business mind. He worked with Infosys, Huawei and Software AG before answering the entrepreneurial call. Born in Cochin, Basent completed his B-Tech in computer science from the Cochin University, Kerala.
An innovative thinker, Basent fiddled with various projects right from his student days. He always believed that technology should be put in to use to make daily life better. Even when working for critical projects at various MNCs, the creative mind in him kept looking for other challenges. A problem solver by nature, he kept working with friends to come up with tools that made a positive change in the daily life of users. With internet booming in India, he believed that it can make life easier for consumers if put into use in the right way. He is a hardcore Chelsea fan.
How does VBooky work?
VBooky.com is a cutting-edge booking platform for beauty & wellness services with focus on the Indian market. We present a win-win situation for salon/spa owners, beauticians, groomers and end users.
Users can easily discover & book appointments for the best salon, spa or wellness services for a given location and check or give reviews, check for best deals or gift packages to family & friends. It’s a community driven content site where users can give their reviews, ratings, ask questions & blog about their experiences.
For business owners, it is an ideal platform for them to connect to their customers online, understand them, run easy campaigns like happy hours, event based discounts etc & understand their ROI, manage their offline walk-in customers, easily integrate with online presence be it their websites or other third party applications.
Download the VBooky.com android app store on Google Play.
What inspires you to start VBooky?
The first serious call for entrepreneurship came somewhere in 2009 where I felt this pang in my heart that I needed to go for it with this crazy wild idea. What a pity – I neither had a team nor the confidence of building the technology or business! So when it came back in 2013, I had already built a team where we regularly work on some pet projects – like HR email system /plugin to filter the documents based on keywords on resumes submitted.
We scouted for possible opportunities, we looked at various domains and found beauty & wellness services opportunity to be ripe for disruption in India. There was not a single player looking at the industry like we looked at it. I was excited about the opportunity and wanted to take the plunge. Luckily for me, my wife Kiran totally supported me and helped in making this crucial decision.
The idea of introducing an online portal where people can easily book for beauty & grooming artists & outlets happened while I was waiting for my turn at a spa lounge in Bengaluru way back in 2013. Being a techie, I immediately tick the idea to eventually help people find their choice of hairstylists, make-up artists or others in a mouse click.
On researching the idea, it was rather unusual to note that there was no such a facility in India. We were enthralled at such an opportunity and on further research, KPMG reported a rosy picture of more than Rs 80,000 CR projected size business in beauty for India – both services & products, by 2017/18, growing yearly at about 20-23%.
We burnt some midnight oil and came up with a mock-up site in no time. We took them to beauty salons and spas across Bangalore. The feedback was overwhelming and we knew that we had a winner on our hands.
The team force behind
Just the founding team members with another one large-hearted friend, Ved, who became our first investor. He gave a spare room in his rented apartment for us to work. We started working out of the apartment to build the initial product for the first 6 months. At the start, we were just three of us (myself, Subhadeep & Basent) and of course, the unconditional support of friends.
Now, we have hired our first set of employees for mobile app testing.
Any plans about venturing into NE region market?
We are quite excited about North East market. We would be expanding to at least 4 cities to make the service available & checking the initial validation of the market in this region. We are upbeat as the internet eCommerce trends (reading about the trends of Myntra, Lenskart etc) emerging out of North East India have been one of the major surprises.
Any venture capitalists with you?
Currently, our company is completed bootstrapped. We are in the process of raising some funds from our family & friends network through Convertible Notes. This round is in a closing stage.
Moving forward from here?
We are working frantically to release some of our platform features for our existing customers. Our focus is to build more user base for VBooky.com. For our platform features, we are looking to initiate commercialization & initiating paid versions for our business owners.
Your experience as an entrepreneur so far?
The journey has been far more exciting like a roller coaster ride – moments of extreme happiness to moments of despair when things don’t happen, moments of self-doubts to moments of exhilaration. With team members who have strong belief in each other, the journey is all the more enjoyable.
With a small team of 6 members, VBOOKY.COM have more than 3500+ salons, spas and wellness service providers spanning across more than 5 major cities in India. We are on the verge of releasing the next set of exciting features to enable service providers to connect better with the users & for users to have more useful contents, better interaction with the service providers.
Any advises on Northeast India’s Start-up Ecosystem?
The startup ecosystem in Bangalore is exciting & evolving. We would like to solve the local problems in India and use the learning to scale to the world. I saw how Bangalore evolved from a back office center to product development center to a fantastic startup center (2nd fastest growing startup eco-system city) in the last 15 years or so.
We could replicate similar thing and implement it in Northeast India. I would like to see many startups coming out from Northeast India to become global companies. I could see many encouraging signs looking at the number of new start-ups coming out from Northeast India.
I hope to see much more activity towards building a startup ecosystem in Northeast – institutes like IIM Shillong, NITs & state universities could help in bringing up the boost by setting up the meetings like Startup Saturdays, Startup Weekends etc. It could provide some basic infrastructure to nurture some of the promising ideas & teams. It could also build interest among the HNI by bringing them to the ecosystem to build the angel network.
With the huge natural talent available in Northeast, I am sure it’s going to lead the region to fantastic growth and opportunities.
Thank you so much!